Malaysia to block planned gay church

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - Muslim-majority Malaysia will block a plan by the country's first and only openly gay pastor to establish a church embracing homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals, a minister said Monday.

Reverend Ouyang Wen Feng, an ethnic Chinese Malaysian ordained in the US, caused controversy after saying he wanted to set up the church by 2010.

The government would block the plan, Tourism Minister Adnan Tengku Mansor told AFP, adding the country had always sought to portray itself as a "family-oriented" holiday destination.

"We have no intention of being portrayed the same way like other cities such as Bangkok or those other cities in that league," Mansor said, apparently referring to the Thai capital's sex industry.

"We are here to be seen as a multicultural country with people who are good, excellent followers of their respective religions," Mansor added.

Homosexuality falls under a Malaysian law prohibiting sodomy, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison and whipping.

Ouyang's plan to start the church had stirred anxiety, Reverend Wong Kin Kong, the secretary general of Malaysia's National Evangelical Christian Fellowship, said last week.

This was "because Christians do not want others to assume they condone such a thing," he said.

But Ouyang remained unfazed and urged a congregation of about 80 people -- including his male partner -- to "reclaim faith and celebrate our sexuality" in an underground mass Sunday.

"For some of us, especially our gay brothers and sisters, we have experienced first hand that Christianity has been used to persecute minorities," Ouyang told the mass, according to press reports.