Major Media Outlets Pick Up Adventist LGBT Stories

Jared Wright
Spectrum Magazine

Stories of LGBT+ Adventists and their families have caught the attention of major news organizations, pointing both to the power of the stories and their uniqueness as accounts from within the faith community. Two stories in particular—one about an Adventist pastor who came out as bisexual and another about the Adventist parents of a transgender daughter—have received national media coverage.

Last month, Alicia Johnston announced to her congregation, the Foothills Community Church in Chandler, Arizona, and to her employer, the Arizona Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, that she was resigning from her full-time pastoral role over her “complete disagreement with the Adventist Church on its teachings on LGBT people.” Johnston revealed that she identifies as bisexual, and described the story leading to her resignation in a 27-minute video message. Continue reading

NCAA returns to North Carolina after transgender bathroom law repeal


The National Collegiate Athletic Association on Tuesday formally reversed course and scheduled championship games in North Carolina, returning to the state after previously stripping it of events to protest a law on transgender use of public bathrooms.

Transgender advocates immediately criticized the decision, saying although the bathroom law was repealed last month, North Carolina still discriminated against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and did not deserve to be rewarded.

The controversy started with the March 2016 approval of House Bill 2, which required transgender people to use bathrooms matching the sex on their birth certificate rather than their gender identity. In response, the NCAA disqualified North Carolina from hosting neutral-site championship events for the 2016-17 academic year.

Similar boycotts by other sports organizations, companies and entertainers cost North Carolina hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business. In a basketball-crazed state, losing events such as the NBA all-star game and big NCAA tournament games was also a blow to residents’ pride.

Seeking to win back business, state lawmakers repealed the law on March 30, but they also approved a new measure banning cities from passing their own anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people until 2020, drawing outrage from civil rights advocates.

Still, the repeal of the bathroom law was enough to win over the NCAA, which announced on April 4 its board of governors would consider returning to the state. At the time the NCAA said its board would have preferred an unconditional repeal of House Bill 2 and that a majority of the board “reluctantly” decided to return to North Carolina.

On Tuesday, the NCAA selected more than 600 host sites for events to be held from the 2017-18 through 2021-22 seasons, including placing events such as men’s basketball games in North Carolina.

For example, the first- and second-round men’s basketball games in 2020 will be held in Greensboro.

Greensboro will also host regional women’s basketball games in the championship tournament in 2019.

Rights groups criticized the NCAA for returning to North Carolina while its cities were still banned from passing anti-discrimination laws.

“By rewarding North Carolina with championship games, the NCAA has undermined its credibility and is sending a dangerous message to lawmakers across the country who are targeting LGBTQ people with discriminatory state legislation,” JoDee Winterhof, a senior official with the Human Rights campaign, said in a statement.

The American Civil Liberties Union called the decision a “shame” and the anti-discrimination group Athlete Ally said it was “deeply concerning.”

‘Beauty and the Beast’ Actor Josh Gad Says ‘Gay Moment’ Backlash Based on ‘Fear’

Stoyan Zaimov
The Christian Post

Josh Gad, the actor who plays LeFou in Disney‘s upcoming live-action “Beauty and the Beast” film, has responded to the controversy and backlash surrounding the “gay moment” in the storyline, the first in a Disney film, by arguing that people are “fearful of what they don’t understand.”
“What I would say is that this film is one of inclusiveness,” the actor said, according to People magazine. “It’s one that has something to offer everyone.”
“There is so much fear out there of that which we don’t understand that which we don’t know,” he argued.

“And you have a character in Gaston who uses his charm offensive to whip other people into a frenzy to go and attack somebody they’ve never met. Somebody that’s different. Somebody that only represents a danger because [Gaston] says that he represents a danger,” Gad said of the film’s plot.

Director Bill Condon had previously said that Gad “makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. … [I]t is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”

Criticism of what many are calling propaganda has come from a number of different sources, however.

On Saturday, The Christian Post reported that the Christian owners of a drive-in movie theater in Alabama would not be screening the film because a scene promoting homosexuality would go against their beliefs.

“If we cannot take our 11-year-old granddaughter and 8-year-old grandson to see a movie, we have no business watching it,” the Henagar Drive-In Theatre in DeKalb County said on Facebook.

“If I can’t sit through a movie with God or Jesus sitting by me then we have no business showing it.”

Evangelist and President of Samaritan’s Purse Franklin Graham agreed, suggesting that the filmmakers are “trying to push the LGBT agenda into the hearts and minds of your children.”

“Disney has the right to make their cartoons, it’s a free country. But as Christians we also have the right not to support their company. I hope Christians everywhere will say no to Disney,” Graham argued.

Criticism came from overseas as well, however, with Russian MP Vitaly Milonov asking Russia’s culture minister to ban the film in the country.

“In this situation, society cannot look on silently at what movie distributors are offering under the guise of a children’s tale — the obvious, barefaced, unscrupulous propaganda of sin and perverted sexual relations,” Milonov said.

“I’m convinced that the main task of the state regarding children is to protect childhood and youth from the filthiness of the world, to preserve children’s purity, to block our children off from harmful and dangerous phenomena,” he added.

Luke Evans, the actor who plays Gaston, also spoke out about the controversy surrounding the film, and said that the movie’s message is “about never judging a book by its cover.”

“But digging a little deeper and understanding to not be fearful of things you don’t know or people who look a little different to you,” Evans asserted.

“Fear is not a good thing to fuel, and Gaston is responsible for that. But he fails — he fails miserably, and everybody finds love. Everyone!”

Transcripts of Omar Mateen’s 911 call released


More of Orlando shooter Omar Mateen’s negotiations with police have been released. The transcripts shed some light on Mateen’s motivations for the June 12 killing and injuring of more than 100 people at Pulse, an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

In the months following the mass shooting, speculations over Mateen’s motivation have included everything from his sexuality to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) indoctrination.

Transcripts obtained by the Orlando Sentinel and two dozen other media organizations have offered some insight to Mateen’s mental state after he opened fire in the club.

“They need to stop the US airstrikes. You have to tell the US government to stop bombing. They are killing too many children, they are killing too many women, okay?” Mateen told the crisis negotiator, known only as Andy.

Andy and Mateen would spend an hour on the phone, although much of that hour was Andy desperately trying to get Mateen to communicate with him. Mateen was not particularly receptive to negotiations, at one point telling Andy, “you’re annoying me with these phone calls and I don’t really appreciate it.”

When Mateen did talk, he focused his attention on airstrikes from the US and Russia on the Middle East, particularly Syria. When the negotiator asked, “can you tell me where you are right now so I can you get some help?” Mateen responded with, “no. Because you have to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq.”

“They are killing a lot of innocent people,” he said without a hint of irony.

Mateen refused to identify himself during the phone call beyond introducing himself as Mateen to the operator. After that, he said, “My name is I Pledge of Allegiance to (unidentifiable name) of the Islamic State.”

When pressed for his real name, Mateen told Andy, “Call me Mujahedeen, call me the Soldier of God.” He told the negotiator that, because it was the last month of Ramadan, he had spent his day fasting and praying before coming to Pulse.

The transcripts did not offer much clarity about why he chose Pulse to make his stand against killing innocent people, but there were tidbits that showed his admiration for other terrorists in the US.

“My homeboy Tamerlan Tsarnaev did his thing on the Boston Marathon,” he said, referring to the 2013 attack, “my homeboy [unidentifiable name] did his thing, okay, so now it’s my turn, okay?”

If the call offers any insight to Mateen, he was very distraught about the airstrikes committed by the US and Russia in Syria.

“What am I to do here when my people are getting killed over there?” he asked. “What’s going on is that I feel the pain of the people getting killed in Syria and Iraq and all over the Muslim [unidentifiable word],” he said.

He accused the US of collaborating with Russia to kill Muslims, saying “The U.S. is collaborating with Russia and they are killing innocent women and children, okay?”

He also made strange threats, such as claiming that he had rigged bombs in cars that would take down an entire block and that he was wearing the kind of vest worn by terrorists in the suicide bombing attacks on Paris in 2015.

When pressed for details, he claimed “If you bring the bomb dog they are not going to smell s**t.”

For some reason, the inability of bomb sniffing dogs to smell his vest was a point of pride for him as he continued to rant, saying, “You can’t smell it. Bring your little American bomb dog, they are f***ing outdated anyway.”

But when probed about his vest, Mateen said it was not a bomb vest but “like, you know, to go out to a wedding.”