About 100 protesters gathered Wednesday evening outside a worship service at Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento, denouncing pastor Roger Jimenez for his Sunday sermon condoning the massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
The pastor, whose 45-minute sermon went viral after it was posted on YouTube, praised the massacre for eliminating “Sodomites.” YouTube took down the video, saying it violated the site’s ban on hate speech.
The church had men in dark suits stationed in front of the Verity’s entrance who escorted church attendees into the service. Protesters and the media were not allowed inside. Several Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies were also on hand to monitor activities.
Lauren Rice is a Sacramento resident who joined Wednesday’s protest at the church, located in an office park on Northgate Boulevard in an unincorporated part of North Natomas.
When she saw Sunday’s sermon, Rice said, “How does this happen in Sacramento County? I left Oklahoma to get away from this 30 years ago ... We’ll stand up to them until the end of time.”
Other people Wednesday evening wore T-shirts with “Still Loved” written on them. Others carried poster boards with the names of those who were killed in Orlando. Some chanted “Still Loved” and “God is Great.”
Another attendee, Greg Schneider, said he and his wife are a straight couple, but have friends who are part of the LGBT community and wanted to stand with them in solidarity. He carried a sign that read, “I believe in the separation of church and hate.”
Sacramento-area church and political leaders, as well as the LGBT community, reacted in horror to Jimenez’s Sunday remarks. Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson condemned the sermon on Twitter, saying, “The hateful comments made by a preacher in Sacramento do not reflect Christian values and have no place in our society.”
Sacramento City Pastors Fellowship, a group of more than 700 pastors in the region, issued a statement Tuesday in opposition to Jimenez’s sermon. “These comments, applauding the death of innocent people, are completely contrary to the Bible’s teaching and God’s heart,” the pastors wrote. “His statements do not represent Jesus nor hundreds of Sacramento pastors whose hearts have been broken and are praying for the loved ones so tragically affected by this cowardly act.”
Donald Bentz, executive director of the Sacramento LGBT Community Center, called Jimenez’s sermon, “downright scary,” saying Jimenez was essentially calling for genocide.
Jimenez told a Sacramento Bee reporter on Tuesday that he doesn’t intend to incite people to violence against LGBT people, but that he believes God has “put a death penalty” on them. He quoted various Bible verses to prove his point, saying that Christianity isn’t just about a loving God but also one who punishes behavior the Bible labels sin.
“All I’m saying is that when people die who deserve to die, it’s not a tragedy,” he said.
A page on Verity Baptist Church’s website titled “What We Believe,” says the congregation considers homosexuality to be “an abomination before God which God punishes with the death penalty.” The page also says that gay people are not allowed to attend or join the church.