LGBT Groups Call for Department to End Relationship with First Baptist Church As Attacks Continue in Oak Lawn
A partnership between the Dallas Police Department and rabidly anti-LGBT Southern Baptist megachurch Pastor Robert Jeffress (photo) is raising questions about whether homophobia in law enforcement is contributing to a string of unsolved anti-gay hate crimes in the city's Oak Lawn neighborhood.
This week, several local LGBT groups called on the Dallas Police Department to end its partnership with Jeffress and his First Baptist Church of Dallas, after he recently compared pro-LGBT businesses to the terror group ISIS during a radio interview with the Family Research Council, itself an anti-LGBT hate group.
Meanwhile, yet another possible anti-gay hate crime was reported early Thursday in Oak Lawn. It was the 18th such incident since September, although LGBT advocates say many more have gone unreported, and police have made no arrests.
DFW: Oak Lawn attack may have been a hate crime https://t.co/niC5M148EF— FOX 4 NEWS (@FOX4) May 26, 2016
"The confidence from the LGBT community is just about zero,” Cece Cox, CEO of Dallas' LGBT community center, told KDFW-TV this week. “To have zero arrests, that I’m aware of, and zero legitimate action taken on these crime incidents where people are being brutally injured is really disturbing and raises a lot of questions about [the police department] paying attention.”
On Friday, Cox drew a connection between the department's partnership with Jeffress and the anti-gay crime wave in an interview with NBCDFW.com. Under the partnership, announced by police Chief David Brown during a "Back the Blue" rally at the church last month, First Baptist reportedly is providing counseling to Dallas police officers, and allowing their children to attend its Bible camps for free.
"It would be great if he [Brown] would have a conversation with us now, with someone from the LGBT community, about why this doesn’t sit well with us," Cox said of the partnership. "We have this decision with the partnership, on top of 18 unsolved assaults in Oak Lawn since September. What’s going on?"
Thus far, Brown hasn't responded to LGBT groups' concerns about the partnership. Mayor Mike Rawlings, who has a mixed record on LGBT issues and also spoke during the "Back the Blue" rally at First Baptist, told NBCDFW.com that Jeffress' recent anti-LGBT remarks "hurt [him] deeply" because, "That's not how Dallas is." But Rawlings is leaving the decision about whether to end the partnership in the hands of Brown.
"This is a tricky thing. You know, there are a lot of restaurants that give a free hamburger to police officers," Rawlings said. "Sometimes those restaurants might then do things that are wacky, too. So, I think Chief Brown will look at this issue and do what’s best."
Back in November, LGBT activists protested outside police headquarters, criticizing the department for failing to adequately respond to the anti-gay attacks, which have included one victim being stabbed repeatedly outside a nightclub and another being beaten with a baseball bat during last year's Pride celebration.
Take Back Oak Lawn, a group formed in response to the attacks, noted that in addition to his hateful remarks about LGBT people, Jeffress has said that women who have abortions should be punished and that Islam is a false religion inspired by Satan.
"We find that based on these very public statements, First Baptist Church poses a danger to the safety of a large segment of the Dallas population," Take Back Oak Lawn said in a statement. "We are very concerned that they would inadequately be able to provide fair and unbiased counseling services to officers servicing said population. We implore DPD to seriously reconsider their relationship with FBC and work closely with the communities affected by these disparaging statements to instill confidence that they will be kept safe."