A pastor who believes that natural disasters are sent by God to punish gay people has been driven out of his home by severe flooding sweeping Louisiana.
The death toll from historic flooding rose to 13 on Thursday as receding waters exposed the extent of devastation in the hard-hit southern US state.
The highest number of confirmed fatalities was in East Baton Rouge parish – site last months of riots following a police shooting, and then the murder of three police – where five people were dead.
Taylor Swift, the pop singer, announced she was donating $1m for recovery efforts and urged other Americans to follow suit.
But Tony Perkins, a 53-year-old pastor, said he was musing what God’s message was through the floods.
“We’re gonna look for what God’s gonna do in this,” he said. “I’m asking those questions and I’m going to see.”
Earlier this week Mr Perkins joined the ranks of 11,000 people who had to abandon their homes – including the governor of Louisiana, John Bel Edwards, and Wendell Pierce, the actor who played Bunk in tv series The Wire.
Mr Perkins, who once blamed the Boston marathon bombing on “sexual liberalism” in Massachusetts, described paddling away from his inundated home in a canoe.
“This is a flood of near-biblical proportions,” he said in an interview with the Family Research Council, which he founded.
“We had to escape from our home Saturday by canoe. We had about 10 feet of water at the end of our driveway. Our house flooded, a few of our cars flooded.”
Mr Perkins — who’s also declared that natural disasters are acts of God, not consequences of climate change — said his family of seven escaped when the water became 10-feet high in their driveway. After being turned away from one shelter, they were taken in for the night by a former member of their church — “in God’s provision.”
One of the founders of the FRC – a conservative Christian group which bills itself as “the leading voice for the family in our nation’s halls of power” – his organisation is described as a homophobic hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
In 2015 he interviewed extreme Messianic Jewish pastor Jonathan Cahn who told him that Hurricane Joaquin, which devastated Hawaii last year, was a “sign of God’s wrath” against gay marriage and abortion, and the relationship between the United Nations and Israel. Mr Perkins agreed, adding: “God is trying to send us a message”.
Ken Klukowski, the former FRC Vice President, hosted a radio show with Mr Perkins on Wednesday.
He described the flood as “an incredible, encouraging spiritual exercise to take you to the next level in your walk with an almighty and gracious God who does all things well.”