On Tuesday, May 24, the city council meeting in Arlington, Texas became the scene of conflicting views. People converged upon the weekly meeting to voice their feelings concerning whether the city would issue a proclamation for LGBTQ Pride Month. While there many who supported the measure, there were those who opposed the Texas metropolis supporting the LGBTQ.
One of the loudest voices in opposition was Jonathan Shelley, pastor of the Stedfast Baptist Church, which is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Shelly stated to the council that he was “horrified and ashamed that (Arlington) has decided to promote and solicit Pride.” The pastor referred to Pride as an abomination. Shelley continued addressing the city council using biblical scripture to vilify the LGBTQ community. Shelley reasoned that he didn’t understand why the city would, in his own words, “what used to be a crime.” The pastor went on to cite Texas penal code section 21.06, which he claimed was still a valid law even though the law was overruled by Lawrence v. Texas (2003), the U.S. Supreme Court decision that eliminated sodomy laws.
Shelley cited various Bible verses to lump members of the LGBTQ with those who commit murder, adultery, and bestiality which are crimes worthy of capital punishment under his interpretation of biblical law.
Shelley winded down his sermon to the city council claiming:
“Now, here’s the thing, they (the LGBTQ community) say that they love so much, but they hate children, they hate Baptists, they hate Christianity, and they hate God. We should eliminate Pride Month. We eliminate the LGBT department liaison. We should eliminate the travel page dedicated to the LGBT.”
Shelley ended his oration by shamelessly promoting a documentary produced by his church called The Sodomite Deception.
Others who were against Arlington’s celebration of Pride Month included additional Stedfast Baptist Church members who droned on against the LGBTQ community using the Bible to justify their bigotry, as well as other Arlington citizens who used their religion to deny basic human rights. One such person, a “Karen” by the name of Gina Woodley explained:
“I believe the majority of Americans want to live in a city that is safe and prosperous, but more importantly, that has leaders who make decisions based on the highest values. As a Christian, I base my value system on God’s word and common sense. I am here tonight because my conscience will not allow me to be silent against immoral issues that have worked their way into our community. As leaders over our city, your personal morals and values will determine how you set policy as well, so the citizens should know where you stand. This is not about hate. We all have the freedom to sleep with who we want. God gives us free will. We all stand before God and answer for that, so that’s on you. This is not about disrespecting your rights. This is about the LGBTQ community taking away our freedom to not have this proclaimed over our city when a majority of citizens do not approve of this lifestyle… I know you all have received a lot emails and calls from citizens who are against this who are not here tonight. We love all people but we hate the sin.”
Despite the number of people who came to the May 24th Arlington City Council Meeting to denounce the LGBTQ community, there were numerous voices who gave impassioned speeches to plead with the city officials to continue supporting Pride Month. One such brave voice was Kevin Johnson, rector of the Episcopal Church of Arlington, who stated to the council:
“I understand that some folks would have everyone believe that biblical principles are antithetical to gay and trans folks. They would argue that the Bible says it is an abomination when gay and trans people are truly living out their lives as God crafted them to be. It is unfortunate that some many people over so many people over so many years have twisted the words of scripture to support prejudice and discrimination. It particularly unfortunate that in the 21st century with our advanced literary, academic, and scholarly tools to better understand scripture some people continue to misuse the Bible to beat up gay folks and considering that in the first six months of 2021, one half of LGBTQ teenagers considered suicide, stop and let that sink in, about half. Considering that when I used the term ‘beat up,’ I mean it literally. As a priest of the church, someone formally educated with a significant number of postgraduate years in scripture, Old and New Testament; Hebrew and Greek, and having studied the biblical question about same sex relationships in depth for 20 years at a national level, I can tell that what scripture actually says about contemporary, healthy adult same-sex relationships is not what many people think it says. I can authentically and unreservedly report that queer folks are not antithetical to scripture. Two adults sexually attracted to each other, living in a mature and committed relationship is as unitive and life-giving and morally upright as opposite-sex relationships.”
As Johnson finished his impassioned speech to the city council, the many citizens in support of LGBTQ Pride rose to give the Episcopal priest a rousing standing ovation.
The full video of the Arlington City Council meeting can be viewed on the council’s webpage with citizens speaking about the Pride proclamation starting at 37:50. Also below is a video of members of the Stedfast Baptist Church voicing their opposition to Pride Month.