In a city mainly known as home to highly influential evangelical ministries that preach against the LGBTQ community, more than 50 clergy have co-signed a letter calling for an end to religious hate speech.
The letter from Colorado Springs, Colo., clergy comes in response to the Nov. 19 murder of five people and wounding of 19 others at Club Q, a local gay nightclub.
Colorado Springs — located about an hour south of Denver in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains — is home to 541 Christian nonprofit organizations, including some of the nation’s largest conservative evangelical ministries.
One of the largest and best-known is Focus on the Family, which relocated from Pomona, Calif., in 1990. Other evangelical ministries followed suit, over time making Colorado Springs a mecca of evangelical nonprofits.
Other ministries based in Colorado Springs include Compassion International, Young Life and Navigators.
These evangelical ministries and their employees have a disproportionate effect on local and regional politics. Colorado Springs sits in what has been called one of the most conservative Congressional districts in the nation.
Focus on the Family and its founder, James Dobson, are among the most vocal and influential evangelical voices against the LGBTQ community in the nation. That influence spills over into the city’s churches.
In 2016, Dobson railed against transgender persons as conservatives pushed so-called “bathroom bills” in state legislatures to address their perceived threat — undocumented by any reports — of men masquerading as women in order to assault women in public restrooms.
“If you are a married man with any gumption, surely you will defend your wife’s privacy and security in restroom facilities,” Dobson wrote for WND. “Would you remain passive after knowing that a strange-looking man, dressed like a woman, has been peering over toilet cubicles to watch your wife in a private moment? What should be done to the pervert who was using mirrors to watch women and girls in their stalls? If you are a dad, I pray you will protect your little girls from men who walk in unannounced, unzip their pants and urinate in front of them. If this had happened 100 years ago, someone might have been shot. Where is today’s manhood? God help us!”
Dobson also used that column to call then-President Barack Obama a “tyrant” who was “determined to change Western civilization forever” through an agenda of LGBTQ inclusion.
Not all Christians in Colorado Springs follow that gospel of fear and exclusion.
But not all Christians in Colorado Springs follow that gospel of fear and exclusion. The clergy who signed the letter expressing support for the Colorado Springs LGBTQ community come from diverse congregations ranging from Baptist to Mormon to Lutheran and Episcopalian and Methodist and nondenominational.
Two Baptists were among the signers: Katie Suddeth and Dan Schumacher of First Baptist Church of Colorado Springs.
“We write as people of faith and faith leaders in the Pikes Peak region. We write to urge an end to political, civic and religious hate speech against the (LGBTQ) community,” the letter begins. “And in urgent and direct language, we affirm lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer members of our communities, unconditionally.”
The clergy said all LGBTQ persons are “beloved children of God” who should feel safe in the Pikes Peak region.
“Therefore, we urge an end to political hate speech against the (LGBTQ) communities and their members. Hate speech dehumanizes our friends and neighbors. Dehumanization leads to violence.”
The clergy specifically called out local and national elected officials, from whom they have seen “a spike in dehumanizing language.”
They urged: “Such rhetoric has no place in our public square. Rather, we urge all citizens and every candidate for public office in Colorado to sign the Not in Our Town pledge to address hate and bullying and to create safe communities for all.”
The clergy said what happened at Club Q “is an attack against our community and the values we all hold dear. We will not remain silent in the face of such an attack.”
No middle ground: The culpability of conservatives in queer violence | Opinion by Brandan Robertson
It’s a short distance from your Thanksgiving table jokes to queer people being shot dead | Opinion by Amber Cantorna