Cafe owner denies speaking at Ugandan anti-gay rally, attempts to stop protest

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The owner of a Christian bookshop has denied claims that he is homophobic, and that he attended an anti-gay rally, in order to try to stop a demonstration which was being planned at the premises.

Paul Shinners, the managing director of Cornerstone Cafe in St Neots, Cambridgeshire, was the subject of an online campaign, which included plans for a protest, when he was accused of supporting draft legislation in Uganda which would make homosexuality punishable by death, reports Cambridge News.

The allegations came after he spoke at the annual National Day and Night of Prayer at the Nakivubo Stadium in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. The Daily Monitor quoted “Rev Paul Schinners” as saying:

“There is no other nation world over that has such a plan and through this, Uganda is going to be blessed.”

Mr Shinners, the head of a UK registered charity called Passion for Souls Ministries, had previously posted his invitation, and a flyer to the event on the Cornerstone Website, and said he attended the event, but said that he was misquoted, and that he never spoke in favour of the bill.

He denied knowing about the anti-gay legislation in Uganda, and said: “I have spoken at the National Day of Prayer before – it is not an anti-gay rally, it is a Christian event. I preached a message from the gospel of Jesus about not condemning people. I preached the gospel of John, about throwing stones…”

During the event, Pastor Joseph Sserwadda of the Victory Christian Church said: “I am hoping that as parliament resumes this February, the first thing tabled [is] the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.”

A Facebook group titled, Support the Gays, was set up, and peaceful protests were planned. More than 100 people were due to attend this saturday, 12 January.

Mr Shinners, who attended the Uganda National Day of Prayer on 31 December, said he attended the event in Kampala, but denied speaking in favour of the so-called “kill the gays” bill.

“It’s absolutely unbelievable,” he said. “These people have not even heard what I said. I will have to take legal advice – it’s pure defamation. All the people who know me know that I am not homophobic – I accept everyone for who they are, irrespective of race or sexuality.”

“As Christians we follow the commands which Jesus taught, to love God and love people. That means all people, irrespective of race, colour or sexuality.

“I do not and will not support any legislation or law which condemns anyone on the basis of the above criteria.

He went on to say that he was forced to close his shop last weekend because of the planned protests. He said:

“We had to close the shop on Saturday, January 5, as they were frightened to come in. This is not right.”

Staff members said they were “completely shocked” by the allegations against Mr Shinner, and that they had just heard about them through “hearsay.”

A police spokesman said the police force was aware of the planned protests. They said: “We are aware of the planned event and recognise people’s right to peaceful protest. We are in contact with the organiser and will provide a proportionate police response.”

Mr Shinners posted a statement denying the allegations on the Cornerstone Website, and said he would seek legal advice following the allegations made against him.