For the second time this week, protesters will gather outside of Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento to condemn Pastor Roger Jimenez for a sermon he gave praising the June 11 massacre of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
More than 1,000 people have indicated that they will attend the rally Sunday, scheduled to precede Verity’s 10 a.m. worship service, and more than 2,000 have said that they are interested in going, according to the Facebook event for the protest.
The action is the latest response to forceful words from Jimenez last Sunday morning following the massacre, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Jimenez told his congregation that the true tragedy in Orlando was “that more of them didn’t die,” referring to the victims as “Sodomites” in a 45-minute sermon that was uploaded on YouTube.
Three days later, roughly 100 people assembled outside the church on Northgate Boulevard before a Wednesday evening worship service, wearing T-shirts with “Still Loved” written on them and holding signs with the names of the people who were killed in Orlando.
The Facebook call to action , directed to LGBTQI Citizens of Sacramento, states that “Pastor Roger Jimenez of the Verity Baptist Church has done something despicable. . . . Why am I calling to action the people of Sacramento? The Verity Baptist Church is right here in our own backyard.”
Co-organizer Beverly Kearney said the goal of Sunday’s protest is to drive home the message of love against hate, uniting people across California.
“People are coming from the Bay Area, Chico, people are flying in from L.A. It’s sort of national news, and in California, everyone that can get here is trying,” Kearney said.
Organizers are asking participants to assemble at about 8:30 a.m.
Religious leaders and members of the LGBT community across Sacramento were quick to denounce Jimenez’s message as it began to garner national attention. More than 700 pastors in the region issued a statement on Tuesday rejecting the sermon, and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson decried Jimenez’s comments on Twitter. “The hateful comments made by a preacher in Sacramento do not reflect Christian values and have no place in our society,” Johnson wrote.
Verity Baptist Church did not respond to a request for comment on Saturday, but Jimenez told the Sacramento Bee on Tuesday he did not intend to advocate violence against LGBT people in his sermon but does believe that God has “put a death penalty” on them for their sins.
Brandon Picardal, a member of the LGBT community who lives in Carmichael, said he is encouraging protesters to be peaceful on Sunday because “the last thing we need is more violence.” Kearney agreed that angry confrontation with church members will “only strengthen their resolve.”
“Spewing hate doesn’t solve anything, it only makes it worse,” Picardal said. “During this time (Jimenez) should be telling (his) people to love one another, to hold each other close during this difficult time.”