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Latvia-religion-gays: Latvian Lutheran pastor defrocked for promoting homosexuality

Agence France-Presse - May 24, 2002


RIGA, May 24 (AFP) - Latvia's Lutheran Church has defrocked a pastor known for ministering to AIDS patients due to his promotion of a tolerant attitude to homosexuality, a church official said Friday.

Maris Sants, 36, expressed in public "information that is against Lutheran doctrine," said a statement by Mara Grigola, secretary to Latvia's Archbishop Janis Vanags.

"Persons who accept homosexual orientation as normal cannot work in the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church."

Sants told AFP his dismissal came without warning, following an interview he gave with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in which he discussed his own homosexuality.

"It's the practice in our church to dismiss people and not consult them. The church is not only conservative but going backwards," said Sants, who added that he had been criticised by church officials for ministering to AIDS sufferers.

Vanags recently contributed an essay to an anti-homosexuality book which is being investigated by state security police following complaints that it breaches defamation laws.

"Now homosexuals are recognized as a minority so in principle after them pedophiles may also be recognized as a minority," Vanags was recently quoted as saying in the daily Rigas Balss.

Lutheranism is the leading faith in Latvia, with a quarter of the country's 2.4 million population counted by the church as active members.

Vanags has shunned the opinion of the mainstream Lutheran church by refusing to ordain women since his appointment in 1993.

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