Church pastors in Jamaica rallied nearly 1,500 people on Sunday in Kingston in support of an anti-sodomy law which punishes those engaging in homosexual acts with 10 years in prison.
"We need our politicians to know that we need them to walk the path of righteousness," said one demonstrator, identified as Eleanor Johnson, according to The Associated Press.
Concerned that there is a growing acceptance of homosexuality in Jamaican society, the pastors met in support of the anti-sodomy law, which was established in 1864 but is being challenged by a gay rights activist. The "buggery law," as it is also known, makes sexual relationships between men illegal in the Caribbean state.
According to the CIA World Factbook, around 62.5 percent of the Jamaican population identifies as Protestant – with another 2.6 percent belonging to the Roman Catholic Church. The Kingston gathering was led by a religious group called Prayer 2000, which urged the government to keep traditional values and not to abolish the anti-sodomy law.
Pastor Leslie Buckland of Church of Christ led prayers for the conversion of gay people, AP reported, and argued that gay rights activists are trying to "take over the world" with their challenge of the centuries-old laws. Buckland warned that if the anti-sodomy law were repealed, activists would "go back to the court to make it a criminal offense to speak against the homosexual lifestyle."
Gay rights activists argue that Jamaica is the most hostile island in the Caribbean when it comes to the treatment of gay people, who often suffer abuse and have little support because of stigma.
In April, leaders from the Anglican Church in the West Indies rejected any suggestions that same-sex marriage should be legalized in the region, the Jamaican Observer reported.
"Frequently they are pressured to conform to the changes being undertaken in their redefinition of human sexuality and same-sex unions, under threat of economic sanctions and the loss of humanitarian aid," the House of Bishops and Standing Committee of the Church in the Province of the West Indies said.
"We urge our leaders of government and of civil society, as well as the people of our nations, to resist any attempt to compromise our cultural and religious principles regarding these matters," the bishops added.
"The dangling of a carrot of economic assistance to faltering economies should be seen for what it is worth and should be resisted by people and government alike."