Joel Osteen, pastor of the largest church in the US, says he does not hate gay people - but he does believe they are sinners.
'I believe the Scripture says that being gay is a sin,' Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday this week (29 April).
But Osteen told host Chris Wallace that he knew his answer would lead to backlash.
'You know, every time I say that, Chris ... people say, well, you are a gay hater and you’re a gay basher. I’m not,' he insisted. 'I don’t dislike anybody. Gays are some of the nicest, kindest, most loving people in the world. But my faith is based on what I believe the Scripture says, and that’s the way I read the Scripture.'
Osteen, interviewed by Wallace with his wife, Victoria, said gay couples should be allowed some limited rights like being able to visit each other in the hospital. But don't expect him to be presiding over a same-sex marriage at his megachurch which has more than 40,000 members.
'I think there should be some,' he said. 'I’m not for gay marriage, but I’m not for discriminating against people.'
Osteen's Sunday sermons are televised to more than 100 nations around the world and seen in 10 million households.