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The Seattle Police Department rejected an invitation from right-wing pastor Franklin Graham to attend a “law enforcement appreciation” event, citing their desire to stand by their LGBTQ officers.
Graham, the president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, extended the invitation to the dinner, set to take place at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue on May 11, via an email that was circulated internally within the police department. The dinner would have been free for any law enforcement officers in attendance.
But the invitation was poorly received by Seattle City Council President Lorena Gonzalez, who objected to Graham’s past anti-LGBTQ activism, worrying that accepting the invitation would send a message to LGBTQ officers who happen to work for the department, reports Seattle-based CBS affiliate KIRO7.
“By promoting this anti-LGBTQ and far-right religious group’s invitation, the Seattle Police Department is undermining Seattle’s LGBTQ community, alienating our own LGBTQ officers, and further eroding public trust and confidence in law enforcement to protect everyone regardless of their religion or identity,” Gonzalez said in a statement.
“The Seattle Police Department’s sharing of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association event is absolutely a misuse of taxpayer resources,” Gonzalez continued. “I’m calling on Mayor Jenny A. Durkan and Interim Chief of Police Adrian Diaz to rescind this email immediately.”
Interim Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz later sent around a department-wide email rescinding the invitation. In a statement, Diaz said that “based on Graham’s history and affiliations, the email has raised concerns that the SPD may not be committed to the equity of our community’s LGBTQ members.”
“I want to make clear the Department fully supports the equity and just treatment of all people,” Diaz said in a statement. “The SPD did not sponsor this event and is not connected in any way to its hosts. Today I sent a department-wide email to rescind the invitation because its hosts do not share the inclusive values of the SPD.”
Graham has a long history of directing vitriol and hostility toward the LGBTQ community, having defended countries with laws criminalizing homosexuality, expressed support for anti-LGBTQ laws, such as “bathroom bills,” lamented the establishment of a gay rights monument at the site of the historic Stonewall Inn, and called for boycotts of companies that are supportive of LGBTQ rights.
He has also condemned the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ people in various aspects of life, calling on “God’s Army” to intervene and stop congressional Democrats and the Biden administration from passing the legislation.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, when Samaritan’s Purse, a nonprofit he runs, established a field hospital in New York City to help with people suffering from the virus, Graham required volunteers with medical training to affirm a “statement of faith” that condemned homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and transgenderism. When criticized for requiring medical workers to abide by that statement, Graham compared LGBTQ people wishing to assist in fighting the pandemic to drunks and drug users.
But Graham insists that he is simply trying to support law enforcement officers, who may feel under attack or surveillance due to the recent debates over police brutality and excessive use of force in policing.
“These are our community heroes. They work hard and put their lives on the line to serve and protect our cities and our families. They are the only thing standing between us and total anarchy,” Graham said in a statement. “In recent months, the law enforcement community has faced a demoralizing change in climate and increased lack of support. We want them and their spouses to know they are appreciated, and that’s what our law enforcement events are all about.”
Graham even said he’d gladly welcome officers who are non-Christians or who are LGBTQ to the dinner.
“I am a Christian, and I believe Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I believe He wants to help us through the storms and challenges that come our way in life,” Graham continued in the statement. “There are law enforcement professionals who represent other faiths and some who are of no faith. Regardless of their beliefs, sexual orientation, or the color of their skin, it doesn’t change in any way the fact that we are deeply grateful for the jobs they do and the sacrifices they make.”
Graham also said that, despite Diaz’s decision to rescind the invitation, officers are still welcome to attend the event. According to the event page, the dinner is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. PT, with the program — which will feature “an uplifting message, encouraging and practical wisdom from God’s Word, live music, and fellowship with other law enforcement officers” — kicking off around 7:30 p.m.
Appearing on Dori Monson’s radio show on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, Graham said: “I’m not anti-gay,” reiterating his earlier statement that his organization is “inviting police and their spouses… regardless of their religion or their sexual orientation or whatever.”
“The men and women of law enforcement are under a tremendous amount of pressure … and they’re discouraged,” Graham said. “We’re just going to have a great dinner, time for fellowship with one another. … We want to let them know we love them and support them.”
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