ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–The pastor of one of Orlando’s largest churches has joined the fight to stop a proposed city council ordinance that would ban discrimination against homosexuals.
Jim Henry, pastor of the 11,000-member First Baptist Church of Orlando, has added his influence to a letter-writing campaign that has deluged city hall, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
The proposed ordinance would add sexual orientation to the city’s anti-discrimination categories. If approved, the law would bar discrimination against homosexuals in employment, housing and public accommodations.
“Both our church and [pastor] Jim Henry have not been known to be extremely political,” said Steve Smith, assistant pastor of First Baptist Church Orlando, told the Sentinel. “But we would include this issue in a category that we believe is a symptom of the breakdown in the traditional Judeo-Christian view of the family.”
Informational packets have been distributed to First Baptist members, including copies of a form letter being used in the campaign opposing the proposed ordinance. The letter also is on the church’s website.
The Sentinel described the anti-ordinance campaign as “an outcry within the local religious community not seen in years.” Among the letter-writers: Pat Williams, a prominent Orlando Magic executive who is well-known in evangelical sports circles.
City Hall officials told the Sentinel in late August they had received more than 6,500 letters, opposing the ordinance by a 2-1 margin. A temporary clerk had to be hired to keep track of the letters, postcards and e-mails coming into city hall.
Rocky Purvis, pastor of Downtown Baptist Church, told the Sentinel the letter-writing campaign does not contain religious arguments against homosexuality.
“When an evangelical Christian begins to speak in opposition to a certain social issue, there is a lot of name-calling,” Purvis told the newspaper. “You’re considered to be homophobic; you’re gay-bashing…. There are a lot of people who are afraid to voice what they believe biblically because they’re afraid to be falsely stereotyped.”