Revivalist preacher Todd Bentley refused entry to UK
Evangelist who has boasted of ‘curing’ people of diseases including cancer by using physical force denied visa for UK tour
The Guardian, Tuesday 21 August 2012 17.21 BST
Todd Bentley’s revivalist meetings in Florida in 2008 came to be known as the Lakeland Outpouring.
An evangelist preacher who has claimed he can cure people of their illnesses by hitting and kicking them has been banned from entering the UK by the Home Office.
Todd Bentley, a controversial revivalist healer based in the United States, had been due to hold a series of gatherings in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in the next few weeks. But the Home Office said Bentley, a Canadian citizen, was subject to an exclusion order and would not be permitted entry to the country.
“We can confirm that Mr Bentley has been excluded from the UK. The government makes no apologies for refusing people access to the UK if we believe they are not conducive to the public good. Coming here is a privilege that we refuse to extend to those who might seek to undermine our society,” the Home Office said.
Bentley, a 36-year-old former drug addict who at the age of 13 sexually assaulted a minor, reacted angrily to the decision, writing on his church’s Facebook page: “What about all the other celebrities, musicians and others with a more colorful past than me that are permitted into the UK for shows … Is this really about my past and fear of potential violence or Freedom of Religion and attack on Faith, God & Healing?”
Bentley has reportedly distanced himself from some of his more extreme claims, insisting on Twitter that violence was “the furthest thing from who we are and how we minister”.
News of the tour’s cancellation will come as a relief to those who had petitioned the government against it, including Malcolm Wicks, the Labour MP for Croydon North, who earlier this month wrote to the Home Secretary, Theresa May, urging her to ban Bentley, saying: “His visit can do nothing but harm and I would be grateful for any measures you can take.”
Croydon’s 400-capacity conference centre was due to be the tour’s first port of call for three nights from 30 August. Bentley, who has visited Britain several times before, most recently in December, was also due to visit Portadown in County Armagh, Liverpool and Cwmbran in south Wales.
His planned visit had sparked alarm among those critical of his controversial style of preaching, which he has said often involves “curing” people of diseases, including cancer, by means of physical force. In various videos posted online, the self-styled “preacher with the tattoos” claims he once choked a man to health; in one he claims he banged a woman’s legs “up and down on the platform like a baseball bat” until she was miraculously healed.
In one typical claim, he is filmed telling an audience: “And the Holy Spirit spoke to me, the gift of faith came on me. He said, ‘kick her in the face with your biker boot’. I inched closer and I went like this – bam! And just as my boot made contact with her nose, she fell under the power of God.”
In 2008, Bentley gained international attention when he led a series of revivalist meetings in Florida which drew thousands of people and came to be known as the Lakeland Outpouring. But his reputation as a man of God subsequently took a battering amid allegations about his private life. He was also the subject of a documentary on Nightline, the ABC news programme, which questioned the validity of his claims.
Expressing his disappointment on the Facebook page of his church, Fresh Fire USA, Bentley wrote: “They have no legal basis for their accusation. I did all their visa process and fingerprinting and security. This decision was made before any of my application was processed. It is based on internet, media and false perception they have not followed up on. I think this is big news! USA immigration saw fit to receive me into the country. The UK government never asked our side of the story or gave any process for discussion. Disappointing but God wins!”
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