Gay protester sues pastor who praised Orlando nightclub massacre

The Natomas pastor who made national headlines for praising the killing of gay people in an Orlando nightclub has been sued by a gay protester over a shoving incident in the church parking lot.

Spenser Fritz claims in a lawsuit filed this week in Sacramento Superior Court that Verity Baptist Church pastor Roger Jimenez’s anti-gay rhetoric led to a parishioner pushing Fritz outside an evening service on July 6. In that incident, Fritz alleges that Johnny Cervantes III pushed Fritz after Fritz interacted with Cervantes’ wife and an unidentified young man as they left the service.

Fritz has regularly protested at the North Natomas strip mall church since June 19, when more than 1,000 people turned out at a “love conquers hate” event in response to a sermon in which Jimenez praised the massacre at a Florida gay nightclub in which a gunman killed 49 and wounded 53.

Jimenez said during that sermon, which went viral after it was posted online, that he wished the shooter had killed more gay people.

“There’s no tragedy,” Jimenez said. “I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put a firing squad in front of them, and blow their brains out.”

Fritz claims that on the night he was pushed, about six protesters were present. After the service when parishioners were leaving, Fritz approached them to speak.

“Why are you teaching your children violence?” the suit said he asked. It states that Fritz then said to a “young parishioner” that “Sometimes when we’re older we learn our parents are wrong. I don’t deserve to die. If they allow you internet access you should do your own research.”

Fritz’s lawyer, Lora Grevious, said the young man Fritz approached was in his estimation at least 17 and “old enough to have an intellectual discussion.”

A female parishioner told Fritz not to speak to the child.

Fritz began to respond, according to the suit, when defendant Johnny Cervantes III said, “Don’t (expletive) talk to my wife,” and allegedly “lunged forward and placed his hands” and pushed Fritz.

Fritz alleges that he was then “surrounded” by three to four other parishioners “in a menacing and threatening manner.”

Fritz “stated he was going to call the police,” and the unnamed defendants in the suit then “moved aside just enough” so that Fritz could return to the other protesters.

Both Fritz and a member of the church apparently called 911. The suit said that Fritz was detained and placed in handcuffs but eventually released without facing charges.

No representative from the Sheriff’s Department was immediately available to provide details.

The suit is claiming assault and battery as well as civil rights violations and intentional infliction of emotional distress and is asking for punitive damages against the church, Jimenez, Cervantes and 100 unidentified parishioners.

“Its really standard to put a lot in because you don’t know how many it may be,” said Grevious. “Potentially there could be, we don’t know, other agents or employees at the church that could be involved in that inciting behavior.”

Cervantes has been a member of Verity Baptist since at least 2014, when he participated in a “men’s preaching” event, based on a YouTube video.

During his sermon, Cervantes said that God had sent Jimenez to be the church’s pastor and for that reason he would “never undermine” him.

“I believe we must have a bible-believing church ...that won’t compromise,” he said.

Calls to Verity Baptist were not immediately returned Friday.

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Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa

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