An investigation by British television network ITV has revealed the shocking practices of a Pentecostal church carrying out so-called gay “conversion therapy.”
A reporter, who was sent undercover to a branch of the Winners Chapel in Dartford, southeast of London, filmed an encounter with one of the church’s pastors who had claimed to be able to stop him from being gay.
Several pastors from the church, which bills itself as working to “liberate men everywhere from every oppression of the devil,” also reportedly warned the journalist that messages encouraging acceptance of the LGBTQ community had been “carefully scripted” by the devil.
The reporter, who wrote that the church showed a “disturbing ignorance around issues of sexual orientation,” also said that he went “through hours of counselling and prayer sessions, all directed at ridding me of my homosexuality.”
“To them, it was clear that being gay was both a sin, and in some sense a sickness that is both mental and spiritual,” he said. “They described it as demonically-influenced.”
Speaking to ITV, a conversion therapy opponent, Pastor Paul Bailey, said that the practice was common in Pentecostal churches.
“There are many things we no longer do because we know better,” Bailey said.
“There is clear scripture that says you should beat your children. We ignore that because we recognise that beating children is harmful. This is a harmful practice.”
In the U.S., several states have adopted legislation to protect LGBTQ youth by banning the practice. These include Connecticut, California, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Illinois, Vermont, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Washington and the District of Columbia.
Winners Chapel did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.