BIRMINGHAM Ala. (Reuters) - A veteran Alabama pastor who confessed to having sex with parishioners on church grounds while HIV-positive has defied attempts to remove him from his post, media reported on Friday.
Pastor Juan McFarland's revelations, made in a series of confessions from the pulpit last month, rocked the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church in Montgomery, where he ministered for more than 20 years, the Alabama Media Group reported.
In September, McFarland revealed from the pulpit that he had full-blown AIDS and had previously had sex with parishioners without telling them about his HIV status, which he had long kept secret from church leaders, WSFA-TV reported separately.
He also admitted to illegal drug use and to using church funds for personal purposes, Alabama Media Group said, citing parishioners.
On Sunday, parishioners voted 80-2 to dismiss McFarland, although he still had access to the building and controlled the church's bank account as of Thursday, the news group added, citing a former church official.
In addition to his role as pastor, McFarland served in a leadership role at the Alabama Middle District Missionary Baptist Association, which represents 34 nearby churches. The association did not respond to messages seeking comment.
Patricia Todd, executive director of AIDS Alabama, encouraged those who have had sex with the pastor to get tested for HIV and said the incident underscores that the disease is not confined to particular segments of the population.
"No one would have a suspected a pastor," Todd said.
McFarland and the church could not be immediately reached for comment.
(Reporting by Sherrel Wheeler Stewart; Writing by Jonathan Kaminsky; Editing by Susan Heavey)