MOSCOW (AP) — Jim Mulcahy was sitting with some Russian friends, munching cookies and talking about Roman mosaics, when the Russian police came and took him away, claiming he was planning to perform a same-sex marriage. Hours later, the American pastor was ordered to leave Russia.
Mulcahy’s arrest this month in the city of Samara braids together several of Russia’s most acrimonious issues: gay rights, alleged Western meddling in Russian affairs, and missionary work by religions that don’t have state approval. It attracted particular attention because the arrest was filmed by state-controlled channel NTV, whose reports often take an especially truculent, pro-Kremlin stance.
The 72-year-old Mulcahy, originally from Boston, looks back on the nervous hours in the Samara police station with stoic bemusement.
“I wasn’t afraid; I felt like this was something I had to endure,” he told The Associated Press by telephone from his home in Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine.
Mulcahy is Eastern Europe coordinator for the U.S.-based Metropolitan Community Churches denomination, which has a strong outreach to the LGBT community. The church performed the first gay marriage in the United States.
He says his denomination does not perform or advocate for same-sex marriages as part of its work in Europe, and insists he had no intention of carrying out a gay marriage in Russia.
The NTV report questioned the validity of Mulcahy’s position as a pastor and claimed that he had converted to Orthodox Christianity, which Mulcahy says is untrue. Reporters also said the pastor gave religious seminars in Russia in addition to performing unspecified ceremonies for homosexuals.
Mulcahy said that a post he made on Facebook about his trip to Russia prompted activists from the gay rights organization Avers in Samara, 760 kilometers (475 miles) southeast of Moscow, to invite him to take part in an informal question-and-answer session at their offices.