A religious leader in Ukraine who blamed COVID-19 on same-sex marriage has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Honorary Patriarch Filaret of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine was hospitalized with pneumonia after he was diagnosed with the virus on Sept. 4, local website 112.International reports.
“We inform that during planned testing, His Holiness Patriarch Filaret of Kyiv and All Rus-Ukraine tested positive for Covid 19,” the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kyiv Patriarchate said in a statement. “Now His Holiness Bishop is undergoing treatment at a hospital.”
The 91-year-old church leader is one of Ukraine’s most popular religious figures, but angered LGBTQ groups in March after making comments during a TV interview which linked the COVID-19 pandemic to same-sex marriage.
Filaret said that the coronavirus was “God’s punishment for the sins of men, the sinfulness of humanity. First of all, I mean same-sex marriage.”
Maria Guryeva, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International Ukraine, criticized Filaret at the time, calling his comments “dangerous.”
Gureva added: “Such statements…are very harmful because they could lead to increased attacks, aggression, discrimination and acceptance of violence against certain groups.”
Representatives for the leader, who has an estimated 15 million followers in the country, said that his views were “consistent with Ukrainian laws.”
“As the head of the church and as a man, the Patriarch has the freedom to express his views, which are based on morality,” the Patriarchate’s press office said in a statement.
“The Patriarchate reserved the right to bring counterclaims against those who sought to abuse judicial protections to encroach on Ukraine’s traditional family values.”
Related: Christian group that believes gay people cause ‘disease’ declared COVID outbreak site
Filaret is far from the first person to attempt to blame COVID-19 on LGBTQ people. In April, the Muslim Mission of Ghana called for “Allah’s intervention against the coronavirus” after casting blame for the virus’s spread at the feet of LGBTQ people.
“It is important for us to acknowledge our sins against the world,” the Muslim Mission said, “especially the most abominable acts such as homosexuality, lesbianism, transgender, destruction of water bodies and forests.”
In India, officials in the city of Hyderabad were forced to deal with posters that claimed, “If you talk to transgenders, you will get Corona.”
Here in the U.S., conservative pastor Perry Stone told his supporters in March that marriage equality is to blame for coronavirus, calling COVID-19 a “reckoning” from God.
Earlier that month, a guest host on The Rush Limbaugh Show said gay people are the reason San Francisco was placed on lockdown, claiming the city’s mayor didn’t want “all the gays dropping dead” in a “big gay apocalypse.”
Also in March, an Orthodox rabbi in Israel and an American pastor both claimed that coronavirus was divine punishment for allowing LGBTQ people to exist.
And in January, a right-wing pastor and broadcaster who was granted press credentials by the White House claimed that coronavirus was sent by God to “purge” LGBTQ people.
Rick Wiles, founder of Christian website TruNews, suggested that the spread of COVID-19 is a plague from God to “purge a lot of sin off this planet,” and called LGBTQ people “vile” and “disgusting.”
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