Methodist church opens doors to gay-run arts group

BY Advocate.com Editors

January 09 2003 12:00 AM ET

A gay-owned nonprofit arts organization for low-income kids in El Monte, Calif., has found a new home after being evicted from its previous location, a local Wesleyan church. As reported in the December 24 edition of The Advocate, Bill Rugh and his group, Creative Planet, were evicted from the church property in mid November because church members considered the curriculum--particularly, the yoga classes--to be unchristian. Rugh's sexual orientation also appeared to have been an issue for some members.

Santo Ragno, general partner of Creative Planet, said the school reopened in its new location on Monday. "The First United Methodist Church of El Monte offered us storage space for our stuff upon our eviction," Ragno said. "We moved in and saw they had a lot of space that was not being used during the day. So a proposal was made to the pastor and board of 10 trustees of First United Methodist Church. They unanimously agreed upon it. We determined what space we were to use and renovated nine rooms plus a stage in 2-1/2 weeks."

The school has lost seven students as a result of the move, but Ragno remains positive. "We hope the future will be bright," Ragno said. "But the reality is that we are operating on a shoestring budget from very low tuition to accommodate the low-income community we are serving. Therefore, we are barely financially capable of covering the teachers' salaries. Some staff and teachers will be working for free. We hope that what we've been through and what we are teaching will attract more community students. If we make it through June, we will have accomplished a great thing."

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