Pageant denies pressuring Miss Calif.

SAN DIEGO "No one ever said, 'You must apologize to the gay community,'" said Roger Neal, the public relations agent for the Miss California pageant. "No one ever said, 'Don't talk about your faith or your religion.' Those two things never came out of anybody's mouth."

That contradicts statements made by Prejean at her San Diego church this past Sunday. She claims Miss California producers did in fact tell her to apologize to the gay community, and to avoid discussing her religion when she appeared on national TV programs to discuss the controversy last week.

It was during the Miss USA pageant April 29, that celebrity gossip columnist and pageant judge Perez Hilton asked her opinion of same-sex marriage. Prejean stated that she did not believe gay people should be allowed to marry.

Prejean finished second in the pageant, the runner-up to Miss North Carolina. The following Sunday, while speaking at the Rock Church in San Diego, which she attends, Prejean claimed Miss California officials were concerned her comments might hurt the pageant financially, and that they tried to coach her on what to say in a series of post-Miss USA media interviews.

"'You need to apologize to the gay community,'" Prejean recalls being told. "'You need to not talk about your faith. This has everything to do with you representing California and saving the brand.'"

Neal, a San Diego public relations agent who says he was among the people advising Prejean, flatly denies those claims. "She chose to stand up in church and in front of the media and say something that was a lie," Neal said. He claims Prejean was only asked to say that she did not mean to offend anyone, and to use the media attention "to heal some wounds."

Keith Lewis, a talent agent and gay activist who runs the Miss California pageant, issued a statement questioning Prejean's abilities to carry out her duties as the reigning Miss California.

"Given the fact that Carrie Prejean's first act upon returning to California was to headline five services at a church that promotes homosexuality as both unnatural and abnormal, we stand by our concern for her individual image and look forward to a time in the near future when she can put down her personal agenda," Lewis wrote.

AP contributed to this report.



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