When Superstorm Sandy hit the New York metropolitan area in 2012, the floodwaters in Lower Manhattan were still rising when some pastors pointed out what, to them, was obvious. “God is systematically destroying America,” the Rev. John McTernan, a conservative Christian pastor who runs a ministry called USA Prophecy, said in a post-Sandy blog entry that has since been removed. The reason God was so peeved, he claimed, was “the homosexual agenda.”

McTernan belongs to a subset of religious conservatives—including some well-known names—who see wrath and retribution in natural disasters. Usually, their logic revolves around LGBT themes—Buster Wilson of the American Family Association claimed God sent Hurricane Isaac to stop an annual LGBT festival; the Rev. Franklin Graham blamed Hurricane Katrina on New Orleans’ “orgies”; and Catholic priest Gerhard Wagner called Katrina “divine retribution” for New Orleans’ tolerance of homosexuality. READ MORE