The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Pastor refuses to mourn Orlando victims: ‘The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die’

Two pastors are facing criticism for comments made after the June 12 Orlando nightclub shooting that left 49 people dead. Here is some of what they said. (Video: The Washington Post)

Following the deadliest shooting in U.S. history, a preacher stood at his pulpit Sunday night in Northern California and delivered an impassioned sermon praising the brutal massacre at a gay nightclub in Florida.

Pastor Roger Jimenez from Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento told his congregation that Christians “shouldn’t be mourning the death of 50 sodomites.”

“People say, like: ‘Well, aren’t you sad that 50 sodomites died?’ ” Jimenez said, referencing the initial death toll in Orlando, which authorities later clarified included 49 victims plus the gunman. “Here’s the problem with that. It’s like the equivalent of asking me — what if you asked me: ​’Hey, are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today?’

“Um, no, I think that’s great. I think that helps society. You know, I think Orlando, Fla., is a little safer tonight.”

He added: “The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is — I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job!”

Florida Catholic bishop: ‘It is religion, including our own,’ that targets LGBT people

The sermon has drawn scorn from faith leaders, gay rights activists and others who have called it “hateful propaganda” and “bigotry.”

“I condemn his entire presentation,” the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, a leading Christian conservative and president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, told Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton.

Jay Brown, spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, told The Washington Post that there is “nothing whatsoever Christian” in the pastor’s sermon.

“He’s preaching hate from the pulpit,” Brown said in a statement. “His words offer no comfort to the survivors of the attack, to the family and friends whose loved ones they’ll never see again.

“And to think of the LGBTQ youth in his own church, it’s simply heartbreaking.”

Members of the LGBT community are not allowed to join Verity Baptist or attend its services, according to the church’s “What We Believe” page. It states the church believes “sodomy” — referring to homosexuality — is “a sin and an abomination before God​ which God punishes with the death penalty.”

‘You are not alone’: Lady Gaga breaks down during fierce tribute to Orlando victims

“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,” Jimenez said during his Sunday sermon, which Verity Baptist posted on its website under the title “the Christian response to the Orlando murders.”

Video of the sermon, uploaded to the church’s YouTube channel, was removed late Monday or early Tuesday “for violating YouTube’s policy on hate speech.” A copy of the video was later uploaded by a different YouTube user.

Jimenez told the Bee on Tuesday that “we’ve received a lot of threats” since his sermon went viral. But, he said, “there are many people out there who agree with what I’m saying.”

“In America, you’re no longer allowed to have an opinion that goes against mainstream society,” Jimenez told the Bee, as controversy swirled around his sermon.

“The whole point that I was making is that if people who God puts the death penalty on die anyway, that’s not something that we necessarily need to be mourning,” he said.

“When people die who deserve to die, it’s not a tragedy,” Jimenez added. “In fact, the gunman that went in there, he deserved to die because he killed those people; we shouldn’t be mourning his death either.”

Gay rabbi: We can all mourn Orlando, but this was terrorism against gay people

Verity Baptist describes itself as an “independent, fundamental, soul winning, separated, King James Bible believing Baptist church.” It’s unclear exactly how many members it has, but in late March, the church wrote on Facebook: “Praise God for 206 attendance this morning (our new record!).”

As Breton wrote Tuesday: “Verity does not appear to be affiliated with any order of the Baptist faith. That means Jimenez can say whatever he wishes without any accountability to a larger religious community.”

“It’s like opening up a store and calling it whatever,” Jerlen Young-Nelson, media director for the National Baptist Convention, told the Bee of Verity Baptist Church.

Rodriguez, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference president, told the Bee’s Breton that Jimenez “is a pastor because he calls himself a pastor. A pastor who is not accountable is a pastor who can actually facilitate an atmosphere of spiritual corruption. A lack of oversight serves as fodder for theologically erroneous teaching.”

Verity Baptist did not respond to The Post’s request for comment.

Orlando’s Latino community hit hard by massacre at nightclub

The sermon runs for 45 minutes and focuses on the Bible, homosexuality and the deadly rampage at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando.

Hours after a lone gunman went into the club on “Latin Night” and shot and killed 49 people — nearly all of them Latino — the Venezuelan-born Jimenez suggested that their deaths were well deserved.

“As Christians, we should not be taking a sympathetic approach to these types of news and saying: This was a tragedy, this is something that we’re sad about, we should be mourning these people,” he said. “The Bible teaches that they’re all predators. That’s all the Bible says about them: They’re wicked, they’re vile, they’re predators. ​And God says that they deserve the death penalty for what they do …

“I’m not saying that we should be doing that. But in God’s government, where God set up the laws and God set up the rules and God set up the people in charge, God said: When you find a sodomite, put them to death.”

He continued:

Let me say this: As Christians, we shouldn’t be advocating the killing of sodomites. I’m not standing up here tonight and saying: Let’s go get some guns, and let’s go get ’em. That’s not what I’m saying at all. People will sometimes hear people like me preach, or other pastors, and say: You guys are advocating violence. We’re not advocating violence. We’re not saying we should go do this.
But we’re just saying this: ​If we lived in a righteous nation, with a righteous government, then the government should be taking them. There’s no tragedy. 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.
If we lived in a righteous government that loved God and loved children and wanted to protect them, that’s what we’d do. I’m not saying we should do it. I’m not saying we should go, you know, blow up Planned Parenthood. I’m not saying that at all. All I’m saying is this: If God has his way, that’s what he’d do. And by the way, in the millennium, that’s what will be done. God’s laws will be reestablished.

The lives lost in Orlando

Even as Jimenez was praising the deaths in Orlando, another Christian leader was calling on the faithful to stop “singling out people for victimization because of their religion, their sexual orientation, their nationality.”

“Sadly it is religion, including our own, that targets, mostly verbally, and often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people,” Robert Lynch, a Catholic bishop in central Florida, wrote on his blog. “Attacks today on LGBT men and women often plant the seed of contempt, then hatred, which can ultimately lead to violence.

“Those women and men who were mowed down Sunday were all made in the image and likeness of God. We teach that. We should believe that. We must stand for that.”

Rodriguez, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference president, told the Bee that “what took place in Orlando is not the will of God. As Christians, we love everyone. We repudiate intolerance and hatred. I will not only respect my fellow man, I will love you. I will respect you. I will create space for you.

“If you come to our churches, you are not going to hear any message full of homophobia or animosity.”

But an Arizona pastor who is listed as an anti-gay hate group leader by the Southern Poverty Law Center posted a response to the Orlando killings that was similar to Jimenez’s.

In a YouTube video, Steven Anderson of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe celebrated the shooting rampage by Omar Mateen, an American-born Muslim who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State.

Tips for helping a loved one after a tragedy, from a Christian disaster expert

“The good news is that at least 50 of these pedophiles are not going to be harming children anymore,” Anderson said. “The bad news is that a lot of the homos in the bar are still alive, so they’re going to continue to molest children and recruit people into their filthy homosexual lifestyle. The other bad news is that this is going to now be used as propaganda not only against Muslims, but also against Christians.”

“I’m not sad about it; I’m not going to cry about it,” Anderson said of the massacre, adding that the victims “were going to die of AIDS and syphilis and whatever else; they were going to die early anyway.”

Anderson gained notoriety in 2009 when he told his congregation he hates President Obama and would “pray that he dies and goes to hell,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. A member of the pastor’s congregation then showed up at an Obama appearance armed with an assault rifle and a pistol, according to the SPLC.

In his Sunday video, however, Anderson said he has never “advocated for violence.”

“I don’t believe in taking the law into our own hands,” he said. “I would never go in and shoot up a gay bar, so called. I don’t believe it’s right for us to just be a vigilante. We’re supposed to obey the law of the land and obey the powers that be. I would never take things into my own hands.”

A lawmaker plans to give away assault rifles as fundraiser prizes days after Orlando

He added: “But I will say this: You know, the Bible says that homosexuals should be put to death, in Leviticus 20:13. Obviously, it’s not right for somebody to just, you know, shoot up the place, because that’s not going through the proper channels. But these people all should have been killed anyway, but they should have been killed through the proper channels.

“As in, they should have been executed by a righteous government that would have tried them, convicted them and saw them executed.”

Sandré Nelson of the Davis Phoenix coalition, a nonprofit group that works to prevent hate-motivated violence in the Sacramento Valley, told CBS Sacramento that he was stunned by the pastor’s sermon.

“He’s not a man of God,” Nelson told the news station. “He’s not a man teaching a true religion.”

Nelson said the sort of speech featured in Jimenez’s sermon can be devastating.

“It can definitely cause more harm to our LGBT youth and those still living in the closet that are older,” he told CBS Sacramento. “It causes our suicide rates to go up, it causes kids to feel like they’re worthless.”

The pastor’s sermon drew a strong rebuke from Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

It was also condemned by Sacramento’s mayor-elect, Darrell Steinberg.

Austin Webster, communications director for the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges, said he was “absolutely disgusted” by the “message of hate.”

And angry commenters flooded the church’s Facebook page.

“Pastor Roger Jimenez,” one wrote, “I pray that God has more mercy on your soul than you have shown for those who were injured and murdered in Orlando this past weekend. The God I believe in, have studied and learnt about, and love dearly, would disagree strongly with what you have said, and how you have said it. I would like to strongly suggest you stand down as the Pastor at Verity Baptist Church, and go back to Bible College, spend many hours reading God’s Word, and many more hours examining your heart and soul, and praying for your Saviour’s forgiveness. I pray that God will lead you to His light and bless you.”

On Tuesday, televangelist Pat Robertson said on “The 700 Club” that liberals are caught between the two “favored” groups: “One, the Muslims. Number two, the homosexuals.”

“The left is having a dilemma of major proportions and I think for those of us who disagree with some of their policies, the best thing to do is to sit on the sidelines and let them kill themselves,” he said, according to Right Wing Watch.

Jimenez, the pastor in Sacramento, was born in Venezuela, where he became a Christian “through the influence of American missionaries,” according to his church website.

Throughout his sermon Sunday, he preached about what he said was God’s view on homosexuality.

He referenced the Book of Romans and “natural” and “unnatural” sexual relations and the “recompense for their error.”

“If you don’t mind writing in your Bible,” he said, “right there next to Romans 1:27, you ought to write this word: AIDS. The recompense for their error, you know what that was? AIDS.”

Romans 1:27 states:

And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet.

“These people are predators. They are abusers,” Jimenez told his congregation. “They take advantage of people. And look, as Christians, we need to take these stands that it is not our job to sit there and say, oh, this is a tragedy, or oh, this is something we mourn. Look, the Bible paints the picture that these are wicked people. These are evil people.”

He said that Christians must “fight a spiritual battle.”

“We shouldn’t be advocating what happened today,” he said, “but we shouldn’t be sad about it, either.”

Tuesday morning, as controversy swirled, Verity Baptist posted a short YouTube clip from Sunday’s sermon.

The title? “Statistics on Sodomites (Baptist Preaching, homosexuality, gay marriage, LGBT, equality).”

This post, originally published on June 14, has been updated.

Want more stories about faith? Follow Acts of Faith on Twitter or sign up for our newsletter.

‘When people hurt, I know hurt’: An airport chaplain mourns his 10-year-old son

At a historic meeting, Southern Baptists may consider opposing Confederate flag

Why I light candles after tragedy