What’s it like to be the spiritual counselor of a politician with a misdemeanor conviction for assaulting his girlfriend?
Runnin’ Scared decided to find out, by chatting with Reverend Ricardo Reyes of Corona, Queens. As we’ve been reporting, Hiram Monserrate is running for the State Senate seat he was expelled from, largely on a scorched-earth anti-gay platform. He’s being assisted in his efforts by Reverend Reyes, who joined Monserrate at a press conference outside his competitor Jose Peralta’s office to denounce the state assemblyman for supporting gay marriage.
RS wanted to know how the reverend could condemn one candidate for allegedly wanting to undermine marriage being between one man and one woman, yet support another man who was convicted of assaulting the woman he wants to marry. We caught up with him at El Elyon Church in Corona. Along the way, we discovered that:
— Monserrate is really “a peaceable man. With woman, he is very sweet.”
— For gays, homosexuality is “an instrument for making money.”
— When gays “discover they don’t have to keep being gay, they choose life, and they’re happy.”
Full interview after the jump.
Why are you supporting Hiram Monserrate?
It happens I have been a long time in this community. One good thing Hiram has is, he walked into the community. He visited the community, he worked with the churches, he worked with the people. That’s one thing I liked. Because I don’t like for nobody to be discriminated. Black, white, Hispanic, African —
I do not accept that.
You do not accept it?
No. I do not accept that. I do not accept anybody discriminating the gay community. I have gay friends, leaders. I keep my Bibleprinciple, I respect that, because that is my belief. But for the human being, love every human being. God love the gay community as well, he love every community. And he [Hiram] does a great job on that. He had done a very good job, has been honest with the community, has been helpful to the community. This area was full of drug dealers, and killing, so he worked hard with us, with the churches, to clean the area and help the youth. If you see here, you are going to see a lot of youth I got them from the street.
And Assemblyman Peralta? Do you have any relationship with him?
No, no I don’t have any relationship with him. Probably he doesn’t have the time to come around to visit our area in the community. But I don’t see him often. He comes from my same country.
Dominican — I haven’t gotten close to Peralta, Peralta hasn’t got close to me. One time I invite him to Madison Square Garden, so he can bring an honor to a preacher from Korea, but he never show up. He left me flat. And I don’t like that. And he never come back and said, “Excuse, I didn’t come back” — that was a big mistake.
Clearly, you think homosexuality is wrong. As a minister, why do think Jesus never speaks about it in the Bible, if it’s so…
Well, Jesus doesn’t speak about dressing, about clothing, about any jewelry you can wear. Church speaks about it now. The Bible has very good doctrine about men to a men and women to a women. God gave the freedom to Adam and Eve to do whatever they want to do. And I believe God gave the freedom to everybody to do what you feel to do. I respect that. But, the Bible principles do not accept that. A man to a man and a woman to a woman. I go with the Bible principle. Nothing against the human being. Believe me, nothing. But — principle, don’t let me agree with a man getting married to another man and a lady getting married to another woman. It doesn’t mean that I reject the gay community. I have to follow my principle because I teach that over here. I can present you right now, a gay person who is here, a member of the church, and we help him. Do you want to see the person?
Jorge, come in!
You’re gay? You are being outed by your minister.
He understands a little [English] and he speaks a little.
As a member of this church — what’s it like being a part of a church that doesn’t condone gay marriage and thinks homosexuality is wrong, biblically?
JORGE: Even before I met Christ, I believed that a matrimony between two men
Do you feel welcome being in the church? Can you come with a partner or boyfriend to the church?
JORGE: For him to accept Christ, yes.
REYES: That is the way it is. I was an actor for 26 years, I was doing film, on Broadway and theater for a lot of time, and I had so much friends, gays. I didn’t participate only because I didn’t have the feeling to participate on it.
You didn’t participate in what, in being gay?
Being gay, being in relation with a man.
You did not have any gay experiences?
Never, never. And when I come to Christ and I believe, I have to live by the word. But, whoever is gay, they need my help, I will give the help.
Do you try to make people ‘not gay?’
Not to try to make people not gay, to try free them from whatever confusion they have. Whatever spirit is bothering them.
Do you ever try to make Jorge not gay?
JORGE: When a person is gay, the only way he can be changed is through Jesus. Because, the people who are gay, are not happy. It is an instrument for them to gain money.
To gain money?
REYES: Yes. Because, when you have a partner, or relationship, everything is for one objective. They live a life that is a lie, but when they are alone, they are truly not happy.
But do you think you can be gay, and Christian — and happy? And still be gay?
JORGE: I am either a homosexual, or a Christian.
Which are you?
JORGE: I am Christian. I love Jesus, because Jesus changed my life.
And you’re no longer gay?
JORGE: No more.
REYES: I work plenty with a lot of gays like that. When they discover they don’t have to keep being gay, they choose life, and they’re happy. They have Christ’s life.
We’ve talked about the Bible and homosexuality. Does the Bible condone violence against women?
Yes, somehow. I condemn that, too. I condemn violence against woman. Against anybody.
Then how can you support Hiram Monserrate, who has been convicted of violence against his girlfriend?
One thing is that he has been convicted. I know Hiram. Hiram is not a violent man. He’s not….he’s a peaceable man. With woman, he is very sweet. Very sweet. All the woman speak about that. And I believe Hiram just happened to be something that accuse him and convicted him by the court that he’s innocent. I believe that. If he were not be innocent, I would say the contrary. He is not innocent. But he is innocent. He did not mistreat the woman. It happened that that little video, that’s different. But what I know for him for year, man has done good to 99 percent of the people.
What about — you had this conference, you were at the press conference where you spoke on [Monserrate’s] behalf, in the heart of the gay community of that part of Queens. It’s where the [gay] community center is, and several bars. But it’s also the site of, very close to two intersections where two gay men were killed in hate crimes. What do you think…
I didn’t know nothing about that.
It is in that neighborhood. What do you think when you go and you say that the gay lifestyle is wrong and gay people should not have the same civil liberties, the ability to marry, and so one an so forth — how do you think that makes people feel who were connected to those people who were killed nearby there? Who were killed for being gay?
Well, when I spoke over there, number one I didn’t know gay people was killed there. I was talking on sense of my Bible principals. I don’t want to hurt anybody, or make anybody feel bad, especially the gay community. Because I respect the feeling of the gay community. They’re very sensible. They got a sensible heart, and a sensible mind, and I respect that. I’m here to restore people, and to bring love to people, and I will do that all of my life, until I — depart with God. I didn’t know nothing about there was a gang problem in that area, and that some gay people got killed, I didn’t know nothing about that. So, over there, excuse me. Excuse me. I am very sorry if anybody [was] hurt by what I said, but I never said something to hurt anybody. What I said was my principal beliefs.
I read that you speak for 612 churches?
That’s what I have under my coverage, 612 churches. Some in New York, some in Florida, some in Puerto Rico, some in Latin America.
Does your organization — have a list of those churches?
I have, probably they have some listing on the website. Check the website. If they don’t, let me know, so I can tell them to put all the churches there. [On the list of member churches on his site, there are only about 25 churches listed.]
Would you marry Hiram and his girlfriend in your church? Or go through counseling?
She never got into counseling. We called her. My wife called her to do counseling.
You reached out?
My wife. She never answered, she never wanted to come and do any counseling. She just says that Hiram didn’t hit her. So, until then, I know.