GOP candidate from Lake County says he prays for gays 'to repent'
A state Senate hopeful from Lake County said on Facebook he prays "for homosexuals to repent."
Don Castella, the Republican candidate for the 30th Senate District seat now held by incumbent Democrat Terry Link, made the comment on his personal page Sunday morning.
The one-sentence remark was part of a thread following an article from christian.org.uk that Castella posted on his Facebook wall. The article concerned comments reportedly made by the managing editor of a Canadian gay newspaper.
Castella, of the Lincolnshire area, wrote: "I have read what the Holy Bible teaches and pray for homosexuals to repent."
Reached by the Daily Herald Monday, Castella said he maintains friendships with gay people, but he frowned on what he called "that particular behavior."
"I always hope that, at some point, they will leave that lifestyle and recognize what the Bible teaches about it," Castella said.
He also said gay people "reap what (they) sow" and noted gay people "don't live as long" as those who aren't gay.
When asked if he thought HIV or AIDS were punishments for being gay, Castella said no but added, "I'll leave that up to God."
Link called Castella's comments "mind-boggling."
"Repent what? What are they repenting for?" Link said. "What sin did they violate in the Ten Commandments?"
Randy Hannig, director of public policy for the gay rights group Equality Illinois, also panned Castella's Facebook post.
"It's unfortunate that candidates are still making disparaging comments about gay and lesbian Illinoisans when there are other issues that need attention in this state, like the economy and creating jobs and dealing with the state's budget mess," Hannig said.
Castella found support Monday from David Smith, executive director of a Carol Stream group called the Illinois Family Institute that opposes gay-rights legislation. Smith had no problem with the Facebook comment.
All people need to repent for their sins, Smith said, and "homosexual behavior is identified in scripture as one of those things."
Castella is running unopposed for the Republican nomination. Link, of Waukegan, is the lone Democrat.
Castella's original comment only appeared on a personal Facebook page. It did not appear on a Facebook page dedicated to his Senate campaign.
Lake County Republican Party leader Bob Cook acknowledged Cook's right to pray for "whatever group he wishes" but said Castella's views "are not the views of the Republican Party."
"It's not a comment that I would make," Cook said. "It's up to each individual, whether they want to repent for something."
Castella is the leader of the Vernon Township Republican organization. He also is the vice chairman of the conservative Republican Assembly of Lake County.
That group's founder, Libertyville resident Raymond True, said he didn't understand why Castella would make a reference about gays needing to repent on his Facebook page. Such social issues are more in line with a candidate seeking a national office and not the state Senate, True said.
"I don't think it's going to be a big issue in the campaign," True said.
Gay rights have been an issue in Springfield, however. In 2010, lawmakers legalized civil unions for gay and straight couples. Link voted for the legislation, which was signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn last year.
Ed Yohnka, spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, said people's views or religious values should not be substituted for public policy.
"I think it reflects an unwillingness to even consider expanding basic rights for lesbian and gay people in Illinois," Yohnka said of Castella's Facebook post.
Link said he doesn't want the Senate campaign "to get into a religious argument because state and religion are two different entities."
But he didn't let Castella off the hook.
"I am a churchgoing individual. I am a devout Catholic. And in the Bible I read, (it says) every child is God's child," Link said. "I think it shows (Castella) is not open minded to accept individuals for who they are."
Mostly located in Lake County, the 30th District includes parts of Buffalo Grove, Gurnee, Lincolnshire, Mettawa, Mundelein, North Chicago, Park City, Vernon Hills, Waukegan and Wheeling.
• Daily Herald Staff Writer Bob Susnjara contributed to this report.