A controversial US Evangelist believes homosexuality is an illness. Tom Brown tells Ivan Martin civil unions do not really exist and he believes gays can be cured.

It was a special night at the fire and brimstone evangelist church River of Love last Friday evening.

Members of the congregation shuffled into the former wedding hall in Żebbug for the start of a three-day service with guest speaker Bishop Tom Brown.

The Texas preacher is the man behind the River of Love’s own leader – ballet dancer-turned-pastor Gordon Manche.

“He had plucked me out when I was dancing ballet in the US and showed me the right path,” Dr Manche said, brimming with praise for Mr Brown whom he described as his “soul father”.

Taking the stage beside the neon lit crucifix, Mr Brown was met with applause by the 30 or so worshippers.

But the preacher does not always elicit smiles and praise. In the US, he has been accused of spreading hate speech by a reputable civil rights group several times since 2011.

This is an illness like any other and it is harming people

His church is listed alongside such unsavoury organisations as the American Nazi Party, The All Whites Network and Aryan America. Mr Brown, however, shrugs it off saying he was not consulted prior to appearing on the list.

Like many evangelists, Mr Brown has some controversial views about homosexuality. However, this weekend he is in Malta to preach, and among other things will explain how he believes it is a full-blown mental disorder.

“We need to say it like it is and stop being politically correct about this. This is an illness like any other and it is harming people,” he says, referring to biblical scripture as though it was a medical handbook. Mr Brown goes on to say how he thinks homosexuality was only struck off the list of mental illnesses by the American Psychological Association because it pandered to pressure from the gay lobby back in the 1970s.

“It used to be considered an illness and nothing changed... so why take it off the list?”

Mr Brown also believes he has found the antidote to homosexuality – abstinence, or rather what he calls repentance.

“If you’re a thief, you ain’t actually a thief unless you steal something. Same goes for everything else. And if you do steal, you can repent and find God,” he tells The Sunday Times of Malta in Pastor Manche’s office after a two-hour session of animated preaching.

Although Mr Brown did not get into his views on homosexuality during Friday’s session, he did give the audience a taste of what he believes causes people to become dysfunctional, which is in line with his arguments as to why people are gay. Mr Brown believes homosexuality is triggered by either molestation, poor parental relationships or simply not fitting in with same sex peers – a theory strongly denied by the scientific community at large.

The World Health Organisation and the American Psychological Association both insist there is no evidence that sexual orientation is caused by anything at all and most attempts to find any causes have been largely inconclusive.

Confronted with research findings that suppressing sexual orientation can have serious negative health implications, Mr Brown is dismissive.

“You’re just making this up,” he says, before giving a series of unreferenced statistics, including how gay men live shorter lives, are more depressed, and more likely to kill themselves than any other minority.

Mr Brown believes same sex unions do not really exist at all and are just a farce and a lie. He insists that the only real union is one performed in a church.

Mr Brown will hold another preaching session this evening.

Watch excerpts of the interview.

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