Beating of church janitor suspected as sermon response

WESTLAKE, Ohio (AP) - A church janitor suspects three men beat him because the pastor preached against homosexuality, according to police in this Cleveland suburb.

Richard Bilski, 49, of Sheffield Lake, told police that the unidentified men assaulted him Sunday morning outside the nondenominational Church on the Rise after demanding to know when Pastor Paul Endrei would arrive.

Bilski (pictured, above) said the men then fled, one yelling, "This is a message for Pastor Paul."

Capt. Guy Turner said Monday that police had no way of knowing the motive. But Bilski and Endrei said they believe the men were retaliating for an Aug. 10 sermon in which the pastor called homosexuality a sin.

Endrei preached about the Rev. Gene Robinson, who became the first openly gay Episcopalian confirmed as a bishop.

"I told the congregation, 'The Gospel according to Gene Robinson is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ,'" he said. The point of his sermon was that "we love the homosexual, but we hate the sin."

Buck Harris, a former host of a gay-themed radio talk show, said such comments can fuel hate crimes. "If they don't preach tolerance, they are preaching violence," Harris said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)