SANTA ROSA -- North Bay activists are furious after learning that a controversial local church known for its anti-LGBTQ stance will be receiving money from a state grant.
After several tragic shootings at Jewish synagogues and Black churches, the California Legislature passed AB 1664 to fund security improvements to help congregations protect themselves from hate crimes. But when Jason Newman found out that $400,000 was being given to Victory Outreach Church in Santa Rosa, he was angered.
"I just couldn't believe it," he said. "It said, literally, 'to protect them from hate crimes.' And I'm like, how can these people be the agitators and the victims at the same time?"
Newman is a therapist who counsels at-risk LGBTQ teens. Earlier this month, he was at a Santa Rosa library where protestors showed up to condemn a drag story hour for kids. He said some of the protestors came from Victory Outreach.
"There were some people who said it by name," said Newman. "And then immediately afterwards, someone came over to them and said, 'Oh, don't tell them that's where we're from.'"
But during his Father's Day sermon that was recorded and posted to the church's website, Pastor Jose Guadarrama asked the congregation to go to the library reading later that day.
"Some of us are going there," he told the congregation. "I invite everyone of you, if you want to come. I think it would be great if we all show up."
KPIX recieved no response for comment from Pastor Guadarrama, but he mades it clear in the sermon why they were going there.
"There is a group of people that are coming in and teaching our little ones some weird, demonic, evil stuff. I said it. It's demonic. And they're zeroing in. They're focusing in on the little ones," Guadarrama said in the sermon.
The pair of $200,000 grants are being given to construct security fencing around the church and its tented multi-purpose facility. Chelsea Kurnick, an LGBTQ activist who also attended one of several drag story hour counterprotests, said she doesn't understand why the church would feel threatened when they were helping instigate the conflicts.
"There were people at these protests from that church, who identified themselves as being from that church, using slurs and being very in-your-face," said Kurnick. "This is not a church that I have any evidence has been persecuted for their faith or is under any kind of physical safety threat. I don't really know of evangelical Christian churches in our area being under attack on the basis of their religion."
The grants are being administered by the Governor's Office of Emergency Services. While it may seem hateful to some, condemning homosexuality is not considered a hostile act in itself. For now, it looks like Victory Outreach is within its rights, under the law, to claim themselves as victims in a fight they themselves have started.
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