A pastor who objected to a kissing lesbian couple he claimed he mistook for heterosexuals at a southwestern Ontario Tim Hortons says he now fears for his safety amid plans for a protest over the couple's removal from the restaurant.
Assistant pastor Eric Revie of Glad Tidings Community Church in Blenheim said he has received thousands of emails and hundreds of phone calls since news broke that Riley Duckworth and Patricia Pattenden were asked to leave the town's only Tim Hortons last month after Revie complained to a manager about their behaviour on a bench outside the restaurant.
Revie said the emails and phone calls have contained "a lot of hatred."
Protesters are planning to hold a sit-in Thursday at Blenheim's only Tim Hortons over the restaurant's actions.
"I’m a little concerned," Revie said. "We will have people at the church facility if anyone comes to try and do damage to the building."
The father of four said he also fears for the safety of his children, and added he has been in constant contact with police.
'One girl that was straddling the other girl looked like a boy.' — Eric Revie
Revie said the entire incident has been blown out of proportion.
"I’m trying to put this behind me. To me, it wasn’t a gay rights issue," Revie said. "My understanding was that it was a guy-girl couple. One girl that was straddling the other girl looked like a boy. They are a couple who are apparently in love, that’s fine. Displaying affection in front of young children in a family restaurant was inappropriate to do."
Revie said the couple's public display of affection included what he called extreme and passionate kissing involving their tongues. He said one was straddling the other's lap.
"They had hands on body parts they shouldn’t have," Revie said. "It disturbed me that anyone would behave that way in a public setting. Whether the couple is gay or whether the couple is straight, it doesn’t matter."
However, Duckworth and Pattenden said they were outside holding hands and enjoying a coffee when they kissed each other on the cheek — and nothing more.
'We weren't doing anything grotesque.' — Riley Duckworth
"We weren't making out or anything," Duckworth told CBC Windsor's Early Shift Tuesday. "We weren't doing anything grotesque."
Duckworth said Pattenden's mother was sharing the bench with the couple so they wouldn't have dreamed of doing anything offensive.
She said the manager told them their behaviour was unacceptable and that they had five minutes to leave or the police would be called. So they left.
In an email this week to CBC News, Alexandra Cygal, Tim Hortons manager of public affairs said "the guests' behaviour went beyond public displays of affection and was making other guests feel uncomfortable."
"The management has apologized to Riley and Patricia and invited them back to their restaurant," Cygal wrote.
Duckworth said Tuesday she has yet to receive a personal apology from Tim Hortons.
Pastor denies staring down couple
In a media release, Duckworth and Pattenden accused Revie of staring them down and later holding a prayer circle in the parking lot. Revie said neither events happened.
"I’m not against the gay community," Revie insisted. "I'm not against them as individuals. I don’t agree with their lifestyle, and they know that. I'm trying to understand where they are coming from. I want to reach them through Jesus Christ. I want to see God touch their lives and impact their lives."
But Revie added he believes the couple violated his rights as a parent.
"I am a protective parent. I believe it’s my right to shield my children and protect from things I deem inappropriate for them to view," he said. "But I've been told I have no rights; to ignore it and leave."