A small group of people at Monday morning’s Lakeland City Commission meeting waited for an hour following a proclamation by Mayor Bill Mutz, which recognized June as “LGBTQ Pride Month,” so they could voice their opposition to what several called “an abomination” and “sexual perversion.”
“Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender residents, students, employees and business owners within Lakeland contribute to this vibrant, innovative culturally inclusive community and its diversity,” Mutz read. “Members of LGBTQ communities face discrimination based on their innate status, which sometimes results in human tragedy, loss of life, community isolation, or abuse, and whereas PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) of Polk County envisions a community where diversity and all people are respected, valued and affirmed inclusive of their sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression…”
Read the entire proclamation here or at the end of this article.
Mutz said later he made the proclamation on his own behalf, not the City Commission’s.
Tim Sizemore, pastor of Beacon Hill Fellowship, a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship church, which proclaims it is welcoming to all people, accepted the proclamation on behalf of Polk Pride, an LGBTQ rights group. The church hosted a Pride in Faith service on Saturday and participated in Polk Pride’s Pride in the Park event over the weekend.
“As a pastor in this community. I think it’s very important and I commend your work on making sure we have an inclusive community for all for all our fellow citizens,” Sizemore said. “If you were out this past Saturday in the park — at Munn Park — and you saw the crowd of people there, so it’s not only good for our fellow citizens, it’s also good for business to be warm and welcoming, as well. So, thank you for this proclamation.”
There were no jeers, no boos, no yelling, no sign waving. There was just patient waiting until the time in the commission agenda for public comments.
Then Jon Friedt, pastor of Believers Fellowship Lakeland, told Mutz and the commissioners that “there are incredible risks associated with the LGBTQ practices,” including greater risk of sexually transmitted disease and high rates of promiscuity.
“I could not disagree with that pastor more,” Friedt said about Sizemore. “There is a direct link between homosexuality and pedophilia and although most homosexuals are not engaged in pedophilia, there is a disproportionately greater number of homosexuals among pedophiles and the push to make pedophilia acceptable.”
According to stopabusecampaign.org, a website dedicated to ending any kind of abuse of children, “misinformation and hysteria around this topic threaten to stigmatize LGBTQI+ people further and don’t protect children.” The website states that “most child sex offenders consider themselves heterosexual,” and offer up as examples convicted child rapists Jerry Sandusky and Jared Fogel – both married heterosexuals who fathered children.
“Researchers have studied the question of homosexual men being more likely to sexually abuse children, as well as the question of homosexual men being sexually attracted to boys,” the website states. “In a one-year period at a major child abuse center, less than 1% of the abusers who were identified were in a homosexual relationship.”
But Friedt said “the LGBTQ plus agenda is being pushed all over the nation, saturating television, internet, advertising, and more … To sit as a citizen, having love and concern for all, I want to urge our city leadership and the residents to avoid the promotion of such unhealthy lifestyles, but rather to promote monogamous, healthy relationships within the confines of marriage.”
Friedt said the life expectancy of gay and bisexual men is eight to 20 years less than heterosexuals, and there are significantly elevated rates of psychiatric illnesses such as depression, suicide attempts, and drug abuse.
But the website healthline.com states that “negative attitudes and cultural stigmas put LGBTQIA+ youth at a higher risk for bullying, teasing, and physical violence than their heterosexual peers … In 2019, around 23 percent of LGB youth attempted suicide versus 6 percent of heterosexual youth.”
Paul Armes, a priest at St. John the Evangelist Church, a Western Orthodox Christian church, also spoke to commissioners, saying there is one law in the universe — “God’s law, called the moral law.” He said God’s design is for one man and one woman to be married and to bring children into the world conceived in that union.
“The LGBTQ plus culture is a culture of loneliness and lying,” Armes said. “A proclamation in support of this is not one of freedom but of slavery and death, contrary again to the good desires of the Creator of mankind.”
Carolyn Broderick told Mutz he had overstepped his boundaries as the mayor and asked if Mutz would then be celebrating “Beasteology” Month for people who have sex with animals, or Sexual Predator Month for rapists, or Adultery Month for people who cheat on their spouses or Fornication Month for people who want to celebrate sex with anyone.
“I propose today that you strike that down because you are proclaiming the acceptament (sic) of a sexual or chosen sexual behavior,” Broderick said. “You should not make any decision whether about anything sexual. That is not your place and that’s my opinion.”
Mildred Paga’n asked if every June would be declared Pride Month and said the LGBTQ community is not discriminated against. Instead, Christians are.
“You took God out of school, you took the Ten Commandments out of the square, you took God’s book out of school, and you’re bringing in garbage in the school,” Paga’n said. “And you’re bringing in the filth into the middle of the street where I don’t even want to go downtown … I have a cousin who just passed away. He probably went to hell because he was living that way. And he was a lawyer. He lived in the greatest thing — and nothing kept him — he could be whatever he wanted to be, but he didn’t want to change what God called an abomination.”
Two members of the audience, who were there on other business, then got up and spoke.
Bobby Shields, an engineer, said he was proud of the city for the public acceptance of all people.
“To the people behind me, that religion is not applicable to everybody. Their thoughts are not applicable to everybody. Whatever your perception of life or love or whatever, that’s your deal. And the fact that they don’t feel like they’re being, that they shouldn’t be accepting of others is disgusting,” Shields said. “And I just want to say they’re in the minority. They’re just the loudest minority but they are the minority.”
Shields went on to say that his sisters, who grew up in Lakeland, were “horribly bullied” in school for being different.
“I just want to say thank you for your proclamation for their community, showing that they are allowed to be different,” Shields said. “It’s not a celebration of the Pride Month – it is to show that they’re allowed to be who they are. They don’t have to hide from people like you guys. They’re allowed to be who they want to be.”
MeLynda Rene Rinker became emotional as she talked about loving people no matter who and what they are. And then she shared a detail about one of the most painful times of her life.
“As a child, I was molested by a person in the church. And then I was told by the pastor … that if I didn’t forgive that person that I was then also going to hell. So, so be it,” said Rinker. “Show some love for the people who are out there who need you. I don’t go to church because of people like this, who are hateful and cruel and mean to people who are different because they choose a different lifestyle.”
Mutz then spoke up to explain that anyone can ask the city to issue a proclamation. If it is a topic that adheres to the law, the city will move forward.
“I respect the strong position with respect to the biblical view that you wanted to provide and I make no compromise and within that view, a Judeo Christian ethic or responsibilities, unconditionally to love and honor others,” Mutz said. “Each of us has the opportunity to decide how to put those values on and how to apply them to a world in which we live. And we, as a nation, have made same-sex marriage an option, and it is in the court system. And we, as a commission, need to uphold those citizens’ rights. It doesn’t mean that we are violating what might be personally not our own values set and choices that we make as individuals, but it does mean we honor everyone with respect to legally given rights.”
Lakeland’s proclamation came a week after The Ledger reported that Lake Wales city commissioners refused to issue a proclamation declaring June as Pride Month, as it had done every year since 2018, except for 2020 during the pandemic.
The Ledger also reported that Lake Wales had no written policy about declaring proclamations, nor does Lakeland.
Mutz said the process has been very simple: People who want a proclamation read, based on many factors, make a request to recognize people or accomplishments or conditions that exist. The most recent one declared June 19th as Juneteenth to acknowledge the day slaves were freed following the Civil War.
“There isn’t a proclamation that is read that I haven’t reviewed,” Mutz told the commissioners. “So it’s extremely important to me, that what those represent, what those proclamations say, is uncompromising truth, is uncompromising in terms of the commission’s position … our proclamation view is: What do we do to honor everyone within the civil rights that exist in our nation?”
Clarification: An earlier version of this article that noted that several people responded “Amen” when Armes ended his talk by saying, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.” In a review of the city commission video and LKLDNow’s audio recording of the meeting, it is now not clear who in the room said amen – whether it was city commissioners or audience members.
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