An evangelical Christian man from Tennessee has cause controversy by pretending to be gay for a year, as research for a new book, and has received criticism from the LGBT community.

Timothy Kurek, from Nashville, Tennessee, pretended to be gay for a year, in order to conduct research for his book titled, The Cross in the Closet, which eventually left him sympathetic to LGBT people, but not before causing some controversy, reports SFist.com.

He said he had been schooled at home, and attended a Christian Club Scout group, which he said taught him to “be wary of gays,” and that “they were all HIV positive, perverts and liberal pedophiles,” Mr Kurek continued.

The writer of the book says he became conflicted when he discovered an LGBT rights group, SoulForce, in 2004, and later when a lesbian friend confided in him that she had been kicked out by her family after coming out.

As well as saying that he was conflicted over whether or not to try to “convert” his lesbian friend, he wrote that he had decided that he “needed to come out of the closet as a gay man.”

As part of convincing people that he was gay, and as an excuse for not having sex with gay men, Mr Kurek asked a friend to pose as his fake boyfriend, and found a job as a barista in a café.

He also “came out” to his mother, who once had reportedly written in her diary that she would rather be diagnosed with terminal cancer, and be given three months to live, than to have produced a gay son.

Once he had conducted his research, over a period of a year, Mr Kurek once again “came out”, but this time as straight, on National Coming Out Day.

Mr Kurek concluded that he had learned that “homosexuality and Christianity are not mutually exclusive terms. Christians like to think they are… but not all.”

LGBT rights advocates were apparently divided on Mr Kurek’s actions, some pleased that it had a positive outcome, others saying that he should not have betrayed the trust of the LGBT community. Emily Timbol of the Huffington Post said:

“I’m glad his year made him an ally,” Timbol wrote. “But I can’t help wishing that what Timothy had done, instead of spending his time learning through pretending, was spend a year using his privilege to fight for the people around him.”

Amy Lieberman of Feministing.com, commented on Mr Kurek’s book, and criticised his methods, and the way he conducted his research. She said:

“I feel for the gay community of Nashville,” she wrote, “and for every person who trusted Kurek enough to flirt with him, hang out with him, and confide in him about their lives. If I were in that community, I would feel so betrayed right now.”

Speaking on US TV chat show, The View, Mr Kurek said his family were “happy to know that he his not gay.” He has left the Bible Belt behind, and moved to Portland Oregon, because, he said, “it’s much less conservative there.”