A minister who preaches that homosexuality merits the death penalty railed against Pride Month at the Arlington City Council meeting in Texas this week, saying the Bible teaches "we should hate pride, not celebrate it."
"God's already ruled that murder, adultery, witchcraft, rape, bestiality, and homosexuality are crimes worthy of capital punishment," Jonathan Shelley, pastor of Stedfast Baptist Church in Fort Worth, said at the council meeting Tuesday.
The council was taking public comments on whether to proclaim June as Pride Month. It has issued such proclamations for the past several years, TV station KERA reports. Arlington is part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, and Shelley said he has church members from Arlington and does business there.
"I don't understand why we celebrate what used to be a crime not long ago," Shelley said at the meeting, in an appearance captured on video and shared on social media. He cited passages in the Bible condemning gay sex and noted that the Texas antisodomy law is still on the books, although the Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas has made it unenforceable."
He claimed that by celebrating Pride, the city is promoting "disease and AIDS," and he falsely claimed that LGBTQ+ people are child molesters. "They say that they love so much, but they hate children," he said. "They hate Baptists, they hate Christianity, and they hate God."
He called on the city to eliminate its LGBTQ+ liaison and recommended that everyone 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."
It's not the first time Shelley and his church have engaged in such hateful rhetoric. Donnie Romero, who preceded Shelley as pastor, celebrated the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, saying those killed at the LGBTQ+ club "are all perverts and pedophiles, and they are the scum of the earth, and the earth is a little bit better place now."
Romero resigned from the church in 2019, however, as he said he'd committed "sins" that included smoking marijuana and hiring sex workers. Shelley came over from Pure Words Baptist Church in Houston with a history of rants against LGBTQ+ people such as this: "They're beasts, they're wicked, they're abominable, they're filthy."
Stedfast Baptist Church's website says the government should impose the death penalty for homosexuality, but "Christians should not take the law into their own hands." Other things it lists as sins include abortion, birth control, in vitro fertilization, feminism, and ecumenicalism. It doesn't say if these are worthy of capital punishment. The Southern Poverty Law Center considers the church an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group. It's an independent church, not affiliated with any larger Baptist body.
Shelley's comments at the council meeting were met with some cheers and applause but also jeers. The council agenda didn't call for action on the proclamation at that meeting, so council members couldn't take a vote or respond to comments, KERA notes.
Several speakers expressed support for the Pride proclamation. "Every action that we take to support our youth and our community to help them thrive and know that they are welcome and this is their city too, I want to be on that side of warmth as well," Arlington resident Marissa Ocampo said, according to the station. Some attendees waved Pride flags or draped them over their shoulders.
DeeJay Johannessen, CEO of the HELP Center for LGBT Health and Wellness, said opponents of the proclamation "want to quash any mention of the LGBTQ community that accurately reflects us as active, productive or, heaven forbid, valued members of the Arlington community."
Arlington, which has a population of nearly 400,000, rose last year to a perfect 100 score on the Human Rights Campaign's Municipal Equality Index after adopting an LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination ordinance.