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Texas Church Reverses Course After Relegating Gay Couple To Side Chapel For Son's Ceremony: VIDEO

Couple

Earlier this month, we told you how a church in Florida had agreed to allow a gay couple's child to be baptized after initially turning them away, igniting a weeklong national firestorm.

Apparently, a church in Austin, Texas wanted to avoid a similar controversy.

Rich Jones and Adrian Mertz have both attended Shoreline Church since before they were married last year. They've continued to attend with their 4-year-old adopted son, Santino, and say they've been welcomed. 

But when Jones and Mertz requested to hold a dedication ceremony for Santino at the church, they were told it would have to be in a side chapel rather than the main sanctuary. The topic of homosexuality was too sensitive, church officials said, and the congregation wasn't ready to deal with it. 

However, after a reporter from a local TV station contacted the church about turning away Jones and Mertz, officials quickly changed their mind. 

From KVUE-TV

The congregation issued this statement:

"We are deeply sorry for the pain we have caused the Mertz family regarding the dedication of their child to God. We understand how our attempt to make a reasonable accommodation was misguided and hurtful. It is our intent to uphold human dignity, and in this regard we have failed. We are reaching out to the family to invite them to our next baby dedication."

Mertz and Jones were beside themselves with joy upon receiving the news. ... 

"Honestly I am just so happy and glad that we stepped out on faith. We've come to realize in order to expect change, you have to be part of the change and this just shed light on what Shoreline is really all about," said Mertz.

Santino's dedication is now set for June in the main chapel with all the other children. 

Watch KVUE-TV's report, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Texas Church Reverses Course After Relegating Gay Couple To Side Chapel For Son's Ceremony: VIDEO" »


Ted Cruz Decries 'Mandatory Gay Marriage,' Calls Backlash Over Anti-LGBT Indiana Law 'Heartbreaking' - VIDEO

Cruz.Ted

Sen. Ted Cruz claims the Democratic Party is trying to impose "mandatory gay marriage" on America at the expense of religious freedom, and says recent backlash over anti-LGBT laws in Arkansas and Indiana was "heartbreaking." 

Cruz first made the comments at the "Watchmen on the Wall" conference sponsored by the Family Research Council, an anti-LGBT hate group, in Washington on Thursday. Cruz spoke immediately after Wayne Grudem, a theology professor known for his views that men have spiritual leadership over women, and who told the crowd that FRC President Tony Perkins is a modern-day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Time reports:  

“The modern Democratic Party has become so radical, so extreme, that they have determined that their devotion to mandatory gay marriage in all 50 states trumps any allegiance to religious liberty under the First Amendment,” Cruz told the ballroom. “We’ve got an obligation, as this conference recognizes, to be watchmen on the wall.” ... 

In his remarks, Ted Cruz portrayed religion in America as under “assault” and referenced “heartbreaking” religious freedom battles in Indiana and Arkansas, where state lawmakers backed down from laws that critics said would allow discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Cruz made similar statements on Friday during an interview with conservative radio host Eric Metaxas, according to a report from The Houston Chronicle:

"We are seeing today profound threats to religious liberty in America, the greatest threats we've ever seen and just a couple of months ago we had the battles in Indiana and Arkansas when they passed their religious freedom restoration acts," Cruz said. "What happened afterwards was heartbreaking. We saw, number one, a perfect storm of the modern Democratic Party that has gotten so radical and so extreme in its devotion to mandatory gay marriage that they've decided there's no room for the religious liberty protected under the First Amendment. And sadly Democrats joined with big business in an effort to vilify our religious liberty. But what was most striking is how many Republicans, including Republicans running for president in 2016, ran and hid in the hills, were afraid to stand and be counted. I think that Indiana and Arkansas, as Reagan put it, were a time for choosing, that was a sorting moment."

Meanwhile, video has surfaced of an incident we told you about earlier in the week, in which Cruz got into a testy exchange with reporters about gay marriage during a visit to Beaumont, Texas. 

Watch the clip from KBMT-TV, AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "Ted Cruz Decries 'Mandatory Gay Marriage,' Calls Backlash Over Anti-LGBT Indiana Law 'Heartbreaking' - VIDEO" »


Texas Republican Comes Out For Gay Marriage As State House Passes 'Pastor Protection Act'

Davis

The first Republican Texas lawmaker in history has come out in support of same-sex marriage. 

GOP Rep. Sarah Davis, who represents a Houston-area district and had previously expressed support for civil unions, came out for marriage equality in an interview Thursday about her decision not to sign a hateful anti-gay letter issued by the House Republican Caucus last week.  

The Texas Observer reports: 

“I just don’t agree with the sentiment of the letter,” Davis told the Observer. “I don’t feel the need to pass legislation or vote for legislation that prohibits two adults who love each other to be able to be joined in a civil union or marriage. It does not affect my marriage.” ... 

Davis noted that she’s received endorsements from two LGBT groups, Log Cabin Republicans and Equality Texas. She was the first Republican to receive Equality Texas’ endorsement, a decision that drew criticism from some LGBT advocates, in part because she hadn’t come out for same-sex marriage.

“I haven’t had an opportunity to vote, but I’ve spoken about the issue,” Davis said. “In situations where I’ve been asked, I’ve always stated my position, so I don’t think this is new ground that I’ve just staked out.”

Meanwhile, the Texas House on Thursday approved the so-called "Pastor Protection Act" in a 141-2 vote. The state's two openly LGBT lawmakers voted in favor of the bill, including Democratic Rep. Celia Israel, who said on the House floor: 

Israel.Celia"Let me reassure those pastors out there: Some fine day, my partner and I are going to get married in the great state of Texas. The Supreme Court will hopefully take care of that issue for us. When that day comes, rest assured to those pastors and preachers who take a more literal interpretation of the Bible, that my partner and I will not be going to them to bless our unions. I will be going to someone who loves us and respects us for who we are and the way in which we have taken care of one another. So if we see this issue as a reiteration of what is in the United States Constitution, which is a respect for religion, this Roman Catholic urges you to vote yes." 

The anti-LGBT Texas Pastor Council issued a hateful statement celebrating passage of the Pastor Protection Act:  

Screen shot 2015-05-21 at 4.32.59 PM"This bill is a small step of protection in a much larger war against religious freedom raging across America and well underway in Texas," said Dave Welch, President of Texas Pastor Council Action, an ethnically and denominationally diverse coalition involving pastors in all major cities in Texas. "We are very pleased that SB 2065 survived efforts to weaken its scope that does nothing more than puts in Texas law protections for pastors to do what we have been doing since the birth of this nation - exercise our faith in obedience to God and with the support of our Constitution and laws."

Welch said they plan to revisit other bills that died during the session, particularly if the U.S. Supreme Court "goes rogue" and overturns Article 1, Section 32 of the Texas Constitution defining marriage as a union only of one man and one woman. "We will not yield on inch of the rights given us by God, the freedoms purchased by the blood of patriots and part of our national DNA to those attempting to recreate our moral laws, culture and laws according to those with a deviant sexual lifestyle or gender confused." 


Texas House Set To Pass 'Pastor Protection Act' Championed By Anti-LGBT Hate Groups

Pastor

The Texas House is expected to vote today on a so-called "Pastor Protection Act" championed by anti-LGBT hate groups. Senate Bill 2065, which has already cleared the Senate, is almost certain to pass, and Gov. Greg Abbott has said he'll sign it. 

The bill would protect pastors and churches from being forced to participate in same-sex weddings. Of course, pastors and churches already enjoy those protections under the First Amendment, but LGBT advocates say the Texas bill is written too broadly and could be used by pastors who also serve as government employees as a basis for discriminating against same-sex couples. 

Pro-LGBT groups are also warning that Republicans could attempt to amend the "Pastor Protection Act" with other anti-gay legislation. The Texas Freedom Network wrote Wednesday:

Bell.Cecil"We’re down to just 12 days left in the 2015 legislative session, and attacks on LGBT equality are becoming increasingly desperate. Rumors are swirling about potential amendments to SB 2065, which is scheduled for debate by the House tomorrow.

"This could be the last gasp for mean-spirited legislation like [Rep.] Cecil Bell’s 'Defy the Supreme Court' effort to block marriage equality in Texas, or [Rep.] Scott Sanford’s proposal to permit discrimination against LGBT families in the adoption and foster care system. Either of those previously dead bills could rise tomorrow as an amendment."

Bell told The Texas Observer he doesn't intend to introduce his anti-gay marriage legislation as an amendment to the Pastor Protection Act, because such a move could jeopardize the whole bill: 

“A lot of work’s been done on that bill, and I don’t want to compromise that bill,” Bell said. “The intent is to assert the sovereignty of the state of Texas. If I can find a place to do that, then I’ll do that. But I’m not going to compromise the very structure and value system that I’m trying to affirm in that process.”

Eighty-seven of the House's 150 members were co-authors of an identical bill, so the Pastor Protection Act should easily pass. 

Even though it accomplishes virtually nothing, the bill is being championed by anti-LGBT groups including Texas Values and the Texas Pastor Council, which have latched onto it because none of their other legislation is moving. 

From the Observer

Pastor2Supporters of SB 2065 have used committee hearings on the bill to give general testimony in opposition to same-sex marriage, which some witnesses compared to bestiality and pedophilia.

“It suggests that really the goal here to increase hostility and animosity toward gay and lesbian couples who want to get married, rather than to protect pastors from having to perform their marriages, because pastors are already protected from doing that if they don’t want to,” Texas Freedom Network spokesman Dan Quinn said.

Nevertheless, if SB 2065 is the only unfavorable measure that passes out of more than 20 anti-LGBT proposals that were introduced, advocates won’t hang their heads.

“It’s certainly encouraging that some of the really bad bills appear to be going nowhere, and that the only bill that’s moving forward does essentially what the law already does,” Quinn said. “If we can get out of the session without any of those other bills passing, it would clearly be a big step forward.” 


Texas University Bars Student-Athletes From Same-Sex Dating, Publicly Supporting Gay Marriage

LeTourneau

A Texas university has banned gay student-athletes from dating and all athletes from publicly supporting same-sex marriage. 

LeTourneau University is an NCAA Division III school in Longview, Texas, with an enrollment of 3,000. The private interdenominational Christian university was recently named one of "America's Best Colleges" in the West by U.S. News and World Report. 

OutSports first reported on the anti-gay policy in LeTourneau's Student-Athlete Handbook, which is readily available on the school's website and reads as follows: 

The following activities are prohibited

Whether they are observed by a member of the community, verbally described, or personally shared with the public in verbal or written form (for example, through a personal website or social network). These behaviors are subject to administrative intervention and disciplinary action which may include Disciplinary Warning; Disciplinary Probation, Suspension, and/or Dismissals.

Sexually immoral or immodest conduct or the promotion of such, outside of marriage.

These include activities such as (but not limited to): sexually graphic text messaging, chatting, or video conferencing; fornication; sexual promiscuity; and adultery – whether they are heterosexual or homosexual in nature. Cohabitation (sharing a room, apartment, or home) with a member of the opposite gender is included in this prohibition.

Based on biblical standards, we believe that God has created the institution of marriage to be between one man and one woman, and only within this institution does God bless intimate sexual expression; all other intimate sexual expression outside of marriage is considered immoral behavior. Consistent with our desire to celebrate and model a Scriptural approach to sexuality;, the University prohibits same-sex dating behaviors and public advocacy for the position that sex outside of a biblically-defined marriage is morally acceptable.

Any student concerned about their experiences with sexual temptation, participation, or addiction – either heterosexual or homosexual in nature – may proactively seek assistance from the Office of Student Life or our counselors without fear of disciplinary action (see “Personal Growth initiative”).

OutSports notes that LeTourneau has a history of anti-gay efforts, including hosting "ex-gay" speaker Christopher Yuan last year, according to the school's website

What many would consider their worst nightmare has become the reality for Christopher Yuan. While attending dental school, he began living promiscuously as a gay man and experimenting with illicit drugs. Within a few years, he was expelled from dental school, imprisoned for drug dealing and discovered that he was HIV positive.

But God has turned his nightmare into an exciting and inspiring story of redemption, grace and transformation. Christopher has an understanding heart for and desire to minister to those working through issues of sexuality and to those living with HIV/AIDS. He speaks locally and internationally to youth, on college campuses, in churches and in prisons.

The LGBT group Soulforce published a letter from a closeted gay Letourneau student back in 2007: 

I will soon be graduating from LeTourneau University, and I plan to fully come out once I have. I have only chosen to remain mostly closeted because I do not want to risk being kicked out of school or forced into one of those infamous therapy camps. I have yet to reach a conclusion about my faith, however. I came to LETU hoping to be energized and changed, but I have become cynical and jaded about faith and religion.

OutSports' Cyd Zeigler says Letourneau's anti-gay policy for student-athletes is new and part of a national trend:

The movement by trustees and administrations to explicitly marginalize LGBT students on college campuses across the country is growing, even as students and faculty become increasingly accepting. Recent episodes at Erskine CollegeHillsdale College and an unnamed Christian school in the South have been particularly troubling. ... 

How other NCAA members allow schools with these kinds of bigoted policies to be part of the NCAA is difficult to understand.


Bullied Gay Student And LGBT Activist Isaiah Smith Sues Texas School District

Smith

Isaiah Smith was 16 when an episode of "What Would You Do?" inspired him to petition the City Council in small, conservative Keller, Texas, to add LGBT protections. He would go on to speak repeatedly at council meetings, including calling on the mayor to sign a pledge in support of marriage equality. 

A year later, Smith was suspended from Birdville High School for carrying a Bible from which he'd ripped out pages containing anti-gay passages. Smith, a Christian, said his decision to carry the Bible was a silent protest against bullying, after other students told him being gay is a sin and he was going to hell. 

After the American Humanist Association sent a complaint to the school district alleging it had violated Smith's First Amendment rights, the suspension was overturned, and he was allowed to continue carrying the Bible. Which brings us to this week, when the AHA filed a lawsuit on Smith's behalf against the district and its board over its practice of promoting Christian prayers. Fort Worth Weekly reports: 

According to the lawsuit, filed on behalf of a former student, Isaiah Smith, the school board has had a longstanding policy of choosing students to offer Christian prayers at the beginning of public school board meetings. Smith claims that the prayers made him feel unwelcome at the public meetings and that the school board endorsed Christianity. Students and teachers also regularly attend the meetings. ...

The lawsuit asserts that the Birdville District is a repeat offender of the separation of church and state, including school sponsorship of religious baccalaureate ceremonies, school overnight trips to churches, and inclusion of Christian iconography in classrooms. In addition, Smith was wrongfully suspended from his high school for carrying a ripped Bible as an act of peaceful protest against students who bullied him because of his sexual orientation. The legal center successfully convinced the school district to expunge his record, but it so far refused to cease prayers in school board meetings.

In addition to enduring bullying at school, Smith was kicked out of his home by an unaccepting parent, according to his Facebook page. Last year, he launched a petition calling on the US to cut off all aid to Uganda over the country's anti-homosexuality law. And earlier this month, Smith received the AHA's Humanist Pioneer Award.   


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