A minister who regularly preaches against homosexuality, and has advocated for the death penalty to punish people who engage in homosexual behavior, recently railed against Pride Month at a city council meeting in Arlington, Texas.
“God’s already ruled that murder, adultery, witchcraft, rape, bestiality, and homosexuality are crimes worthy of capital punishment,” Jonathan Shelley, the pastor of Stedfast Baptist Church in Fort Worth, said at last week’s council meeting.
Shelley made the remarks during a public comment period along with several dozen other people who had come to the May 26 council meeting to demand that their elected officials stop recognizing June as LGBTQ Pride Month and remove displays about LGBTQ topics from local public libraries.
While a Pride Month proclamation was not even on the council’s agenda, opponents of LGBTQ rights organized themselves, hoping to sway council members into refusing to acknowledge the significance of the month, which commemorates the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the seminal event in the modern-day LGBTQ rights movement.
While both former Mayor Jeff Williams and current Mayor Jim Ross have acknowledged Pride Month in past proclamations, several of those in attendance at the meeting said that such proclamations oppress people who are not LGBTQ or who have religious beliefs opposing homosexuality, reports North Texas PBS affiliate KERA.
“This is not about hate,” resident Gina Woodlee said during her allotted time. “This is about the LGBTQ community taking away our freedom to not have this proclaimed over our city.”
Among those speaking against a proclamation was Shelley, who claims he does business in Arlington and has church members that live in the city.
“I am horrified and ashamed that this city has decided to promote and solicit ‘Pride’ in this city. Pride is nothing to be celebrated. In fact, it’s an abomination,” Shelley told the council in his remarks, which were captured in a video clip, which was then posted to Twitter by blogger and activist Hemant Mehta. “…According to God, we should hate pride, not celebrate it.
“I don’t understand why we’d celebrate what used to be a crime not long ago,” he said, adding that to the Texas anti-sodomy statute that is still technically on the books but has become unenforceable following the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which determined that consenting adults had the right to engage in same-sex conduct in private. He then proceeded to cite Biblical passages that condemn homosexuality, which he called “filthy.”
“According to the CDC, homosexual men are 230 times more likely to get HIV than straight men. I don’t know why we’d promote disease and AIDS in court community,” Shelley added, before going on to claim that LGBTQ people are child molesters. “They say that they love so much, but they hate children. They hate Baptists, they hate Christianity, and they hate God.” Several in the crowd expressed their agreement with Shelley’s statements, with a few saying “Amen” in response.
He called on the city not only to refuse to acknowledge Pride Month, but to eliminate the city’s LGBTQ+ liaison, and delete the LGBTQ travel page on the Arlington Convention & Visitors Bureau website. He also urged those in attendance watch a film he directed, The Sodomite Deception, “which would clearly illustrate what the Bible says on this issue, providing actual stats instead of bullying people.”
Stedfast Baptist Church is well-known in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for its hateful rhetoric against LGBTQ people. The church’s previous pastor, Donnie Romero, celebrated the 2016 mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, saying those killed “are all perverts and pedophiles, and they are the scum of the earth, and the earth is a little bit better place now.”
After Romero resigned in 2019, due to admitting to having committed “sins” that included smoking marijuana and hiring sex workers, Shelley, who had a history of anti-LGBTQ statement of his own, transferred from a church in Houston to take over the reins of Stedfast.
Stedfast’s website calls for the government to impose the death penalty for homosexuality, but says “Christians should not take the law into their own hands.” The website lists several other sins, including abortion, birth control, in vitro fertilization, feminism, and ecumenicalism, but doesn’t say whether such sins are also deserving of capital punishment.
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