BATON ROUGE, La. — Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart apologized Wednesday for saying in a televised worship service that he would kill any gay man who looked at him romantically.
A complaint was filed with a Canadian broadcasting group, and Swaggart said his Baton Rouge-based Jimmy Swaggart Ministries has received complaints from gay groups over the remarks made on the Sept. 12 telecast.
In the broadcast, Swaggart was discussing his opposition to gay marriage when he said “I’ve never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry.”
“And I’m going to be blunt and plain: If one ever looks at me like that, I’m going to kill him and tell God he died,” Swaggart said to laughter and applause from the congregation.
On Wednesday, Swaggart said he has jokingly used the expression “killing someone and telling God he died” thousands of times, about all sorts of people. He said the expression is figurative and not meant to harm.
“It’s a humorous statement that doesn’t mean anything. You can’t lie to God — it’s ridiculous,” Swaggart told The Associated Press. “If it’s an insult, I certainly didn’t think it was, but if they are offended, then I certainly offer an apology.”
Audio recordings of the Sept. 12 statements have circulated on gay-themed Web sites.
One complaint was sent to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, a self-regulating industry group that enforces broadcast standards, after a Toronto television station broadcast the service, said Ann Mainville-Neeson, the group’s executive director.
Encouraged to preach equality
Cheryl Jacques, head of the Washington, D.C.-based Human Rights Campaign, which represents homosexuals, bisexuals and transgendered people, said Swaggart should preach equality for all Americans.
“Apologies don’t discourage violence — action does. We hope that he takes action,” Jacques said. “His language only encourages an environment where hate crimes occur.”
Swaggart was a popular television evangelist during the 1980s until a 1987 sex scandal involving a prostitute whom he met in a seedy New Orleans motel. Swaggart never confessed to anything more than an unspecified sin. A few years later, he was stopped by police while driving in California with a suspected prostitute in his car.
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