An American pastor has been arrested and expelled from Russia because authorities there say that he was planning on conducting a same-sex wedding ceremony.
Pastor Jim Mulcahy, 72, is originally from Boston but is now based in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine, where he works as the Eastern Europe coordinator for the US-based Metropolitan Community Church.
The Church is known for being LGBT-inclusive and has conducted same-sex wedding ceremonies in the US.
Mulcahy was arrested in Samara, around 475 miles south east of Moscow, reports AP. His arrest was filmed by Russian channel NTV.
‘I wasn’t afraid; I felt like this was something I had to endure,’ he told AP.
He says that despite his church conducting same-sex weddings in the US, it does not do so Europe and that he had no plans to do so in Russia.
Russia has faced criticism for passing a law in 2013 banning the promotion of non-traditional relationships – a wide-reaching so-called ‘propaganda law’ that has been used to clamp down on LGBT representation in the media and Pride parades.
Same-sex relationships are not legally recognised.
Mulcahy posted a message on his Facebook about his trip to Russia, and says he was subsequently invited by an LGBT rights group, Avers, to take part in a Q&A session with a small number of guests at their offices.
Mulcahy accepted the invitation. He says he sat down at a large table with around a dozen others, and it was then that around four policemen turned up. They said they had received a tip-off that Mulcahy was about to conduct a gay wedding.
Mulcahy was told he had to accompany the police to the police station, where he says he was held for around eight hours and questioned through an interpreter. Despite being diabetic and having prostate cancer, he was not allowed to return to his hotel to get his medication.
After being questioned, he was taken to court to appear before a judge, who ruled that he had violated the terms of his tourist visa by engaging in unspecified religious activity. He was fined $30 ($27) and given five days to leave the country.
Besides the anti-propaganda law, Russia also passed this month what has been called an ‘anti-missionary’ law, forbidding the promotion of faith in homes, offices or anywhere outside of religious buildings.
The motivation behind the law is to crack down on religious-fuelled terrorism. The Russian Orthodox Church is exempt from the law – which has been criticized by smaller faith groups within the country.
Mulcahy returned to his home in the Ukraine and says he has appealed the ruling and says he’d like to return to Russia.
‘I grew up during the Cold War believing Russia was a cold, gloomy place, but the hospitality of the Russian people changed my opinion once I visited the country.’
GSN has reached out to Mulcahy – who is today participating in a LGBT Pilgrims’ Haven event at the Catholic Church’s triennial World Youth gathering in Krakow, Poland, for further comment.
Avers is affiliated with the Russian LGBT Network, which posted a Facebook message about Mulcahy’s detainment.
H/T: Associated Press
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