Wednesday 18 July 2018

Church receives 'violent threats' over screening of 'gay cure' film

Voices of the Silenced was aired at Ballynahinch Baptist Church on Tuesday Photo: Google Maps
Voices of the Silenced was aired at Ballynahinch Baptist Church on Tuesday Photo: Google Maps

Victoria Leonard

The pastor of a church which screened a so-called "gay cure" film claims his place of worship has been subjected to violent threats on social media.

Rodney Stout spoke out after Christian group Core Issues Trust held the all-Ireland premiere of its film, Voices of the Silenced, at Ballynahinch Baptist Church, Co Down, on Tuesday night.

The film, which says that gay people can "choose not to live out their homosexuality" had previously been turned down by Queen's Film Theatre and The Vue in London's Piccadilly.

On Tuesday morning, the Core Issues Trust held a protest outside Queen's University, Belfast over the refusal.

It is understood around 100 people attended the screening in Ballynahinch later that night.

Before the screening got underway a group of around 30 protesters, including Sinn Fein MLA Emma Rogan, gathered outside the church.

Pictures also show a police presence at the scene.

Pastor Stout said he supported the protesters' right to freedom of speech.

However, he slammed those who had taken to social media to threaten what he described as "extreme violence" against the church.

"I went out and welcomed the protesters - I was totally behind their right to be there," Pastor Stout said.

"Some were angry, but several of them agreed that we had the right to screen the film.

"I asked them if any minority group should have its right to be heard suppressed, and they said no."

However, Pastor Stout said that other individuals had taken to social media to "scaremonger" and to "use the threat of extreme violence to try to prevent the film being shown".

"People were trying to stir up controversy against us," he continued.

"I think it is just hot air.

"I don't regret allowing the film to be screened in the church, not at all. I don't think anyone should capitulate to threats.

"I'm not afraid for my safety or that of the people using the church building, I'm more afraid for the disservice it has done to the gay community."

Mike Davidson, the director of the Core Issues Trust, said he felt that the premiere had "gone well," adding that he is in talks with a Belfast church to hold another screening here.

"We asked the protesters if they wanted to come in to see the film, but they declined," he said.

"After the screening, a couple of people did come up and ask me about sexual fluidity exploration therapy.

"I'm not disappointed there weren't more people, as it wasn't about getting people into therapy - it's a critique of the sexual politics in the Western world."

However, Ms Rogan called for so-called 'conversion therapies' to be banned.

The South Down MLA stated: "Sinn Fein will continue to stand alongside the LGBT communities.

"There is nothing wrong with being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender and Sinn Fein totally oppose the use of 'therapies' which are aimed to change, repress and/or eliminate a person's sexual orientation, gender identity and, or gender expression.

"These 'therapies' are damaging, extremely dangerous and can have a very damaging psychological effect on people.

"The practice of conversion therapy has been condemned and discredited worldwide by institutions such as the UN Committee Against Torture, the European Parliament and by the Irish Council for Psychotherapy."

Ms Rogan added: "Sinn Fein believe that 'conversion therapies' should be a banned throughout Ireland."

A PSNI spokesperson said that police are "aware of comments made on social media which have since been removed".

They added: "No complaints have been made to police and no investigation is taking place."

Inspector Darren Hardy said that the protest had concluded "without incident" and they had "not received any complaints in relation to this event".

Belfast Telegraph

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