D. James Kennedy Ministries responded to the outcry from the LGBT community after Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church was celebrated by the city of Fort Lauderdale, saying it was “deeply disappointed.”
The church, which has a long anti-LGBT history, was given a proclamation for its 60th anniversary. Its school, Westminster Academy, also received a proclamation for its 50th anniversary.
“We are deeply disappointed at the furor that has erupted over the city of Fort Lauderdale’s recognition of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church at its 60th anniversary,” John Aman, spokesman for D. James Kennedy Ministries, said Wednesday to the Sun Sentinel.
The media outreach ministry was created by the founding pastor of the church and advocates for religious freedom and stamping out “discrimination against Christians and conservatives.” It is considered a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a label the ministry has sued them over. Its website says, “They denounce pro-family groups that stand for traditional marriage.”
Yesterday, there was also a banner on the site encouraging visitors to sign a petition against Bethany Christian Services, which earlier this month began allowing LGBT people to use its adoption services.
Kennedy was the author of a number of books, including “What’s Wrong With Same-Sex Marriage?” in 2004, where he wrote about how “a tiny fraction of our population is on the verge of redefining the institution of marriage for all of us.” One of the most-watched Christian broadcasters of his time, he wrote an endorsement of the comic book “Homosexuality: Legitimate, Alternate Deathstyle,” which was printed on the back cover.
According to the SPLC, Kennedy called “essential” the work of R.J. Rushdoony’s Chalcedon Foundation, which devoted an entire issue of its Chalcedon Report magazine to “the fallacy of gay marriage” and preached that practicing gays should be executed. In 1989, in his own newsletter, SPLC says Kennedy ran photos of children with the words, “Sex With Children? Homosexuals Say Yes!”
In September, Coral Ridge tweeted about being called to “protect the biblical model of marriage” when thinking about who to vote for – one of only three issues they highlighted.
“For the record, D. James Kennedy hated no one. Instead, he faithfully served this community for nearly half a century, helping thousands of people find Christ and lead full, happy and productive lives,” Aman continued in his statement. “But Dr. Kennedy also, as a matter of conscience and well-informed conviction, subscribed to the moral teaching of the Jewish and Christian scriptures that all sex outside man-woman marriage is wrong. Holding that opinion and espousing it is what has aroused such animosity.”
SFGN also discovered that Dr. D. James Kennedy and former Pastor Tullian Tchividjian’s names were removed from the final draft of the proclamation before it was read aloud by Commissioner Heather Moraitis — a Sun Sentinel reporter who tweeted out both versions of the proclamation on Thursday. Moraitis serves as Westminster Academy’s director of development and whose husband is a church elder. She told the Sentinel that she was fine with the deletion.
In response to the controversy surrounding the proclamation, Mayor Dean Trantalis, the city’s first gay mayor, said, “It’s time to build a future based on love and not hate, and it’s time for those who still harbor resentment to let go of it.” He added, “I know I have and I know my community has.”
Equality Florida, Florida’s statewide LGBT rights organization, condemned the proclamation.
“We believe in redemption. We organize around the principle that people and, therefore, institutions can and do change. However, that change requires public contrition and meaningful amends for harm inflicted,” said Nadine Smith, Executive Director of Equality Florida. “That we have not seen and invite Coral Ridge to engage in that work. We would need more evidence that they have changed and have begun and will make further amends to be able to support honoring a church with such a deeply damaging history."
Fort Lauderdale Commissioner Steven Glassman, who is also gay, called the proclamation “a sanitized and whitewashed history of Dr. Kennedy and the church,” questioning whether an LGBT child or a child with LGBT parents would be welcomed at Westminster Academy.
SAVE, another local LGBT rights organization, blasted the City Commission for its celebration of an anti-LGBT church.
“The church’s long history with the dissemination of anti-LGBT rhetoric and practice of conversion therapy ministries is not commendable by a municipality like the City of Fort Lauderdale. The city has previously passed a ban on conversion therapy and is part of Broward County which was an early adopter in the passing human rights ordinances that include protections for LGBTQ people,” SAVE wrote on Facebook. “Presenting this proclamation to a church that is listed by The Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group in Florida would tarnish the city’s pro-LGBTQ record.”