February 11, 2022
On Monday, February 7th, 2022, in a stunning reversal the WL city councilors who were proposing ordinance 31-21 banning unlicensed counselors from practicing so-called “conversion therapy” with minors withdrew the legislation before any public comment was allowed and before the council had the opportunity to vote on even its first reading…
If this is a new topic to you, you may want to go to www.freedomlafayette.org and learn why many in our community and other places opposed this ordinance.
Faith has never practiced conversion therapy, but somewhere along the line the activists have dramatically broadened the definition in a way that it could certainly include the biblical counseling that we and others have provided in our town for the last 45 years.
The week we heard about this, we asked an attorney to craft meaningful religious exemption language and passed that along to the members of the city council.
When they refused to add that specific language to the ordinance, we saw it as a threat to the free speech rights of our counselees, and our religious liberty as counselors.
The summary of what transpired over the next 9 weeks was that the government threatened to criminalize faith-based counseling…the people of God rose up and said that we will not be intimidated and we will not be silenced…and the government wisely backed down before they had to answer for their illegal intentions in a court of law.
Before Dr. Sanders withdrew his proposal, in an on-line public meeting where no public comment was allowed, he gave an impassioned speech aimed at me personally and our church’s counseling ministry.
I would encourage you to go to freedomlafayette.org to the Blogs & Videos page and watch the video entitled David Sanders withdraws Ordinance 31-21 and carefully watch what he said and did, and then, while you’re there, watch him call pro-life Purdue University students pornographers and child abusers in the video entitled Why would the WL City Council follow a leader with a track record of hate and derision?
Dr. Sanders accused me and/or Faith in 6 different ways:
1. We do not like members of the Jewish and/or LGBTQ+ communities
2. I besmirched and/or vilified the West Lafayette community
3. I was dishonest in telling of a public interchange between myself and Council member Gerald Thomas
4. I accused Dr. Sanders of working with someone to steal money from us
5. One of Faith’s staff members tried to practice conversion therapy on him
6. Faith bullied the City of West Lafayette with a lawsuit
Proverbs 26 explains the delicate balance where sometimes you should respond to a person lest his words be allowed to stand, at other times it’s best to leave it alone.
I’ve prayed about that this week and decided it would be best to offer a few brief responses in the spirit of Proverbs 18:17 – where King Solomon 3000 years ago explained that “The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him”...which is why you should always allow for public comment in community meetings, even when conducted virtually.
First, it is not true that Faith does not like members of the LGBTQ+ community.
We have substantive disagreement that will probably not change in this life, but I love surrounding myself with people who think and act differently than me and I invite those kinds of friendships and interactions.
As far as the way we feel about people of Jewish descent, evangelical Christians have been some of Israel’s strongest supporters, and we have strong biblical and theological reasons for that. We certainly have no animus or dislike toward them at all.
Second, Councilor Sanders claims that I tarnished the reputation of West Lafayette. I believe the WL City Council did that themselves through the legislative process they chose to follow in this matter.
It is true that people around the country are talking about ordinance 31-21 in very disparaging ways, but that is because the council sought to criminalize faith-based ministry
People who love freedom are not going to tolerate that, and elected officials should not be surprised when men and women express their opposition.
I have also spoken about a pattern of animus that has existed between some members of the WL government toward people of conservative religious faith.
That is the observation our bond attorney from Ice Miller made ten years ago when he said that in all his career, he had never seen the kind of uproar created simply because we are a Bible believing church.
Two of the worst experiences I have ever had in my 34 years of public ministry have been with the WL City Council.
Thankfully, most of the people in WL have been very welcoming towards us, but the city council tarnished the city’s reputation, not me.
Third is the accusation that the exchange I have described from June 4th, 2012 between myself and Council member Gerald Thomas did not happen.
Actually, it did happen, and hundreds of our church members watched it unfold.
However, there are two aspects of that for which I would like to publicly seek Mr. Thomas’ forgiveness, and I had reached out to him prior to the Monday meeting night for the same purpose.
First, he did not say at the end of the meeting that he would be watching me…his exact words were that he would be holding me to my word.
My recollection of his exact words was faulty, and it led me to be imprecise in what I said, and that’s not right
Secondly, I should not have mentioned that event in that setting because in the context, I was speaking about a pattern of animus…
I do not believe Mr. Thomas has ever evidenced animus towards us, so I request his forgiveness for conflating those 2 concepts
I do continue to believe that it was inappropriate for him to call me out in that meeting on June 4th, 2012 in that fashion.
Roberts Rules of Order dictates that speakers address the chair, not individuals.
Nevertheless he chose to address me directly and remind me of his wife’s work on the human relations commission and saying that he would hold me to my word.
Why did he feel like he needed to say that to me in front of hundreds of members of our church and community?
It wasn’t because of my gender , or my ethnicity, or my sexual orientation…I don’t even think he would have said this to me if I had been a liberal pastor. He said it because of my religion…I pastor a Bible believing church and some people seem to believe that means we should be treated differently…that’s what discrimination is.
Fourth is the accusation that I accused Dr. Sanders of working with someone who steal from us.
That’s simply gas lighting.
I explained in a video that because of the pattern of animus on the part of some leaders, the incidence of harassment towards us increased.
The principle is – what leaders do “in moderation,” followers (in this case – members of the community) do in excess.
It did not surprise me that the controversy around 31-21 started to heat up…someone forged two checks and robbed our counseling ministry of $9000
Faith has something like 32 different checking accounts…it’s fascinating that the one targeted belonged to our counseling center.
My point was – and is – that when leaders treat us in a discriminatory fashion, it creates an environment where followers…members of the community, not a particular ethnic group, are emboldened, directly or indirectly, to do what they did.
What is especially sad about that example is that I clarified that in a follow-up question Dr. Sanders posed to me, but he told the story to fit his own agenda anyway
Fifth is the issue of a staff member practicing conversion therapy on him in a religious sense
Dr. Sanders repeatedly initiated conversations about the Bible with me and members of my staff.
We did not initiate those conversations, he did. Repeatedly
If you want to talk to anyone from Faith about the Bible, we’re eventually going to be talking about Jesus Christ, and that should surprise no one.
It’s as simple as John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
The staff member in question has made the entire e-mail exchange available publicly, and if you would like a copy, please feel free to contact our church office.
Last is the notion that we bullied the city council with a threatened lawsuit.
No, actually, we did the city council’s job.
When a council member is sworn in, they promise to follow the constitution, and conduct the business of the city without bias.
The letter was not bullying or a threat, but rather an appropriate warning of what could result from their intended course of action, namely an expensive lawsuit.
As our attorneys pointed out – 31-21 was “constitutionally invalid on its face.”
Well, they should have understood this was a violation of children’s right to free speech…because plenty of children in WL love God, believe the Bible, and want to talk to someone from that source of truth…the city council can’t suppress their right to free speech
Many parents in our community love God and His Word, and may wish to speak to someone with their children from the Word of God…the city council can’t suppress that parent’s right to free speech…
And counselors have a right to speak freely from whatever source of truth we choose…and the city council’s only role is to ensure that everyone’s right to free speech is protected.
Faith should not have had to go to the time and expense to point that out.
And the irony of the city threatening to fine us $1000 per day if we dared use the Bible in counseling…and then calling me a bully for pointing out their illegal behavior is almost too rich for words…
Thankfully, 31-21 has been soundly defeated, and that’s taught some very important lessons to the people here in West Lafayette, but thankfully to city and towns around the United States
The battle belongs to the Lord…and we thank Him for the protection He provided for His people
Now we’re looking forward to getting back to positive community ministry with a focus on another 31-21, that is, Psalm 31:21 Blessed be the LORD, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city.
Senior Pastor - Faith Church