The Deputy Mayor of Derry & Strabane has claimed people can be cured from being gay by turning to Christ and praying.
DUP Councillor Thomas Kerrigan made the controversial comments in the wake of the historic vote on equal marriage at Stormont this week, which saw a majority of MLAs voting in favour of extending the same rights to all people, regardless of their sexuality.
It is ill-informed nonsense. It is hugely disappointing . This is a man who is Deputy Mayor and Derry and Strabane and is expected to act as a representative of everybody, including LGBT people.Malachai O’Hara, the Rainbow Project
Colr. Kerrigan however commended how own party’s decision to lodge a Petition of Concern, which effectively killed off any hope of equal marriage legislation to back up the vote by elected members.
His comments have been branded “nonsense”, “damaging” and “hugely disappointing” by Malachai O’Hara, Centre Manager of the Rainbow Project in Derry.
He claimed that there were young people who stray into lifestyles such as being gay, or dabbling in drugs and alcohol and then get deeper into it over time.
Stating that he expected his comments will leave some people “jumping about”, Colr. Kerrigan said he felt sorry for families who had to cope with someone who had strayed from Christian values.
He also blamed the decline in church attendances and the images on TV and elsewhere as having contributed to the normalisation of such behaviours.
Speaking to the Journal, he said: “There has been a fall away of the per centage of people entering churches and I believe that if people relied more on prayer it could cure a lot of these problems.
“I believe people are discontented. Churches are a place people always went to for refuge. Prayer can heal and the Lord himself was the healer- that is the only person we can rely on.
“I have seen people come through fairly severe times and they were prayed for and they were turned in a different direction.”
Praising his own party’s decision to lodge the Petition of Concern, Colr. Kerrigan said: “I have to commend the party for taking the stand. The Churches came out to support against that vote.
“I was disappointed there were political leaders who didn’t take a stand on Monday.”
He added: “I certainly pray for these people and for the parents- I know it is sad when any one family member has strayed away on a different walk of life and I believe you don’t cast them off, you take them in and comfort them and pray.
“The word of God tells me that as far as ‘the other’ is concerned, woman was made for man and the rib that was taken out of man was closest to his heart.
“I think there is an emptiness there and I believe prayer can change that.
“Young people can get carried away into a different walk of life.
“I believe that people can fall away and get into company; that they didn’t intend to go in that direction but they get carried away. It’s like taking your first drink, the first one may be hard then you take a second one. It’s easier and then it goes up into a big thing. Even smoking is the same, and it’s the same with drugs.
“People really think ‘that’s my way of life’ and that is entirely up to them, but I think there is a better way and a more happier way.
“I will go the second mile to help someone see the folly of their ways and it grieves me to see some families with someone gone astray and gone astray very badly against their own parents.”
Mr Kerrigan added that the modern world and prevalence on TV and other media of things that people would never have been exposed to years ago was not helping matters.
“People are not really interested in watching the news, they are more into some other type of stuff that is not pleasant to the eyes,” he said.
“A lot of things are there and made very handy.
“It would have been an embarrassment years ago even for certain people to go into a licensed premises. Now it’s an open thing. On a Sunday there’s more standing looking out of the licensed premises than are looking out of church door. We need to get back to what the Bible says.”
When asked if he had a direct message for gay people, Colr. Kerrigan added: “There is a better life by turning their heart and thoughts to the Lord. The Lord is the only man that can do anything for them.”
He added: “I know they will be jumping about at the comments I have made but it is coming from the heart. What I am saying is there is a better way and that is the Christian way.”
Reacting to Colr. Kerrigan’s comments, Mr O’Hara from the Rainbow Project said:
“The idea that it can be cured is extremely damaging. There is no body of scientific evidence that supports an idea that a person can change their sexual orientation.”
Pointing to statements from counsellors and psychologists in the UK that in contrast, so called ‘reparative therapy’ were actually unethical.
“It is ill-informed nonsense. It is hugely disappointing . This is a man who is Deputy Mayor and Derry and Strabane and is expected to act as a representative of everybody, including LGBT people.
“These sort of comments further exacerbate homophobia and transphobia,” Mr O’Hara added.