The Arizona pastor who called in a sermon for the execution of gay people has given an unashamed defence of his beliefs in a TV interview.
Steven Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, said in a sermon entitled AIDS: The Judgment of God that it would be possible to achieve an "AIDS-free Christmas" by killing all homosexuals.
Phoenix TV station KPNX anchor Mark Curtis interviewed Anderson and challenged him on his beliefs, saying: "When I heard your sermon, it sounded like the rantings of someone who was either a hatemonger or a religious zealot, and I'm wondering, which are you?"
Anderson answered: "I'm a religious zealot." He read from Leviticus 20:13, "If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination, they shall surely be put to death, their blood shall be upon them" and said: "You know, as a Christian I believe the Bible and that's where I get my belief."
Asked about the commandment "Thou shalt not kill", Anderson responds: "What you have to understand is that the Bible commands that certain people be put to death – not by me, not by Christians, it's obviously not my job or the job of any Chrisitan to go out and kill anybody and I've never taught anything like that, but rather that the Government's job is to punish criminals and to execute those who've committed capital crimes , and according to the Bible homosexuality is a capital crime. I didn't write the Bible."
When Curtis pressed him on what he would do if he had a son or daughter who was gay, he said: "It's not going to happen, but if I did, I would have nothing to do with them. It's like saying, what if your daughter grew up to be an axe murderer, what if your son grew up to be like Adolf Hitler – it's just a silly question."
Anderson's sermon has caused widespread outrage. Christians were among people who picketed his church in protest on Sunday morning carrying signs that said "Teach love not hate," "Jesus loves everybody" and "AIDS is not a gay disease". Local pastor Rev Jeffrey Dirrim gave communion to protesters and Rabbi Dean Shapiro, of Temple Emanuel of Tempe, read a statement to the crowd.
"We deplore this pastor's hate speech and calls for violence, especially when these statements come from a man who purports to be a faith leader in our community and especially during this season when we long for peace, justice and reconciliation," he said.