Gay rights activist criticises Ulster-bound pastor Angus Buchan who says prayer can 'cure' homosexuals
A leading member of the gay community in Northern Ireland last night slammed "the vitriol" of an outspoken high-profile South African pastor ahead of a major rally in his hometown.
John O'Doherty, who is director of the Rainbow Project and is from Maghera, spoke out ahead of preacher Angus Buchan appearing in the Co Londonderry town to address an expected audience of 3,000.
Mr Buchan, who has previously claimed that homosexuality can be cured through prayer, is due to speak at the Healing The Land event on August 23.
Buchan, who farmed in Zambia before moving to South Africa due to political unrest, has come under fire for his views, including his infamous 'Mighty Men' conferences in which he has urged wives to be more submissive to their husbands.
The controversial evangelist makes no apology for his views, once stating: "I don't shy away from controversy. Homosexuality is against the word of God. I'm not doing this for the money. I'm doing this because God has told me to."
In a Press conference, he once said: "I cannot ever agree that homosexuality is right, I cannot bless it. I love them though, but they need help. We have prayed for them and God has changed their hearts."
Last night Mr O'Doherty told the Belfast Telegraph: "My hometown of Maghera will always be home to me. Since coming out I found people have become increasingly accepting and the visibility of LGBT people and culture is ever growing.
"I believe the vast majority of people will disagree with the vitriol and lies being espoused by Angus Buchan on both in terms of women and LGBT people."
Mr O'Doherty said it is accepted by mental health professional bodies and the World Health Organisation "that same sex attraction is not something which can been healed or changed."
He added: "Indeed these professionals recognise the harm caused by therapy and approaches of this kind.
"Of course there are those who will choose to live celibate lives or choose to ignore their same sex attraction due to faith or other reasons.
"However the lie that same sex attractions are something that should or could be changed has caused a lot of harm to LGBT people across the world."
Mr O'Doherty said there are currently no plans for the LGBT community to picket the Maghera gathering.
He added: "While we respect the right of people of all faiths and none to hold and celebrate their beliefs, we condemn the use of innuendo to perpetuate the idea that there is something wrong with being LGBT."