Pastor Jeremy Schossau of Metro City Church in Riverview, Michigan, is facing explosive backlash after offering classes to teens struggling with same-sex attraction.
In a now deleted Facebook post, the church offered a workshop called, "Unashamed Identity" for girls 12-16 who are struggling with thoughts of being trans, bi, gay or other.
The post received outrage from many on social media, driven mainly by the LGBTQ community. It claims the program is conversion therapy, a controversial practice used to change an individual's sexual orientation.
Seth Tooley, who is gay, once attended Metro City Church.
In an interview with WXYZ he said, "Without a doubt it's conversion therapy."
"The pastor, the elder and wife, and they started praying and they got louder, and they were trying to pray the demon of homosexuality out of me," said Tooley.
His mother Kimberly Tooley said, "I hear homosexuality demon, the demon of, the demon of and in the name of Jesus Christ and all these things and I screamed, I jerked him by the arm and said, "Let's go.'"
Hundreds against the workshops recently protested outside the church and according to Schossau, some have responded with threats of physical harm to him and the church.
In a YouTube video in response to the controversy, he explained, "People have literally threatened to kill me and my family, to burn our house down, to burn our church down, to assault the people of our church and our staff."
"It is absolutely crazy," Schossau said.
Meanwhile, state lawmakers recently issued a release condemning the classes and have introduced legislation to ban conversion therapy across the state.
Schossau says the program is not conversion therapy but a conversation without condemnation.
"If people are thinking that we are grabbing somebody and pulling them in or making them come to us, that's crazy. It couldn't be farther from the truth," he said.
He added, "When it comes to this particular workshop, it is both the parent and the child coming together saying we want to talk. We don't force the kids to be there. We ask them if they want to be there. And they're there because they are struggling. They are looking for some counsel. They're looking for some direction, somebody to listen to them. And it is pure hypocrisy in the gay community for folks to think that you can have a choice to move from heterosexuality into homosexuality but not homosexuality into heterosexuality."
"Why is it wrong for somebody to call us who is struggling and hurting and just looking for somebody to talk to, and if they move toward heterosexuality, and we celebrate that. Why is that wrong?" said Schossau.
Protesters plan to hold more demonstrations outside the church until the "Unashamed Identity" program stops.
After coming under fire, the church's Facebook page is no longer available.
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