The husband and mother of a Tampa, Fla., man say a church canceled his funeral service because he was gay.
Julie Atwood says received a phone call from Pastor T.W. Jenkins of the New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, in which he said having her son Julion Evans's service there would be blasphemous because Evans was gay. Members of the church had seen that Evans's husband, Kendall Capers, was listed as his surviving spouse in his obituary. Capers and Evans, who wed in Maryland last year, were together for 17 years before Evans died of a rare illness called amyloidosis, which destroys bodily organs.
"It was devastating," Atwood told Tampa TV station WFLA this week. "I did feel like he was being denied the dignity of death."
Julie Atwood was baptized at New Hope Missionary Baptist, and some members of her family still attend services there. While her son and his husband did not go to the church, the family requested that the funeral be held there, as the church offered a space large enough to accommodate the crowd of hundreds expected to attend. The service was scheduled for July 26.
According to the WFLA report, members of the church contacted the pastor to complain about having Evans's funeral there after they read his obituary. Jenkins said New Hope Missionary Baptist would have been "in error to allow the service in our church." He added, "I'm not trying to condemn anyone's lifestyle, but at the same time, I am a man of God, and I have to stand up for my principles."
The funeral had to be moved within 24 hours. As there was not enough time to notify all of the mourners, some people missed the funeral.
Capers announced plans to start a foundation to research amyloidosis, the illness from which Evans suffered, reports Tampa station WTVT.