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Lewdness charge
filed against ex-pastor

Lewdness charge
filed against ex-pastor

An Oklahoma Baptist minister who has spoken out against homosexuality was charged Wednesday with propositioning an undercover male police officer. The Reverend Lonnie Latham, 60, was charged with a single misdemeanor count of offering to engage in an act of lewdness. If convicted, he faces up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Latham was released from jail on $500 bond on January 4, the day after his arrest. As he was leaving jail he said, "I was set up. I was in the area pastoring to police." Latham has resigned as senior pastor of South Tulsa Baptist Church. He has also stepped down from the board of directors of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention. The American Civil Liberties Union said Latham never should have been arrested. "Reverend Latham appears to have done nothing more than to invite someone to a hotel with him for consensual sex. That's not a crime," said Joann Bell, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma Foundation. Latham's attorney, Mack Martin, said his client will plead innocent. According to a probable cause affidavit, Latham propositioned a plainclothes police officer who was patrolling an area in Oklahoma City that had been the focus of complaints about male prostitution. Latham has spoken out against same-sex marriage and in support of a directive urging the Southern Baptist Convention's 42,000 churches to befriend gays and lesbians and try to convince them they can become straight "if they accept Jesus Christ as their savior and reject their sinful, destructive lifestyle." The convention is the nation's largest Protestant denomination. (AP)

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