Stedfast Baptist Church in Hurst, Texas, is being evicted from its building after the church’s pastor, Jonathan Shelley, preached that those who practice homosexuality are “worthy of death.”
A judge ruled in favor of the building owner after Stedfast Baptist Church appealed a justice of the peace eviction order. According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the building owner argued that the church violated the terms of its lease, which prohibits threats and violence. The church will also have to pay $42,000 in attorney’s fees.
The eviction does not appear to come in response to one particular sermon, but rather a pattern of hate speech directed at the LGBTQ community over the course of time.
For example, in one sermon, Shelley celebrated the death of one person who was killed when a truck crashed through a Pride parade in Florida.
“And, you know, it’s great when trucks accidentally go through those, you know, parades. And I think only one person died so, hopefully, we can hope for more in the future,” Shelley said. “Well, you say that’s mean. But the Bible says they are worthy of death.”
While Shelley has maintained that he has not preached with the intent of his people acting violently toward the LGBTQ community, the court has ruled that his words nevertheless constitute a real threat of violence.
On February 23, Shelley posted a video response to the court’s ruling on YouTube, doubling down on his previous remarks.
“The situation is really unprecedented,” Shelley said. “In fact, even the enemies of our church are gloating and bragging about the fact that our church is being evicted for what we believe and what we preach. And they are actually incredulous, because they believed that the First Amendment would protect us, as did everybody who’s heard anything about our situation or our case.”
“Yet, today, you’re not allowed to preach what the Bible says without receiving a lot of harassment, a lot of persecution,” Shelley continued, going on to remark that he isn’t surprised by the “persecution” Stedfast Bible Church is receiving, because the church has been “thriving.” He then described the church’s evangelistic efforts.
“But the Great Commission goes beyond just simply preaching the gospel and getting people baptized to also teaching all things whatsoever Christ commanded,” Shelley said. “And because our church does believe very controversial verses in the Bible, it’s receiving all kinds of persecution and attack.”