D. James Kennedy Ministries, created by the same pastor who founded Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, addressed the fervor surrounding Fort Lauderdale giving the church a proclamation during its weekly Facebook Live.
Dr. Frank Wright, the president and CEO of the ministries, and John Rabe, director of creative production, discussed the proclamation, their ongoing lawsuit with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), conversion therapy, and Mayor Dean Trantalis having ulterior motives in appearing moderate.
“I hate to break it to them, but many of our gay and lesbian friends have just been used by the left to destroy the historic definition of marriage and change the criteria to only be that of love,” Wright said. “The principal purpose is the welfare of the family, the protection of the family.”
The 35-minute Facebook Live on Thursday evening first addressed the church’s 60th anniversary, which prompted the proclamation and coverage by SFGN and the Sun Sentinel. While LGBT groups were outraged by the proclamation, citing the founding pastor’s long history of anti-LGBT actions, Trantalis encouraged them to “let go of it.”
The ministries, which were created by the founding pastor and share a campus with the church but are not connected to it, are listed on the SPLC’s website as a hate group in Florida. This prompted the ministries to sue the advocacy group in 2017, but a judge dismissed the case in 2019. D. James Kennedy Ministries has appealed that ruling and the case has made its way to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. Wright said they would not give up, and if they will take it to the Supreme Court if they have to.
“We filed the suit because if you use [SPLC’s] definition, every Bible-believing Christian church in America is a hate group. Their definition really is, in its simplistic form, is if you disagree with progressive, left-wing political philosophy, you’re a hater,” Wright said.
Rabe noted the danger of being listed as a hate group, citing the 2012 shooting at the Family Research Council. Floyd Corkins was sentenced to 25 years after attempting to shoot up the group because of its stance against gay marriage — the security guard was injured but no one else was harmed. The FRC claims that it was because they were listed on the SPLC’s site that Corkins attacked them.
“They have characterized us as a hate group. We of course are not a hate group and it requires a redefinition of the word ‘hate’ in order to characterize us as one,” Rabe said. “This is a little game that the SPLC plays.”
During the proclamation, Trantalis, who is the city’s first openly gay mayor, said he wanted to “build bridges before there were none” and that he has spent time reaching out to faith-based communities. However, the men were not convinced. Wright interpreted the mayor’s words to be veiled and possibly a part of his ambitions for higher office.
“The message to the current pastor is, ‘Well, sure, if you stop teaching that stuff in the Bible about what God says about human sexuality and the wrath of God that will fall upon sin, then we can all get along together,’” Wright said. “Even hidden within that reasonableness, even within the velvet glove is still a fist.”
The two also defended the church’s anti-LGBT stance. Rabe said that LGBT people are not asking for equal rights, but “special rights.” He gave adoption as an example, noting that no one is guaranteed the right to adopt and that someone’s “sexual behavior and sexual proclivity is a legitimate aspect when we’re talking about adopting.” Currently, the ministries are collecting signatures in a petition to stop Bethany Christian Services from allowing LGBT people to adopt; a mandate it made earlier this month.
The two also touched on conversion therapy, as there have been claims that Kennedy promoted it. The late Wilton Manors Mayor Justin Flippen shared before his death that he attended the church many years ago for “group counseling” to undo his homosexuality. Rabe said that conversion therapy is a “made-up term” by the left and is simply “psychological and therapeutic ways of dealing with sexual issues.”
Wright went so far as to say “everyone needs conversion therapy” but that it’s not something you can force on anyone.
“There were always ex-gays,” he said. “There were always people who were in the gay lifestyle and left it, some of them because they were converted to Christ. We all need to be converted to Christ. It’s not the kind of conversion you can force on anybody, nor is a psychiatrist or psychologist talking to someone about their childhood issues that lead to their sexual choices or lifestyle choices, that’s not going to convert anybody.”
The two also announced that their programming, which was recently removed from Lifetime, will be airing on the Trinity Broadcast Network. The group’s goal is to be on secular television so that “people who don’t normally encounter the Gospel might stumble upon the Gospel and be saved,” Wright said.