NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A U.S. pastor defended a video posted on YouTube of an exorcism of a gay man, saying the Manifested Glory Ministries church does not hate gay people, it just does not believe in their lifestyle.
The video, which has sparked outrage among gay rights advocates, shows a young man writhing around on the floor at the Stamford, Connecticut, church.
The video, which was taken six or seven months ago, has been removed from the website. It is not clear who posted it.
Pastor Patricia McKinney said the man told the church "he did not want to live this way."
"Every Sunday we call people up to the altar who want to be delivered from any spirit that causes them to not be able to function," she told the CNN television network. "We were just beginning to worship the Lord and all of a sudden he hit the floor."
She described the unnamed man as very religious and spiritual.
"Manifested Glory Ministries is not against homosexuality. We do not hate them. We do not come up against them. We do just not believe in their lifestyle," McKinney explained.
One expert said he understood the man's situation because he went through the same experience.
"(The Manifested Glory Ministries) were acting out of ignorance by equating homosexuality to demon possession," Rev. Roland Stringfellow, of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry of Berkeley, California, told Reuters in an interview.
Stringfellow said he was exorcised twice at a different church when he asked for help to deal with his own homosexuality.
"This young man who obviously went for help ended up being damaged I believe," he said. "I am concerned about the emotional and spiritual scars he has. I felt what they were doing was casting not a demon out, but casting shame."
The uproar over the video coincides with gay pride week, marking the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City's Greenwich Village that triggered the modern U.S. gay rights movement. The annual march through Manhattan is set for Sunday.
A push for gay marriage to be legalized has gathered momentum around the United States and is already allowed Massachusetts, Connecticut and Iowa. Gay couples will be allowed to marry in Vermont starting in September and New Hampshire in January.
Some states provide for same-sex unions that grant many of the same rights as marriage. Forty-two U.S. states explicitly prohibit gay marriage, including 29 with constitutional amendments, according to Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group.
Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Patricia Reaney