A network of anti-LGBT churches used its “Make America Straight Again” conference to move beyond its stock fallacies and hate-filled rhetoric and call for the government to begin rounding up and executing homosexuals.
Steven Anderson, well-known for his calls for the murder of LGBTQ people, spearheads the New Independent Fundamental Baptist Movement (New IFB), whose ministers spoke at the gathering. But it was the inclusion of Anderson’s lesser-known associates that revealed the breadth of the New IFB’s growing influence.
The New IFB is a group of 22 domestic and eight international churches led by Anderson’s colleagues and acolytes. Those evangelists often rival his rhetoric in their depictions of LGBTQ people as rapists and pedophiles who are a danger to society and worthy of death.
Bruce Mejia, an acolyte of Anderson’s from Los Angeles, called for mass executions of LGBTQ people by civil authorities at the conference. “We don’t advocate Christians to go out and be vigilantes and try to put these f--- to death,” he said. “We want the government to do it.”
Anderson pastors Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona. He gained national attention for celebrating the June 2016 Pulse massacre, where 49 people were killed and 53 injured in an attack at an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando. Anderson’s violent rhetoric against LGBTQ people has gotten him banned from 32 countries, including most recently Ireland, where he’d planned to preach in late May.
The “Make America Straight Again” conference came two days after the third anniversary of the Pulse attack, and just three weeks after a triple homicide in Detroit, where the killer targeted the victims because they were part of the LGBTQ community.
The speakers at the conference were:
● Roger Jimenez, pastor of Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento, California
● Aaron Thompson, pastor of Sure Foundation Baptist Church in Vancouver, Washington
● Tommy McMurtry, pastor of Liberty Baptist Church in Rock Falls, Illinois
● Bruce Mejia, leader of Faithful Word Baptist Church LA in Los Angeles, California
● Steven Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona
● Patrick Boyle, pastor of Revival Baptist Church in Clermont, Florida
At the conference, held June 14-16 in Orlando, Florida, speaker after speaker railed against the LGBTQ community. Preachers repeated long-discredited myths such as linking homosexuality to pedophilia and child abuse, and said LGBTQ people should be barred from adopting or fostering children. Like Grayson Fritts, their New IFB colleague in Knoxville, Tennessee, they called for the government to kill LGBTQ people.
Fritts is the pastor of All Scripture Baptist Church and a detective with the Knox County Sheriff’s Department. He made headlines this month after delivering a June 2 sermon where he advocated that police officers in 2019 should be arresting LGBTQ people so they can be put to death. (Fritts had already taken a buyout from the sheriff’s department prior to the sermon, and will leave the department July 19; until then he’s on paid sick leave.) Following the publicity around Fritts’s statements, a Cracker Barrel restaurant refused to host an event for Fritts and his church.
Jimenez, the Verity pastor, set the tone for the conference when he compared homosexuality to bestiality. He emphasized a myth popular in the anti-LGBTQ movement: that homosexuals are pedophiles and a danger to children. He claimed public school systems are working to convert kids to homosexuality.
Thompson, of Sure Foundation Baptist Church, asserted that the government should never have legalized adoption and foster parenting for same-sex couples. He also attacked Drag Queen Story Hour events that have become common in public libraries nationwide, calling that movement a strategy for homosexuals to recruit children.
McMurtry, of Liberty Baptist Church, had hoped for physical confrontation at the conference. Before heading to Florida, he exhorted his congregation to “pray that if they do any protests, that it gets violent, they have Stand Your Ground in Florida, so we’re allowed to fight back. I say bring it.”
During the conference, McMurtry linked LGBTQ people to child abuse and disease, saying, “Even when they’re diagnosed with AIDS, they’re still doing their perversion. … And if they want kids, they’re going to do whatever they’ve gotta do to get those kids, whatever they can.”
Mejia, who oversees the Los Angeles satellite of Anderson’s Faithful Word Baptist Church, preached on “waging war against the sodomites.” “Every generation has a war that they have to partake in,” he declared. “This is our war.”
The climax of Mejia’s sermon came when he pulled a rainbow flag out and ripped it in half, yelling, “I’m so sick and tired of them parading this thing around us,” to loud cheers from the audience.
Anderson insisted that one of the gay rights movement’s primary goals is to lower the age of sexual consent, and falsely claimed the Netherlands’ age of consent is 12. The age of consent in the Netherlands is 16.
Anderson asserted that 40 percent of pedophiles are homosexuals, even though they account for only 2 percent of the population.
Both numbers are false: A 2017 Gallup poll estimated the U.S.’s LGBT population at 4.5 percent, and, as noted in an article by the Stop Abuse Campaign, “The research is clear, the sexual orientation of an adult is not a factor in the analysis of child abuse. The American Psychological Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Child Welfare League of America all have policy statements stating there is no correlation between homosexuality and child abuse.
As Anderson left Revival Baptist Church Saturday afternoon, he briefly engaged with protesters outside the church before walking away and yelling, “Get AIDS and die!”
Photo illustration by SPLC