Firebombed pastor echoes alarm over upswing in HIV infections
By Cheryl K. Chumley
Feb 6, 2001


WASHINGTON (BP)--Educating homosexual men about the moral and physical consequences of their behavior can sometimes be a risky business, according to one pastor who was vilified for his attempts.

Chuck McIlhenny of the First Orthodox Presbyterian Church of San Francisco recently penned an autobiographical account of his 1978 experiences. In the book, titled "When the Wicked Seize a City," McIlhenny recounts that he was threatened and his home and church firebombed by homosexual activists after he won a lawsuit that confirmed the church's legal right to fire its organist who was homosexual.

No suspect was ever prosecuted for the arson attack, and more than 20 years later McIlhenny is still counseling homosexuals about the realities of their lifestyles, watching with a mix of frustration and distress as HIV infections increase again in San Francisco.

That city has seen its rate of HIV infections double since 1997, according to several published reports.

"From the [spiritual] perspective I come from, I understand [the increasing HIV rates]," McIlhenny said. "It's basically that if you want to continue with this lifestyle or behavior, then you're going to keep increasing your risk."

Other sources, however, indicate the increased incidence of HIV -- which is being seen overseas as well as in the United States -- stem from medical advancements and rebellious attitudes among homosexuals.

"The increase partly is attributed to antiviral drugs that are keeping HIV-positive individuals alive longer, making it possible for them to spread the virus to more people," one San Francisco news outlet reported. "The drugs, first released in the mid-1990s, have eased the horror of watching loved ones die a slow, agonizing death."

According to figures from last year released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the AIDS- and HIV-infected population is primarily male homosexual or bisexual, with the majority living in New York, California, Florida, Texas and New Jersey.

San Francisco was home to the third-largest number of AIDS victims -- 27,567. New York City and Los Angeles topped the list.

While the CDC reports that the number of AIDS deaths has dropped in recent years due to medical advancements, it also warned about "an increase in HIV prevalence" that could even exceed the 40,000 new infections currently reported each year.

But convincing the homosexual population to exercise abstinence or even safe sexual practices to curb the rise of HIV may be difficult if overseas reports are any indication of the current mood among homosexuals.

"Health campaigns are not having the desired effect," Britain's Rainbow Network reported. "They are bringing out a rebellious streak in gay men who feel they are making a statement about their independence by having unprotected sex," which is "increasingly seen as an act of empowerment by more militant homosexuals, and that is being used as an excuse by many others for this type of behavior."

McIlhenny, too, said San Francisco homosexuals have refused to adjust their behavior in a way that would indicate a respect for the dangers of HIV and AIDS.

"They do it in the parks," he said, explaining that homosexual promiscuity is still an issue in the city, despite the increasing rates of HIV cases.

"But who's going to prosecute them?" McIlhenny asked. "Their indecency isn't actually protected by law -- but who's going to prosecute? Anybody who would speak out, even in the moral sense ... is mocked, scorned, derided."
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Chumley is a staff writer with CNSNews.com. Used by permission.


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Original copy of this story can be found at http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?id=10262