Election candidates have hit out at a fellow contender’s call for Chick-fil-A to stay in Reading.

Yemi Awolola, Christian Peoples Alliance candidate for Reading East, says the American chicken restaurant chain should get an extension to its six-month pilot contract at The Oracle.

Chick-fil-A opened its first UK restaurant in Reading in October to a backlash from the LGBT+ community.

A week later, The Oracle announced it does not plan to extend the restaurant’s contract beyond a six-month trial.

Christian Peoples Alliance candidate Yemi Awolola has since set up a petition calling for the restaurant to be allowed stay and criticising LGBT+ protests as “an attack on anything Christian”.

Reading Pride has rejected accusations of anti-Christianity and called on Chick-Fil-A to explain its current view on anti-LGBT+ comments made by its CEO.

A Chick Fil-A Inc. spokesman said the company is “focused on food, service and hospitality, does not have a political or social agenda and is represented by more than 145,000 people from different backgrounds and beliefs”.

"Homophobic tirades"

David McElroy, Green Party candidate in Reading East, said Mr Awolola “needs to get out a bit more” if he thinks Chick Fil-A is the best thing in Reading for a while.

He added: “Maybe he could spend some more time with our LGBTQ community and give the homophobic tirades on Twitter a rest.”

Mr Awolola responded: “I’m happy to spend time with the LGBT community.

“We need to move away from name calling.

“There are a lot of groups around the World being prosecuted and killed on the daily and none of them enjoy the rights that LGBT community have in abundance.”

"Right decision", "Their prerogative" - The candidates have their say

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Imogen Shepherd-Dubey, Lib Dem candidate for Reading East, slammed Mr Awolola's petition.

She said: “I cannot understand how Mr Awolola has come to the conclusion that the protests against Chick-Fil-A are ‘an attack on anything Christian’.

“There are many LGBT+ people who are also practising Christians and I believe that most people of all faiths and backgrounds would support the rights of Christian people to openly practice their religion, but not at the expense of other people’s rights.

“This is a protest against an American company which has a history of supporting organisations that actively discriminate against LGBT+ people and Chick-Fil-A have made no efforts to change this stance.

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“While I would agree that we should be supporting new business ventures here in Reading, this should not be at the expense of the human rights or the standards of behaviour that we have come to expect from businesses here in the UK.

“I congratulate the Oracle on making the decision to review their company policies and not support companies with such backgrounds.”

Labour’s Reading East candidate and recent MP Matt Rodda said not extending the pilot was the right decision and he “stands in support of Reading Pride and the LGBT community”.

Mitchell Feierstein, standing for the Brexit Party in Reading East, said he supports both LGBT groups’ right to protest and lawful businesses that want to bring employment opportunities to Reading.

He added he believes who a private company chooses to donate to “is their prerogative” and “whether The Oracle wants to lease space to [a company] is theirs”.