A “SUPPORT THE GAYS” PROTEST organised via facebook and originally planned to take place outside Cornerstone Christian bookshop and café, St Neots, this afternoon, Saturday 12 January 2013, has been relocated due to “masses of unexpected support” to the town’s Market Square following shop owner Paul Shinners’ refutation of homophobia allegations made against him.
As well as running Cornerstone — opening reported here in August 2010 — Paul and his wife, Michelle, run an evangelistic project, Passion for Souls Ministries, and following the success of the previous years’ events, Paul was invited back in his capacity as an evangelist to speak at the Uganda National Day of Prayer on New Year’s Eve 2012. After the event, however, a Ugandan news website reported that Paul had endorsed calls made by other participants for Uganda’s government to introduce the death penalty for homosexuals (Calls to pass the anti-gays Bill dominate New Year messages, Daily Monitor, 2 Jan 2013, Uganda).
The story was reported by USA blogger Melanie Nathan (Ugandan Gay Hating Pastors Spit on their Constitution in Mandela Stadium, O-blog-dee-o-blog-da, 1 Jan 2013, USA) and subsequently picked up by atheist European blogger Barry Duke (UK Christian coffee shop owner urges Uganda to pass ‘Kill the Gays’ bill, Freethinker, 2 Jan 2013), who urged readers “to mount a peaceful protest outside Cornerstone, and organise a boycott of the business”. Widespread condemnation by other online activists rapidly followed and the shop was temporarily closed last Saturday, 5 January, when staff were frightened by protests.
On Tuesday this week, 8 January, Paul issued a statement refuting the allegations, explaining his position as follows:
The purpose of my visit on the 31st December 2012 to The 7th National Day of Prayer in Uganda was simply to preach the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which I did.
This event is a New Year’s celebration for Christians and non Christians alike. It is NOT an anti-gay rally as has been wrongly stated on Facebook.
I am NOT HOMOPHOBIC. Never have been. Never will. I have NEVER ever made any homophobic comments.
As Christians we follow the commands which Jesus taught, to LOVE GOD AND LOVE PEOPLE.That means ALL PEOPLE, irrespective of race, colour or sexuality.
I do not and will not support any legislation or law which condemns anyone on the basis of the above criteria.
A report in the local press the next day (Protest planned outside St Neots cafe over “anti-gay comments”, Hunts Post, 9 Jan 2013) cites Duke’s justification for his calls for a protest to be staged:
Mr Duke, who lives in Spain, told The Hunts Post: “When I first saw that quote [in the Daily Monitor] I had no idea who Mr Shinners was and decided to do some investigating. When I went on the Cornerstone website, I saw a poster of him standing on a platform with some very well-known Christian fundamentalists and I wanted to draw attention to that fact. Looking at it that way, one can only assume that he is involved in the anti-gay movement.
Although that assumption has now been shown to be unwarranted by Paul’s refutation, Duke has stopped short of issuing an apology, insisting rather that further explanation is called for. Today’s event organisers have also stopped short of an apology but have relocated the event to the Market Square due to “masses of unexpected support” and have made a point of disassociating the event from Paul Shinners or the Cornerstone shop:
If anyone is unaware, this protest is about the ‘Kill the Gays’ bill in Uganda and our opposition to this as a civilised society. This is NOT about Mr. Shiiners [sic] or the Cornerstone Cafe!
Reports Elsewhere (most recent first)
- Cafe owner denies speaking at Ugandan anti-gay rally, attempts to stop protest, Pink News, 9/1/2013
- Denial by café owner over anti-gay claims, Huntingdon, St Ives & St Neots News & Crier, 9/1/2013