Protest planned outside St Neots cafe over “anti-gay comments”

PUBLISHED: 09:00 09 January 2013 | UPDATED: 14:16 09 January 2013

Paul Shinners

Paul Shinners

Archant

STAFF were forced to close a St Neots cafe after the owner found himself at the centre of an international row about gay rights.

STAFF were forced to close a St Neots cafe after the owner found himself at the centre of an international row about gay rights.

Paul Shinners, managing director of Cornerstone Café, spoke at the annual National Day and Night of Prayer at the Nakivubo Stadium in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.

Subsequent reports of the New Year’s Eve event on a Ugandan news website claimed Mr Shinners spoke in support of the country’s controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill – which could see gay people sentenced to life in prison if convicted of their “crimes”.

The Daily Monitor quoted Rev Paul Schinners as saying: “There is no other nation the world over that has such a plan and through this, Uganda is going to be blessed.”

The article claimed his comments “commended Uganda for the Bill, saying it was a clear stand for God”.

Mr Shinners, who is currently in South Africa with his wife and children, vehemently denied speaking in support of the bill and said that he will be looking at taking legal action when back in the UK.

A number of internet blog sites have run articles criticising Mr Shinners, with many people taking to social media sites to vent their anger.

Barry Duke, editor of Freethinker, an atheist magazine, published the first blog against Mr Shinners.

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.

“There are two sides to every story and what I would say to Mr Shinners is ‘explain yourself’. He received a letter from the human rights commission in San Francisco asking him to make clear his position and as far as I know he has not responded to that. If he has no feeling of antipathy towards gay people, then he should say so.”

A Facebook group set up in the wake of the blogs is planning to stage a protest outside the café in Cambridge Street on Saturday (January 12).

Speaking from South Africa, Mr Shinners said he would take legal advice with regards to the “defamatory” statements made online about him.

“It’s absolutely unbelievable,” he said. “These people have not even heard what I said. I will have to take legal advice – it’s pure defamation. All the people who know me know that I am not homophobic – I accept everyone for who they are, irrespective of race or sexuality.”

He added: “I have spoken at the National Day of Prayer before – it is not an anti-gay rally, it is a Christian event. I preached a message from the gospel of Jesus about not condemning people. I preached the gospel of John, about throwing stones…

“How can people use social networks to make vicious comments without checking the story first?”

He continued: “As Christians, we believe in loving God and loving people – all people. I have never condemned anyone for their sexuality – never have done, never will. It’s not what we are about. We do not judge.”

He claimed he had no knowledge of the proposed bill and added: “As a Christian ministry, we preach the gospel – we do not get involved in politics.”

He said staff at the café were subject to abuse from people on Saturday and took the decision to close. “They were so frightened,” he said.

He said he would still be in Africa during the planned protest but said that if he were there he would talk to the protesters.

“I would speak to them,” he said. “I would show them respect and explain the whole story – I would explain we were there to defend their rights. We are here to restore peace and healing – that’s our message.

“I’m quite stunned that it’s got to this,” he added, “when I’m not even there to defend myself. I am pleased that The Hunts Post has spoken to me – you are the only people to contact me and ask me what I said.”

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