Prayer row: Stephen Nolan’s atheism challenged live on air

Presenter Stephen Nolan.
Presenter Stephen Nolan.

Stephen Nolan has apologised for revealing his atheism on air after being accused of bias against Christians.

The BBC presenter was chairing an on-air debate on Wednesday about whether Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council should retain its traditional prayer before opening for business.

In recent days the council voted to retain the traditional mayor’s prayer from Coleraine Borough Council – and add to it the Lord’s Prayer.

But a caller calling himself Stephen from Dungannon challenged the presenter that on Easter Monday he had declared in an interview with Tyrone missionary Maud Kells, “I don’t believe in God”.

“That jeopardises your ability to chair this neutrally,” the caller said. “I see the BBC as biased.

“I am a Christian myself. Every other day I see gay issues being raised and I take offence at you chairing this debate when you are meant to be neutral and you openly said you do not believe in God.

“That jeopardises every discussion you have around these issues.”

The presenter replied: “It was a mistake. I was trying to be honest. I was trying to have a discussion about God because it has been on my mind for a while. And it was a mistake. So I shouldn’t have done it. And I appreciate that.”

The caller replied: “There are not too many Christians among high-profile presenters on BBC.

“They are all openly atheist and they mock and they joke about the Bible and God and it seems to be that the Christian is the only one that can’t express their view or else they get persecuted or pursued through the courts.”

The presenter vowed to “fight” to give people of all views a voice. BBC guidelines on impartiality state that presenters “may not express personal views in BBC output”.