'If you think your treatment will work, sign me up' - Former Mr Ireland's challenge to 'Gay is sin' pastor
A gay man has challenged a controversial pastor who claims God can cure homosexuality to try and make him straight.
Model, nurse and former Mr Ireland contender Emmette Dillon (29) has laid down a challenge to Pastor Mark Bradfield from Derry's Bethel Baptist Church. He said: "If you think your treatment will work, sign me up and we will document the process".
Foyle Pride 2017 takes place on Saturday, and Pastor Bradfield, whose church is based at Campsie, plans to be there with his megaphone.
He claims gay people's lifestyle is "physically, mentally and spiritually harmful".
But Emmette has hit back at his comments.
"Coming out or coming to accept who you are is mentally and emotionally challenging as it is, without this frankly insensitive pastor suggesting that there is some kind of cure," he said.
"Does he not realise that people coming to terms with their sexuality need to be supported, not vilified?
"Believe me the internal self-loathing and conflict that I and others go through before we reach acceptance is pain enough without this gentleman waving a miracle cure in our faces."
Emmette said that coming out as gay for him "was almost like a grieving process" as his mind battled with what is deemed 'normal'.
He added: "While I respect the pastor's right to express his religious views, I feel it is downright disgusting that he promotes and endorses what is in fact a non-existent cure for homosexuality.
"Love is love, it does not discriminate, being gay or of any sexual orientation is not a choice, but inciting hatred and intolerance is.
"So I say to the pastor, I will take great pleasure in meeting you face to face and proving you wrong. If you honestly believe this treatment will work, sign me up and we will document the process and give you the soap box you so obviously desire."
Pastor Bradfield said he was willing to meet with Emmette to "discuss how he can help".
"I can't cure homosexuality," he said. "But I know a man who can. The Lord can, if someone really wants to be cured. It's like every bad habit that we would want to change or anything that is ingrained in our psyche; it can take work to change it. But the Lord can help a person do that.
Pastor Bradfield said he would like to talk to Emmette and "see if I can help him".
He added: "But it's like everything, he's not going to be changed against his will. None of us ever are."