Protesters in North Texas are pushing for the eviction of a Baptist church that calls for the execution of LGBTQ people, but local officials are saying that they can’t do anything about it.
Dillon Awes, one of the pastors of Stedfast Baptist Church in Watauga, made headlines earlier this month when he said that LGBTQ people should be “put to death,” during a sermon entitled “Why We Won’t Shut Up.”
“These people should be put to death,” Awes said in a chilling speech in which he appeared to advocate for hate crimes.
“Every single homosexual in our country should be charged with a crime. The abomination of homosexuality that they have, they should be convicted in a lawful trial. They should be sentenced with death. They should be lined up against the wall and shot in the back of the head,” he continued, as members of the church can be heard saying “amen” and “that’s right.”
His comments outraged the local community and mobilized pro-LGBTQ protesters who are urging city leaders to take action and evict the church.
Steadfast Baptist Church moved to its current location earlier this year after it was evicted from the neighboring town of Hurst for violating the terms of the lease, which stipulated no threats or violence.
On Monday, several people spoke during a city council meeting saying that they are concerned for their safety — or the safety of family members who identify as LGBTQ.
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“It makes me angry, it makes me afraid, it makes me sad. This is 2022. We’re supposed to be better than this,” said LGBTQ activist Aster Graves.
Watauga resident Scott Young, who also spoke at the meeting, later told local television station KTVT-TV that he’s worried for the safety of his child, and wants law enforcement to get involved.
“My son is transgender. I’m scared for him walking around this community … He says that he encounters [hate] so often, [that the situation] is not new to him,” Young said. However, to Young, the situation is “very new and it makes me fearful for my own child,” he said.
Mayor Arthur Miner said that legally “there is nothing the city can do at this time, but we are looking at other avenues,” according to the Forth Worth Star-Telegram.
“They think that Watauga invited the church here,” he said. “That’s not true. If someone leases a building, it’s between the landlord and lease. The city issues a certificate of occupancy.”
Miner added that he is discussing the situation with the city attorney.
Some members of the church also spoke during the meeting, doubling down on their hateful rhetoric: “They deserve death,” church member Phili Milstead said.