An LGBTQ Pride organization in central Newfoundland says an event it was involved in was cancelled after a church refused to allow the group on its property.
In a statement on Wednesday, Grand Falls-Windsor Pride said a healthy living walk, led by the town’s Lions Club on the property of The Salvation Army Park Street Citadel, was called off.
In an interview with CBC News, Grand Falls-Windsor Pride co-chair Alyssa Frampton said the church didn’t ask the Lions Club to cancel the event, but instead asked the Club to uninvite Grand Falls-Windsor Pride.
“They did not want to do that,” said Frampton.” “They thought, ‘that’s not equity, that’s not inclusion.'”
The Grand Falls-Windsor Lions Club opted to cancel the event entirely, rather than uninvite Grand Falls-Windsor Pride, said Frampton.
“The Grand Falls-Windsor Lions Club believes in an inclusive environment for all people,” said the Club in a statement.
The Salvation Army Park Street Citadel has not responded to interview requests, but in an emailed statement a national Salvation Army spokesperson said the church was disappointed with the way the situation unfolded, and never asked for the event to be canceled.
“We would like to reaffirm that as a faith-based organization, The Salvation Army Park Street Citadel is guided by the organization’s core values and welcomes all on church property.”
CBC News asked specifically if the church asked the Lions Club to uninvite the Grand Falls-Windsor Pride, and if it would allow a Pride event on its property.
“The Salvation Army Park Street Citadel did not ask for the event to be cancelled, we welcome all to enjoy what the church property has to offer,” said the spokesperson in a follow-up statement.
Rebecca Blackmore, another member of the organization, said the statement doesn’t add up for her.
“We were not welcome on church property. It was made clear.”
Nationally, The Salvation Army has explicitly condemned LGBTQ conversion therapy and discrimination.
A change of plans
Frampton and Blackmore said the organization has been overwhelmed by support since the event was canceled.
Grand Falls-Windsor Mayor Barry Manuel told CBC News the town has reached out to the Lions Club to offer an alternate venue for the walk.
“Any kind of discrimination really has no place in our community, and for us, we want to be proactive, obviously, to continue to work with the Pride group,” he said. “I just hope that the parties are talking and discussing and hopefully they can rectify this because it’s not what we usually see in Grand Falls-Windsor.”
While there isn’t currently a new date for the walk, Pride Grand-Falls Windsor said it plans to participate in a healthy living walk hosted by the Lions Club in the near future.
Grand Falls-Windsor Pride concluded a month of celebrations with a movie night on Wednesday.
A systemic problem
A former ordained minister said she wasn’t surprised to learn of the incident.
Though she wasn’t part of The Salvation Army Church, Katherine Roberts was an ordained minister for years as part of Victory Churches International.
“I believed every word of the Bible was true, and if it said that homosexuality was an abomination then it was an abomination. I didn’t question it.”
That is, until her two of her kids came out as gay.
“I found myself, like I said, at odds with my morals and some of the morality that the Bible teaches on women’s rights, gay rights, trans rights, just a whole lot of things,” she said. “Eventually, I felt that I had to leave it behind. I was just no longer convinced that it was real.”
Roberts said she was encouraged to read supportive comments on the Grand Falls-Windsor Pride Facebook page from members of the Salvation Army church.
“There were a lot of people who were saying that they are Salvation Army and that they were disappointed with the organization for handling it this way,” she said.
“People are making room to be more [inclusive.]”
Roberts said the incident points to a systemic problem — and Frampton agrees.
“There are definitely so many young people who are still getting those messages that they’re not welcomed in different spaces,” she said. “It’s not just this church.”