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SBC EC affirms stance against proposed Nashville ordinance

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Southern Baptist Convention officials’ stance against proposed “sexual orientation” protections in Nashville was affirmed by the SBC Executive Committee Feb. 18.

In a unanimous vote, the 80-member Executive Committee went on record to “affirm the actions taken and concerns expressed by Dr. [Morris H.] Chapman and the senior staff of the Executive Committee in opposition to a recent Nashville Metro Council ordinance amendment designed to include homosexuals as a protected class.”

Chapman is president of the Executive Committee, which maintains its offices in Nashville. The Executive Committee is charged with representing the interests of the Southern Baptist Convention between annual meetings.

And it was the Executive Committee which initiated a recommendation last year for Nashville as the site of the 2005 SBC annual meeting city, which was approved by messengers to the June 2002 SBC annual meeting in St. Louis.

The Executive Committee statement of support for the stance by Chapman and EC staff, adopted during the closing session of the committee’s Feb. 17-18 meeting in Nashville, called for:

— “… continued monitoring and similar appropriate action by staff should further attempts be made by local government officials to validate the homosexual lifestyle within Davidson County, Tennessee, where LifeWay Christian Resources, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, the Council of Seminary Presidents, the Southern Baptist Foundation, and the Executive Committee all maintain their corporate offices.” LifeWay’s SBC-wide Sunday School and discipleship ministries and publishing encompass 1,500 employees in Nashville.

— Executive Committee staff to “continue to convey to proper local government officials the Executive Committee’s strong objection to any official action attempting to recast homosexuality as an acceptable and positive lifestyle, and also continue to express the Executive Committee’s ongoing interest in assuring that Nashville remain a quality conservative environment for corporate offices and conducive to the hosting of future annual meetings.”

Two proposed amendments to Nashville’s codes were withdrawn during a Metro Council meeting Feb. 4 by their sponsor, Chris Ferrell, in response to doubts about the measures’ legality raised by the city law director and by council’s special counsel.

Ferrell, however, said he will work with the city attorneys to draft a new amendment to Nashville’s anti-discrimination ordinance providing a clear exemption for religious institutions — missing in the first of Ferrell’s proposals — and address other legal concerns that had been raised.

“Everyone seems to agree that withdrawing the two pending bills and filing another is the best way to proceed,” the councilman told The Tennessean daily newspaper. Ferrell is a member of Glendale Baptist Church in Nashville, which employs a lesbian minister and is an affiliate of the Alliance of Baptists group that supports homosexual rights and clergy ordinance.

The issue continues to be a focus of concern in a number of churches, including Nashville’s largest Southern Baptist church, Two Rivers, whose pastor, Jerry Sutton, attended the Feb. 4 council meeting.

Several dozen opponents of Ferrell’s proposals attended the Feb. 4 council meeting, many of them wearing stickers with the words, “God Knows Best. Vote no.” Denny Patterson, pastor of Nolensville Road Baptist Church, told The Tennessean, “We want to make sure we keep the pressure on, let them know that anytime they bring this up, we’ll be down here to oppose it.”

Petitions opposing special rights for homosexuals and “transgendered” individuals are being circulated in Two Rivers and various other churches.

One such petition states:

“We, the undersigned residents, citizens, voters, taxpayers and consumers of Davidson County, Tennessee, STRONGLY OPPOSE any attempt to include sexual orientation as a protected class under [Ferrell’s proposed amendments to the city codes] BL-2002-1274 and BL2003-1313, and ANY bills designed to validate or formally recognize any non-traditional genders or sexual preferences. We urge the individual members of the Metro Council and Vice Mayor [Howard] Gentry to vote AGAINST these measures. If necessary, Mayor [Bill] Purcell, we urge you to VETO them. Thank you.”

Under Ferrell’s proposals, the words “sexual orientation” would be added to Metro Nashville’s Fair Employment and Housing Law stipulating that people cannot be discriminated against because of their “race, color, religion, national origin or sex.” The word, “sex,” meanwhile, would be changed to “gender.”