Los Angeles - A California Baptist preacher has sparked uproar for praising the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando that left 49 people dead and scores injured as "great".
"Today, people say like, well aren't you sad that 50 sodomites died?" pastor Roger Jimenez of the Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento told his congregation during his sermon delivered on Sunday, just hours after the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Florida.
"Here's the problem with that," he added. "It's like the equivalent of asking me... ' Hey, are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today?'
"Um, no, I think that's great. I think that helps society. You know, I think Orlando, Florida is a little safer tonight... The tragedy is that more of them didn't die".
His comments, which were posted on the church's YouTube channel before being taken down, were denounced by members of the LGBT community as well as local officials.
"The hateful comments made by a preacher in Sacramento do no reflect Christian values and have no place in our society," Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said in a tweet.
Dave Garcia, director of policy at the LGBT center in Los Angeles, told AFP he was not surprised by the comments, which he noted were a sad and familiar refrain for the LGBT community.
"While these individuals have not shot or killed members of the community, they are loading the guns with hateful bullets," Garcia said.
Jimenez insisted that his remarks had been taken out of context and that the uproar was an attack on freedom of speech and religion.
The pastor added that he was simply quoting from the Bible during his sermon and that his comments reflected the opinion of many in America.
"The whole point I was making is that if people who God has put a death penalty on die anyway, that's not something that we necessarily need to be mourning," he told reporters.
He said he had received many threats after his remarks went public.
Church officials could not be immediately reached for comment.