Spanish Easter Parade
Penitents dressed as Biblical characters take part in an Easter parade in SpainReuters

An openly gay but "deeply religious" actor who has played Jesus in traditional Spanish Easter parades for 30 years claims he has been banned from the role because of his sexuality. Ramon Fossati said he had been told that he could not perform the role until 2019.

The Valencia-based performer said he had been told he was barred from appearing in Sunday's parade because he exposed a naked shoulder and waved his arms in an "ostentatious" manner last year.

Easter processions in Spain are governed by strict rules which prevent too much flesh being exposed or any inappropriate religious gestures. In the past women have been fined for showing too much cleavage or wearing dresses above the knee. They are encouraged to wear heavy black dresses and "mantilla" headdresses to the parades.

Fossati told Spain's El Mundo newspaper that he spent months consulting religious iconography, before commissioning a dress maker to create last year's costume. Initially he wanted the side of his costume to be open, but eventually chose to show only one shoulder, he said.

But the the Junta Mayor de Semana Santa Marinera, which governs the brotherhoods in Valencia who organise the Holy Week celebrations, accused Mr Fossati of "ostentation and parody" and said he appeared to give "false blessings" to the crowd.

Fossati maintained to Spanish newspaper Levante EMW that he was merely waving to people and greeting people in the crowd. "It is totally false that I had that attitude," he said. "What I did was greet the audience, as I always have, every year. I spend always waving to the crowd, clapping. I do not know why suddenly this year have decided sanction me."

Fossati was nonetheless fined $300 (£237), although that was reduce on appeal to $60 (£47) but he was banned for four years by his own brotherhood, Santísimo Cristo del Salvador.

"I was not given any reason for the ban," he said. "It could be jealousy. Or maybe it was punishment for being gay." He added that everyone in his neighbourhood was aware of his sexuality and that it was not a problem. "I am deeply religious and this is the worst thing that could happen," he said.

The brotherhood refused to comment on the ban or the fines.