Originally published on Advocate.com August 20 2003 12:00 AM ET
A heterosexual church janitor suspects three men beat him because the pastor preached against homosexuality, according to police in the Cleveland suburb of Westlake. Richard Bilski, 49, of Sheffield Lake, told police that the unidentified men assaulted him Sunday morning outside the nondenominational Church on the Rise after demanding to know when Pastor Paul Endrei would arrive. Bilski said the men then fled, one yelling, "This is a message for Pastor Paul." Police captain Guy Turner said Monday that police had no way of knowing the motive. But Bilski and Endrei said they believe the men were retaliating for an August 10 sermon in which the pastor called homosexuality a sin.
Endrei had delivered a sermon about the Reverend Gene Robinson, who was recently confirmed as the first openly gay Episcopalian bishop. "I told the congregation, 'The Gospel according to Gene Robinson is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ,"' Endrei said. The point of his sermon was that "we love the homosexual, but we hate the sin." Buck Harris, a former host of a Cleveland gay-themed radio talk show, said such comments can fuel hate crimes. "If they don't preach tolerance, they are preaching violence," Harris said.