A cafe owner and charity worker from St Neots continues to deny claims that he travelled to Uganda to speak in favour of the country’s proposed anti-gay bill, and has demanded apologies from the bloggers who spread the allegations.
Paul Shinners, the managing director of Cornerstone Cafe in St Neots, Cambridgeshire, was made the subject of an online campaign when he was accused of supporting draft legislation in Uganda which could make homosexuality punishable by death.
The allegations came after he spoke at the annual National Day and Night of Prayer at the Nakivubo Stadium in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. The Daily Monitor quoted “Rev Paul Schinners” as saying on the topic of the bill:
“There is no other nation world over that has such a plan and through this, Uganda is going to be blessed.”
Barry Duke, editor of the atheist magazine Freethinker, picked up on the quote and posted on his blog that Mr Shinner was a “hatemonger of the first order”. Similar allegations were made on the blog of human rights campaigner Melanie Nathan.
Mr Shinner denies having spoken in support of the bill. He has written to Mr Duke and Ms Nathan demanding an apology for their “defamatory” claims.
“It is the least they should be able to do. We want to be able to move on,” Mr Shinner said.
“In a court of law, you are innocent until proven guilty. On the internet, it seems that you are guilty unless you can prove you are innocent,” he added.
Mr Shinner is the head of Christian charity Passion for Souls, and had previously travelled to Rwanda and Kenya as well as Uganda to carry out aid work. He says that he is unsure if he will be able to return to Uganda if his visits are presumed to be connected to the anti-gay bill.
“It was bizarre and a bit like a dream,” he said. “It was incredible to think that a small cafe in St Neots got caught up in issues in Uganda. It hit us like a bolt from the blue,” he told the Hunts Post.
Mr Shinner temporarily closed his cafe on Saturdays after protests were planned outside the premises, but said that local residents had otherwise been supportive.
Mr Duke has posted Mr Shinner’s letter denying the claims of homophobia on his blog.