Regina faith leaders and members of the local LGBTQ2S community are planning a Sunday morning rally outside Regina Victory Church following a widely condemned sermon delivered there last week.
According to organizers, the 10 a.m. gathering will be a “socially distanced celebration” to “spread a little bit of kindness” following the “baseless claims and archaic thinking” delivered in the sermon by Pastor Terry Murphy.
“A local pastor presented a sermon that included homophobic and transphobic ideas that are damaging to queer and trans people of faith and to their allies,” said Nathan Labatt, a local LGBTQ2S Advocate.
Planned speakers include local clergy and LGBTQ2S advocates.
On Saturday evening, meanwhile, Murphy published an apology video on Facebook.
In the video, Murphy said he’s making it “in response to all those to all those who were so greatly distressed by my message to our church last Sunday morning ‘Raising Godly Children.'”
Murphy went on to say that he’s “very sorry for the stress this has caused the LGBTQ community.”
“This was never my intention. The message was intended to encourage parents within our church to raise their children according to standard, time-honoured biblical teaching,” he said.
Murphy added that he had “no intention to conflate your community with pedophilia.”
The sermon in question was delivered last Sunday by Murphy, who told Global News that he’s been with Regina Victory Church for 14 years.
About 44 minutes into the sermon, Murphy begins speaking about “the rise in the cultural push to normalize homosexuality” which, along with gender identity and expression, he speaks about for more than 10 minutes.
“The normalizing of this behaviour has caused chaos in a lot of ways,” he said, before arguing that being gay is a problematic “choice that has been normalized.”
Murphy then connects normalizing being gay to normalizing pedophilia.
“If any choice is acceptable people will start to make it more. If you promote pedophilia, the inhibitions will come down and people will think ‘everybody says it’s OK’. Well it’s not OK.”
He also called a recent Gallup poll, which found that 15.9 per cent of generation Z respondents identified as LGBT, “horrifying.”
“I find it extremely abhorrent. A whole generation is being victimized: being told you were born in the wrong body, being told you should experiment with your sexuality,” Murphy said.
“They’re indoctrinating them in kindergarten. It makes me want to freak. The church needs to stop believing that we’re all born that way.”
Kristopher Wells is Canada Research Chair for the Public Understanding of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth.
While he says he found the sermon “deeply disturbing” he said it wasn’t necessarily surprising.
“That kind of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is unfortunately common within some religious and faith communities,” he said.
Wells, who has done extensive research on conversion therapy, said Murphy’s sermon bears the hallmarks of the practice.
“These particular comments are not directly about conversion therapy. But they certainly speak to the ideology of hatred that leads people to leave the church, feel unsafe in their community and in some cases, take their own lives,” Wells said.
“This is not a message of love. It’s a message of hate. I feel very concerned for any youth and young adults who are part of that community.”
Wells said he hopes the sermon and its contents can serve as motivation for Regina city council to move forward towards a ban on conversion therapy.
But speaking to Global News earlier this week Murphy defended his sermon, saying he believes people are misinterpreting his messages.
“It is my personal belief that the media and Hollywood in a lot of places are promoting and confusing young people,” he told Global News. “I feel the promotion of this lifestyle should be discussed.”
He said the message was “primarily intended for his congregation.”
“We have so many people with so much hatred and bitterness. If you don’t like it, I just advise people, don’t watch it,” he said.
“I’m trying to warn our congregation and prepare them and strengthen them to raise our children in a biblical and Godly way.”
During the sermon, Murphy brought up youth suicide statistics while talking about normalizing gender expression.
When asked if he thought his sermon may have actually had a negative impact on a young person struggling to understand their identity, Murphy reaffirmed his belief that supporting young people who may be transgender or transitioning is a bad thing.
“To now try to normalize it, and blame those that say ‘hey there’s danger here you should keep your kids out of this stuff.’ I don’t think that is a reasonable argument.”
Regina psychologist Michael White, though, says the words spoken by Murphy could have dangerous consequences, even if just viewed by Murphy’s congregation (which he told Global News was around 400 people).
“The child in many ways is forced to listen to this message that your behaviour is unwanted, unloved by your creator,” he explained, “and that you are somehow flawed, bad or evil. And that’s a very destructive message for a young person trying to understand their identity.”
White said attempts to forcibly change someone’s sexual identity can be damaging to mental health and can lead to anxiety, depression or even suicide.
“It’s important for young people to recognize that this is not a universal message,” he added.
He named organizations like gay-straight alliances as places where any young person feeling a lack of acceptance to be safely welcomed.
“They can meet with people who understand and accept them for who they are and don’t make an attempt to change that inner person — your true, honest identity.”
A well-known Regina LGBTQ2S advocate, meanwhile, has filed a human rights complaint with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.
Terry Van Mackelberg, also known as drag queen Flo Mingo, launched the complaint after receiving word of the sermon.
“I was in absolute shock that this had been put out on Facebook Live and YouTube for anyone to see,” he said.
Van Mackelberg says he opened the complaint for the public to co-sign for 48 hours. In that time, he says the complaint gathered over 840 co-plaintiffs.
“Discrimination is alive and well out there and what was done is absolutely wrong. And it goes against my human rights under the human rights code,” Van Mackelberg said.
Both gender identity and gender expression are legally protected from discrimination and harassment by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code.
“I hid in the closet for 34 years, because I knew in the community where I grew up that I couldn’t be who I was. And that is so damaging to physical and mental health,” Van Mackelberg said.
“Words like this are what keep people from living that authentic life. It keeps them in the closet.”