A middle-school teacher in Kansas has courted condemnation from students and gay rights activists after he wrote on his Facebook page that being gay was ‘the same as murder.’

Jack Conkling, who teaches social studies at Prairie Middle School, and is also a baseball coach at Buhler High School, wrote in a comment on his personal page that being gay ‘ranks in God’s eyes the same as murder, lying, stealing, or cheating.’ He also claimed that the Bible unequivocally claimed being gay was a sin.

The schools were notified by many students who were outraged by his comments, though local media reports suggest that several students also came to his defence.

Speaking to the local newspaper, Hutchinson News, he said: “I’m not condemning gay marriage because I hate gay people. I’m doing it because those who embrace it will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

He added: “I understand that there were some folks who didn’t understand my heart, and while that’s sad, it is what it is.”

The local education board seems divided on the issue, with one describing the situation as ‘tricky’, with others suggesting that the comments crossed the line. Thomas Witt of the Kansas Equality Coalition asked: “What would Mr Conkling say to a student who is getting bullied for being gay or lesbian?”

There are no indications at the moment, however, of a disciplinary action.