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.

Johnston’s video went viral on social media, and after coverage in Spectrum, the story was picked up by Religion News Service, NBC News and other major outlets.

Johnston said the experience of sharing her story with such a wide audience has been ultimately a positive one. “I have never been as honest about myself and spoken with as much frankness about my experience with God than I did in that video, and to have it resonate so deeply with so many people is truly affirming,” she said. However, Johnston sought to deflect the spotlight. “It’s not about me and my sexuality at all,” she said. “It’s about discussions that desperately needed to happen and queer people in our communities that need to be seen and heard.”  

She said that any number of closeted Adventist pastors could have made a similar video and said she was “overwhelmed with the honor and responsibility that it was me.” Noting that she is one of many people in the Adventist Church to have come out, she said, “God used my coming out to bring hope and courage to a lot of people.” 

In the month that has followed her coming out, Johnston has taken time for self care—a trip to the ocean and the opportunity to “meet and reconnect with some incredible people in the Adventist queer community,” she said. She has focused on writing and public speaking engagements, but without anxiety about what might come next professionally, she said.

NBC News also picked up the story of Teagan Widmer, a transgender software engineer from the Bay Area, and her parents, Kris and Debbie Widmer, after their story was featured in the “Outspoken” video series. Kris Widmer has served as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor for more than three decades. In the video, Debbie and Kris describe the struggle they experienced coming to terms with the changes their family experienced and the paradoxical way their faith community left them feeling isolated after Teagan came out.

Teen Vogue, Refinery29, and LGBTQ Nation were among the outlets that covered the Widmers’ “Outspoken” story. That the stories of Alicia Johnston and the Widmer family hit national media was no accident. Eliel Cruz, an LGBT activist, faith organizer and Andrews University alum, used extensive connections with religion reporters and LGBTQ reporters to help the stories spread.

“Realistically, mainstream media doesn’t care about Adventist stories. They don’t pay attention to it,” Cruz said. He attributed the oversight to Adventism’s insularity and its relative foreignness to most North American media. However, Cruz noted that journalists have picked up stories he pitched them both because they are “really interesting stories” and because he can contextualize Adventist stories in ways reporters unfamiliar with Adventism might not be able to.

The upshot has been many eyes on the two stories in a short time, something that left the Widmers taken aback.

“Debbie and I are amazed at the response to the video—41K views in three weeks,” Kris Widmer said. “We realize it is a unique perspective in Christianity to hear the struggle from parents, especially those who work for the church, to share their journey,” he said. Such openness about LGBT+ experiences is indeed rare for people of faith in general, let alone the Seventh-day Adventist community.

However, the media attention also had some negative repercussions for the Widmers. Kris noted that the “Outspoken” video went live the day before he preached his final sermon at the Antioch Seventh-day Adventist Church in Antioch, California, prompting at least one attack website to opine that he was resigning over a conflict with the Adventist Church. “That is not true,” Kris said. He stated that he resigned from the Adventist pastorate to pursue chaplaincy work with Adventist Health.

“I have not been defrocked as an ordained minister. I go forth with [the church’s] continued blessing and approval and ordination…to be present with the sick and the dying as a chaplain, rather than administrate and preach and try to grow a local congregation as a pastor.”

Kris, Teagan and Debbie Widmer. Photo by Stephen Eyer / Watchfire Films.

Debbie Widmer lamented the online sharing of a condemnatory video by people who never bothered to get in touch, “even people we know,” she said. “None of them have ever gotten in touch with us to hear our story or our reasons or what we meant by what we said.”

She added that the coverage was initially overwhelming. “It felt a little bit like a pressure cooker, since the media outlets need their story ‘now’,” she said. “We didn’t have a lot of time to think through our responses like we might have wanted. It’s been a bit of a roller coaster.”

Still, Debbie expressed optimism about the film’s potential. “We hope that many lives will be impacted by our story and relationships will be healed.”

Kris added, “We are greatly encouraged by the notes, emails and messages that have said, ‘Your video was amazing, it prompted me to have a conversation with a mother, a father or other family member. I came out to my parents…and then I showed them your video. And it has been OK after that.’”

“Since our video has helped more than one LGBT person in this way, we know it has truly been worth it,” he said.

For Daneen Akers and Stephen Eyer of Watchfire Films, the producers of the “Outspoken” video series who also helped film and produce Alicia Johnston’s video message, the media response has been important for its potential to effect change. In a newsletter to supporters, they wrote,

Of course it’s always nice to have great media coverage, but that’s not why we are so thrilled with all of these articles. What this coverage means is that the likelihood of a LGBT young person (or their parents) coming across these films is higher, and seeing a story like these when you are struggling is a huge help in realizing you are not alone. One of the trans advocates who wrote said directly, ‘This film will save lives.’

That is the power of honest, courageous storytelling.




Amid lawsuit, school OKs same-sex prom dates, student club

AP

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo school district says LGBT students will be allowed to bring same-sex dates to prom and form a club at a high school that was accused of discrimination.

Superintendent Kriner Cash and Board President Barbara Seals-Nevergold announced the decision Friday, two days after the New York Civil Liberties Union helped a student file a federal lawsuit claiming unequal treatment.

Student Byshop Elliot says administrators repeatedly thwarted efforts to form a Gay Straight Alliance at McKinley High School, where he’s a junior, and prevented same-sex couples from buying couples prom tickets.

The superintendent and school board say it’s district policy to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students are included and accepted throughout the district.

NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman called the district’s response a welcome first step.




MTV Movie Awards shatters gender barriers one trophy at a time

AP

LOS ANGELES — Film hit “Beauty and the Beast” and Netflix newcomer “Stranger Things” were the night’s big winners with two trophies apiece as MTV partied with its Movie & TV Awards show.

For this, the 26th edition of what was formerly known as the MTV Movie Awards, TV was added to the mix. “Stranger Things” was decreed the Show of the Year, and its cast member, Millie Bobby Brown, was named Best Actor in a Show.

“Beauty and the Beast” was the Movie of the Year, with its star, Emma Watson, the Best Actor in a Movie.

But the awards had another trick up its sleeve, introducing a policy of breaking down gender barriers, as men and women competed jointly in the acting categories.

The policy was put into practice at the top of the show by presenter Asia Kate Dillion, who proudly noted she has been able to break down gender barriers as “the first openly non-binary actor to play an openly non-binary actor on a major TV show,” Showtime’s drama series “Billions.” (A non-binary person is someone who doesn’t identify with either gender.) Then she presented the award to Watson.

“Acting is about the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, and that doesn’t need to be separated into two different categories,” Watson said in receiving her trophy.

Despite glowering skies and dime-size hailstones, MTV was heralding the start of the summer viewing season with its annual shindig. The red carpet outside Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium became a swamp as luminaries made their water-logged arrival for the shindig. But inside, it was dry (except for flowing cocktails among audience members) as Adam Devine hosted the proceedings.

Tongue-in-cheek, Devine described himself as a progressive personality fully equal to the night’s high-minded theme.

As the caption “Adam Gets It” flashed on the screen, Devine declared, “I love Hugh Jackman. But I call him Hugh Jack-PERSON.”

And turning to “Beauty and the Beast,” he said, “I call it ‘Multidimensional woman with her own dynamic traits, and the beast.’”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOVb-gdrLQQ

The show maintained its traditional irreverence with awards recognizing the best duo (Jackman and Dafne Keen of the film “Logan”), best villain (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, “The Walking Dead”), best tearjerker (hit TV drama “This Is Us”), and best kiss (Ashton Sanders and Jharrel Jerone of “Moonlight”).

That last award was presented by co-stars of the film smash “Get Out”: a very blond Allison Williams in shimmering miniskirt, alongside a nervous-looking Lil Rey Howery.

“Are you scared of me?” Williams asked him.

“I’m AFRAID — that’s the word I’m gonna use,” Howery said.

“Ever since the movie came out,” said Williams, “for the last couple of months — ”

“— Black dudes don’t mess with you,” said Howery, whose character in the film has good reason to be scared of hers.

A new award, Best Fight Against the System, went to the film “Hidden Figures,” which tells the story of a team of African-American women mathematicians who served a vital role at NASA during the space program’s early years.

The mission of the filmmakers, said one of its stars, Taraji P. Henson, was to dispel a certain deep-seated social myth “so another young girl wouldn’t grow up thinking that her mind wasn’t capable of grasping math and science.”

The cast of the “Fast and Furious” franchise received the Generation Award, accepted by Vin Diesel, who thanked a generation of fans “willing to accept this multicultural franchise, where it didn’t matter what color your skin was or what country you are from — when you’re family, you’re family.”

Trevor Noah of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” was named Best Host.

“There is one person I aspire to be every single day,” he said, “and that is my mom: a powerful, strong black woman who never listened when people told her she couldn’t be more.”

Then, among his thanks, he voiced gratitude to President Donald Trump “for the comedy.”

Even one of the night’s biggest awards couldn’t escape a bit of mischief-making. Presenting Movie of the Year, Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn comically bobbled the title (a la the Oscars), first announcing “La La Light,” then “Moonland.” Then they got it right: “Beauty and the Beast.”

2017 MTV Movie and TV Awards Winners

Movie of the Year: “Beauty and the Beast.”

Actor in a Movie: Emma Watson, “Beauty and the Beast.”

Show of the Year: “Stranger Things.”

Actor in a Show: Millie Bobby Brown, “Stranger Things.”

Kiss: Ashton Sanders and Jharrel Jerome, “Moonlight.”

Duo: Hugh Jackman and Dafne King, “Logan.”

Comedic performance: Lil Rel Howery, “Get Out.”

Hero: Taraji P. Henson, “Hidden Figures.”

Villain: Jeffrey Dean Morgan, “The Walking Dead.”

Next Generation: Daniel Kaluuya.

Generation: “Fast and Furious” film franchise.

Host: Trevor Noah, “The Daily Show.”

Tearjerker: “This is Us.”

Documentary: “13th.”

American Story: “black-ish.”

Reality Competition: “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

Fight Against the System: “Hidden Figures.”

Trending: Channing Tatum as Beyonce, “Lip Sync Battle.”

Musical Moment: “You’re the One That I Want,” from “Grease: Live.”




Former SDA “Pastor” Alicia Johnston begins New Ministry, makes War on SDA Church, takes her LGBT Activism to NBC & World Stage

Andrew & Hilari Henriques
Saved to Serve

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9Jv-jmwRV8

“The world is watching Seventh-day Adventists because it knows something of their profession of faith and of their high standard, and when it sees those who do not live up to their profession, it points at them with scorn.”[1] In recent months, Seventh-day Adventists have been brought into national and even international spotlight, sometimes for good reasons and other times for reasons that bring reproach upon God’s name, his cause and the Seventh-day Adventist Movement.  Most recently, Seventh-day Adventists have received national attention for something that is an embarrassment to the cause of Christ and the belief system that Seventh-day Adventists historically hold to, which can and will be used by Satan to cause individuals to look with disdain upon the biblical messages that are borne by faithful Seventh-day Adventists who hold solely to the law and the testimony (Isaiah 8:20).

In the ongoing fiasco surrounding Alicia Johnston, a formerly employed Seventh-day Adventist “pastor,” who came out as bi-sexual and then resigned, NBC News has picked up her story, giving her a wider platform to disseminate her faulty, soul-destroying theology that one can identify as a member of the LGBTQ community and not be in violation of the laws of God. The NBC article, under the headline “Adventist Pastor Resigns after coming out as Bi-sexual” reads: “Still, Johnston said the response to her video and her resignation from her church has been overwhelmingly positive and supportive. ‘Many people have told me that they realize watching the video that I am truly joyful now, and there was always something missing before,’ she said. ‘They can see what an important shift this is for me, and they have chosen to be supportive of me and my new ministry instead of angry at the difficulty it has caused them. I am amazed by their love and grace.’”[2]

This must be Alicia Johnston’s first step in what she calls her new “ministry,” namely bringing national attention to herself to garner sympathy for her story and those that can identify with it and to have a wider platform for her to teach the perverted gospel that LGBTQ individuals should not strive to overcome their lifestyle, because it is not possible for them to overcome their proclivities to and activities of homosexuality. It is apparent that is her objective to apply enough pressure to the  Seventh-day Adventist denomination to force them to accept the LGBTQ agenda. Make no mistake, Ms. Johnston is carrying forward ministry, but not the ministry of Christ; she is an evangelist for the anti-Christ. Consider the message being conveyed to the countless individuals that will come across her story through NBC News and other media outlets, who otherwise would never have encountered her video (to which all provide a link to Alicia Johnston’s original video), especially for those who have known Seventh-day Adventists to be highly conservative students of the Bible, and even for those whose first exposure to Seventh-day Adventism will be these news reports.  This story will cause individuals to ask pertinent questions of the Seventh-day Adventist leadership, which will demand answers.  Such questions as “Does the SDA leadership despise LGBT individuals?”  “Why was Alicia Johnston ‘forced’ to resign?”  “Would this not constitute discrimination, especially since the SDA church is a 501(c)(3) organization?” These questions from LGBTQ activists from the world, will add to the growing pressure already being applied by LGBT sympathizers within the denomination, for SDA leadership to accept their agenda. Alicia Johnston has indeed begun her new ministry.

Another inquiry that will likely be raised regarding discrimination would be, “Did Alicia Johnston resign because she was being discriminated against as a woman?” And of course the follow-up question would be, “What is the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s position on the ordination of women as pastors?” It must be reiterated, Alicia Johnston has embarked upon her new ministry, and knows that if she is going to be successful, she must enlist the aid of LGBTQ activists from the world, along with women’s rights activists to push forward the agenda by applying this outside pressure. To further fulfill this mission, Alicia Johnston accepted  an interview with NBC regarding her “coming out” as a bisexual SDA Pastor. Ms. Johnston knew that this video would go viral and would put a spotlight and makes war on the SDA Church, its leaders and its biblical stance on the LGBTQ issue. This outside pressure might be an excuse used by some of the Seventh-day Adventist leaders to accept the agenda of the LGBTQ and Women’s Ordination movement. 

Aside from NBC picking up her story, some gay websites such as Gaystar news and LGBTQ Nation, are also praising Ms. Johnston and running her story, along with other “Christian” websites, like The Christian Post, Religion News, and Renewed Heart Ministries among others, just “Google it.”  Alicia Johnston is very aggressive in her evangelistic campaign and has found friends and allies in high places, who carry a lot of influence in the world.  It is yet to be determined, how the SDA corporate leadership will respond. Every dedicated Seventh-day Adventist should continually supplicate the throne of God for discernment and spiritual strength in order to withstand the LGBT movement within the SDA Church and to endure the fast approaching spiritual crisis.

“Now is the time for God’s people to show themselves true to principle. When the religion of Christ is most held in contempt, when His law is most despised, then should our zeal be the warmest and our courage and firmness the most unflinching. To stand in defense of truth and righteousness when the majority forsake us, to fight the battles of the Lord when champions are few–this will be our test. At this time we must gather warmth from the coldness of others, courage from their cowardice, and loyalty from their treason. The nation will be on the side of the great rebel leader.” [3]

[1] White, Ellen. Testimonies for the Church, Volume 9, (1909), page 23

[2] http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/adventist-pastor-resigns-after-coming-out-bisexual-n753391

[3] White, Ellen. Testimonies for the Church, Volume 5, (1909), page 135




Drinking Alcohol Makes Straight Men More Sexually Fluid: ‘Beer Goggles’ Boost Physical Attraction To Same Sex

Source

Many of us are all too familiar with the “beer goggles” effect: friends and strangers alike become more attractive after a drink or two. Undoubtedly, drinking alcohol lowers our inhibitions and makes us more open to experimentation with the same sex. In a new study, published in The Journal of Social Psychology, straight men were found to be more physically attracted to other men after a few drinks.

“Most notably, alcohol intake was related to increased sexual willingness of men with a same-sex partner, suggesting a potential shift in normative casual sexual behavior among heterosexual men,” wrote the authors in the study.

Read More: Straight Women Turned On By Attractive Women Are Either ‘Bisexual Or Gay,’ Says Study

Researchers recruited a total of 83 straight men and women who were bar hopping in the Midwest at night. The participants were asked to complete a survey about how many drinks they’d had that night. In addition, they had to watch a 40-second video of either a physically attractive man or woman drinking at a bar and chatting with the bartender. Then, the participants rated their sexual interest in the person in the video, from buying them a drink to going home together to have sex.

Unsurprisingly, men showed high interest when the attractive woman was on the screen; women naturally were more attracted to the man. Moreover, men were more likely to make sexual comments about the woman after the video. Overall, they expressed more sexual interest in the women, regardless of how much they had. This coincides with previous research that concedes men tend to be more lax about casual sex with strangers.

However, the researchers noted an interesting observation: the more alcohol men drank, the more interested they became in the man in the video. Men who had nothing to drink showed no interest. Those who consumed over 10 alcoholic drinks were more likely to entertain the idea of gay sex just as much as having sex with a woman.

The more straight people drink, the more likely they’ll entertain the idea of gay sex. Photo courtesy of Pixabay, Public Domain

Sexual willingness was only influenced by alcohol intake and perceived attractiveness of a same-sex prospective partner,” the authors wrote.

In women, the more alcohol they drank, the more interested they were in other women, and the opposite sex.

This suggests sexuality for men and women does not fall under straight and gay, but instead is fluid. A 2016 study found women have been evolutionarily designed to have same-sex encounters. The researchers proposed women’s sexuality has evolved to be more fluid than men’s as a mechanism to reduce conflict and tension among co-wives in polygynous marriages.

In men, studies have found a large number of straight men watch gay porn and even have gay sexual fantasies. Researchers believe homosexuality has evolved in humans because it helps us bond with one another. In other words, sexual behavior is not a means to an end of reproduction, but it can also be used to help form and maintain social bonds.

It’s no surprise drinking alcohol leads to sexual behavior, and even makes us sexually fluid, and less inhibited. Alcohol’s influence on specific brain circuits has led us to feel euphoric and less anxious. It makes us more empathetic and leads us to see other people — even the same sex — as more attractive.

Alcohol may allow us to freely express our sexual side, without judgment or reservations.




Bible App for the Marginalized to Launch in June

Spectrum Magazine

Crystal Cheatham—writer, entrepreneur and Andrews grad—is working to create a hub for progressive Christians who may have felt excluded and judged by more traditional, conservative spaces.

Question: The Our Bible App,  an app you are creating with devotionals, Bible translations and a forum, is set to launch in June. You describe your project as pro-women, LGBT-affirming, and social-justice oriented. When did you start this project?

Answer: I guess I started this idea in 2010 with the IDentity Kit Project. That was a resource to help queer Christian fundamentalist youth access information about gender identity and orientation. Really, I was just trying to bring together an isolated community. And I think isolation is what any believer who isn’t a conservative Christian has found themselves in.

Fundamentalists (aka closed-minded Christians), have hubs like the National Religious Broadcasters or the Trinity Broadcasting Network to pump their exclusionary theologies to people around the globe, but those of us who have a more accepting approach to spirituality and religion only have access to like-minded believers and tools that are within reach.

Our Bible App is a direct descendent of the IDK Project. In fact, the book I wrote for LGBT youth will be available on the app.

So you feel that other such resources are not inclusive, progressive, and affirming? Are there other apps that Our Bible App is modeled on?

Yeah, I modeled it after YouVersion’s Holy Bible App. It’s probably on your phone right now and the number one way you access the Bible in church and at home. Unfortunately, YouVersion shares the same values as Focus on the Family, Rick Warren, and the Family Research Council (organizations that have been included on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of hate groups). In fact, they regularly publish devotionals written by those organizations. That’s why I created Our Bible App, because I couldn’t take the exclusionary theology anymore.

Are you the technical expert behind the app? Have you developed apps before?

Haha! I wish! No, I’m an expert at everything else and have learned many trades in order to get to where I am today with the app. When it came to coding, I decided it would be better to hire professionals. The App Institute is puzzling together the working pieces of the app while I recruit authors, hire people, and build the other side of the project.

Can you tell us a little bit more about what resources will be available through the app and how you are sourcing these?

I’m creating a platform to help bring together the parceled community of progressive Christians out there. I want the app to be a place, unlike the Christian section in a Barnes & Noble bookstore, where those looking for progressive podcasts, video blogs, books, and devotionals can come and find what they need. I’m encouraging writers and creators to submit their podcasts, devotionals, books, and blogs for consideration. Just go to OurBibleApp.com and click on submissions.

How are you working to get the word out about the app?  Do you have a target for the number of people you hope will download it?

I’m working with organizations and people all over the country. Organizations like Reconciling Ministries Network are teaming with us to spread the word. Rachel Held Evans and Kevin Garcia are tweeting and messaging their followers. We need all the help we can get.

Our goal is to launch with 10,000 pre-subscribers, and we are at 4,000. We want to be at 100,000 by the end of December. We are asking everyone to share news of the app with five friends. I think that way we can reach our goal and make a huge impact when we launch. I invite anyone who reads this to share the OurBibleApp.com link.

What do you hope the app will accomplish?

I think the app is bigger than me and my team. It’s churning up all kinds of feelings in people. I’d call it a business for social change.

How are you funding the development of the app? Will you charge for the app?

I ran two fundraisers last summer. With family, friends, and the help of many strangers, I raised $84,000. Most of that was spent just creating the app and paying for licenses. Now that I am working with a team, I need more funding to get this thing up and running.

Of course I’m looking for the right investor, but in the meantime folks can make personal donations online or they can buy a T-shirt of our mascot the Zebracorn. Go to the site and take a look because I love it. It reads, “For Believers of All Stripes.” Get it?

The app itself is free, but if folks want to get premium content and ultimately help keep the lights on and keep authors contributing then they can pay to subscribe to the app.

Are you mainly targeting the app to people in the LGBT community

Absolutely not! While LGBT people have been targeted by the conservative right, they are not the only group to feel that burn of judgment. This app is for anyone who wants the tools to take back their spirituality and strengthen their personal walk with their God.

Your editor-in-chief is agnostic? Isn’t that rather curious for a spiritual app?

I think that as Adventists we spend a lot of time looking down on other kinds of beliefs, forgetting that the people who hold them can be every bit as loving, giving, and capable as we are. I know because I’ve been there. It took a while to shake off. That’s why Our Bible App promotes the affirmation of other faiths and belief systems.

In keeping with this mission, our editor-in-chief is worth her salt. I’ve watched her work tirelessly and oh-so-lovingly with the devotionals that come her way. To her credit she is quite tender in all the right places and pushes authors to give a little more when she knows they aren’t quite hitting their mark. And I’m convinced that being agnostic doesn’t necessarily mean that she isn’t more learned about faith and spirituality than I am. She truly is fantastic.

You are an entrepreneur with two big projects you worked on previously. Can you tell us about those? What else do you do currently?

Yeah, I’m always dreaming up something. This is by far the biggest endeavour I’ve taken on. Up until now, I was working as a ghostwriter. I spent some time as a singing artist as well.

You are a graduate of Andrews University. Do you still consider yourself an Adventist? When you were an Andrews student, would you have used an app like this?

I’m culturally Adventist, and I tend to have more conservative ideas about my lifestyle. I think 18 or 19-year-old Crystal Cheatham desperately needed this app. I think she would have benefited from knowing there were people in the world capable of unconditional love the way Jesus portrayed it.

Did you feel marginalized in the Adventist community?

The answer is yes. To be told that there wasn’t a place for me in leadership because of my orientation was heartbreaking to hear. I think the Adventist church is cutting off the hands and feet of Christ by pushing out diverse believers like myself. Unless 1 Corinthians 12:27 is wrong, then that’s no way for a church to survive.

Will you be targeting the app to Adventists? 

Those who know me in the Adventist community won’t have a choice about knowing the app exists! I’ve always been a vocal person. But as far as targeting? I don’t think I’ll do that. I will, however, pray that God will melt the hearts of those leading the church.

In my mind, the men who lead the church have become a sort of Pharaoh of the Old Testament, refusing to allow God’s word to touch them tenderly, the way that only He can in order to change hearts and minds. I will pray that they hear the ever closer chant ringing from the empty pews: “Let my people go.”

How do you think the Adventist church could or should treat members of the LGBT community differently than they do?

Adventism was my first home, and I miss it dearly but you gotta know there is no such thing as loving the sinner and hating the sin. That’s what the church doctrines promote and is ultimately what drove me and so many others out. Adventists should reconsider number 23 of the 28 Fundamental Beliefs and include LGBT voices when they do. If you can find a way to incorporate the queer community in your doctrines, then you can truly practice what is preached about loving thy neighbor.

Crystal Cheatham graduated from Andrews University in 2009 with an English degree then earned a Master’s in creative writing at Antioch University-Los Angeles.




Florida Teacher Bans Cross Necklaces in Class, Promotes LGBT Day of Silence

Samuel Smith
The Christian Post

A national religious liberty law firm is threatening to sue a Florida public school district over allegations that a high school math teacher forced Christian students to remove cross necklaces and that she is engaging in LGBT activism in her classroom.

The Liberty Counsel sent a demand letter on Wednesday to Superintendent Jeff Eakins of Hillsborough County Public Schools on behalf of a ninth-grade student who claims that her math teacher at Riverview High School, Lora Jane Riedas, required her to remove her cross while in class.

According to the letter, Riedas has banned as many as three students from wearing crosses in her classroom, “claiming on occasion that they are ‘gang symbols.'” The cross pendant that the teacher allegedly forced the ninth-grade client to remove was less than an inch long.

“One of our student clients reports that she had just sat down in class, and placed her books on her desk, when Ms. Riedas approached her,” the letter reads. “Referencing the tiny cross necklace which was around the student’s neck, Ms. Riedas said, ‘I need you to take your necklace off.'”

“Our client asked ‘Why?’ and Ms. Riedas refused to explain, stating, ‘That’s disrespectful; you have to take it off,'” Liberty Counsel stated. “Our client did not want to be disrespectful, so she took it off, but she felt bad because she felt she was being forced to deny her faith. All of our clients are afraid to openly wear their cross necklaces in class any more.”

Liberty Counsel also accuses Riedas, a lesbian who is believed to be the school’s Gay, Straight Alliance sponsor, of engaging in “political activism” in her classroom, which is “permanently decorated with LGBT political themes” and “buttons prominently displayed on her desk, facing students, stating ‘I Love My LGBT Students’ and ‘PROUD Public Employee.'”

“Moreover, at the beginning of the semester, Ms. Riedas placed LGBT rainbow stickers on students’ classroom folders without their consent, which were there one day when the students arrived. One of our clients reports that after she removed the LGBT sticker, Ms. Riedas’ behavior toward her changed markedly for the worse.”

Liberty Counsel accuses the teacher of seeking opportunities to engage in “classroom activism” directed by GLSEN (formally known as the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network), an organization that “seeks to end discrimination, harassment, and bullying based on sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression in K-12 schools.”

The demand letter was sent just two days before Friday’s GLSEN “Day of Silence,” which is described as an annual “student-led national event organized in thousands of schools, bringing awareness to the silencing effects of anti-LGBTQ name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools.”

The event allows for students across the United States to take a vow of silence in hopes it causes people to address anti-LGBT bullying in schools.

According to Liberty Counsel, GLSEN “has called on teachers to use its ‘Educator Guide‘ to promote GLSEN’s views about homosexuality and gender confusion on ‘Day of Silence,'” and to do so this Friday, April 21, 2017.”

“GLSEN’s guide encourages teachers to require students to engage in numerous forms of coercive, group, political activism, from grades K-12, regardless of parent desires or student religious beliefs, with no opt-out from classroom coercion,” the letter asserts. “Students can either ‘go along to get along,’ or risk being ‘outed’ as disagreeing with the teacher and GLSEN’s LGBT viewpoint.”

The GLSEN educator’s guide encourages teachers to do a number of different things with their students to advocate for LGBT rights and end bullying.

“Ms. Riedas has further engaged in impermissible LGBT political activism in the classroom, and has indicated her intent to further do so during instructional time,” the letter claims. “Ms. Riedas is planning to promote GLSEN’s ‘Day of Silence’ coercive political activities during instructional time in her classroom on Friday, April 21, 2017.”

The letter points out that Riedas retweeted GLSEN’s guide around 10 a.m. on Wednesday, April 5. The letter also outlines other instances in which she tweeted or “liked” LGBT causes on social media during school hours.

Liberty Counsel argues that Riedas’ political activism in the classroom violates school district policy, which states that teachers “may not campaign on school property during working hours on behalf of any political issue.”

The letter requests that the school district take action and confirm that it will prohibit Riedas from “interfering with student religious expression” and from “promoting LGBT political activism during instructional time on April 21, or at any other time, using any of the attached ideas in GLSEN’s ‘guide.'”

The letter also asks that the school force Riedas to remove pro-LGBT material from her classroom and unrequested LGBT stickers from students’ classroom folders.

Finally, the letter demands that the school replace Riedas as a sponsor of the school’s Gay, Straight Alliance and appoint a faculty member who can run the club as a supervisor, not an activist.

Liberty Counsel is threatening to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the school district if it does not take the actions requested by the end of business on Thursday.

“We are in receipt of the letter from the Liberty Counsel. We have been in contact with the principal to initiate an investigation,” a school district representative told The Christian Post on Thursday afternoon. “However, the principal says she has not received a complaint from any student or parent regarding any claims made in the Liberty Counsel document regarding this teacher.”

CP reached out to Riedas for comment but a response could not be received by press time.