What is the job of a pastor? Why do people turn to them for guidance, and why do so many pastors lie to the ones who come to them for truth and understanding of this crazy world we live in? Pastor Jim Franklin of Fresno’s Cornerstone church (1455 Fulton St.—Downtown Fresno) has a duty to the people of his church to teach them the word of god and guide them on their journeys to becoming spiritually closer to the Lord. He is supposed to be doing this by interpreting the bible in such a way that the people of his congregation can understand it better, and to tell the truth at all times. Well, I’m going to show you that not only is he lying to the members of his congregation, and to the people of the community, but that is he is interpreting the bible in such a way as to push his own political agenda.
In this expose, you will be seeing quotes from Jim Franklin, Robin McGehee of the GSA Network of Fresno, and Sergio Benavides, a local out gay attorney. These quotes come from a compilation of interviews conducted by myself, news reports from the media, television broadcasts, and online sermons put out by Jim Franklin himself.
"This isn’t about people wanting to live together. This isn’t about same sex couples; they already have all the rights that married couples have. What this is about is freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and now, about our democratic process."
—Jim Franklin of Cornerstone Church (in reference to Proposition 8)
Let’s start this off with a bang, folks. As you can see from the above quote—which comes from one of his video broadcasts that he puts out from on top of his church—he says a lot of things that are just plain false. In just two sentences he lies five times. Five times people! You can see here that I have my work cut out for me.
Let’s begin with the one truth that he said: “This isn’t about people wanting to live together.” At no point have we been unable to live together on a legal level. Now, on a personal level, when it comes to people letting same sex couples rent apartments or homes, I know this can be otherwise. But legally, there is nothing preventing us from living together. Good job, Jim. At least now we know you are actually capable of telling the truth.
On the other hand, this has everything to do with same sex couples. The Proposition itself is titled, "Eliminates the rights of same sex couples to marry," which he should know, considering he was the “Yes on 8” campaign leader in Fresno. Proposition 8 is exclusively about same sex couples and has absolutely nothing to do with people in opposite sex relationships. In no way does Proposition 8 affect people involved in opposite sex relationships or their families. All the gay community wants is for our love to be recognized, respected, and to be as valid and legal as anyone else’s. This is about us having the same rights and privileges that are shared by our neighbors. If we all had the same rights, would this fight be going on right now?
Currently there are over one thousand differences between marriage and civil unions (which are also known as “domestic partnerships”) in the United Sates ( http://www.nclrights.org/site/DocServer/1500reasons-0304.pdf?docID=901 ).
Are you aware that when you are married in any of our US states that you are married in all of them? This means that all the rights you have in Texas—if that’s where you were originally married—would still be valid in, let’s say, California, when you come here on vacation. When it comes to civil unions, however (if they are even offered in what ever state you are in), the rights you may get are only applicable in the state where the union is issued.
What if your husband or wife becomes ill when you are visiting in Florida and is unable to make their own medical decisions or let their last wishes be known? No worries. When you are married, you have the right to make those decisions for your spouse no matter where you happen to be at the time. The same can’t be said for same sex couples in a civil union. You may not get the opportunity to make those decisions for your partner, and there is a good chance that their wishes will not be respected because you aren’t able to make sure they are heard. You might not be able to even see your partner. All we want is to share the same privileges and rights that are given to everyone but us. How is it that we do not deserve these rights too?
If you would like to look further into the differences between marriage and civil unions, here is a link to help you out. Yeah, it only took one link. http://www.letcaliforniaring.org/site/c.ltJTJ6MQIuE/b.3348081/k.B080/Facts.htm
As for Jim Franklin’s comments about freedom of religion, this has nothing to do with taking away that right from people, or making them believe anything they don’t want to. The gay community has certainly had no intentions of coming into his church to be married. Not to mention that marriage has become a state institution, and I certainly don’t see him saying that he would be willing to give up all his legal rights just so long as he can keep the word marriage. Wouldn’t that seem like a logical thing to do? Can you tell me how my partner and I going into a state owned building to get a certificate of marriage has anything to do with him and his church? I didn’t think so. I think I’ll leave the freedom of speech one alone, seeing as how he is free to say whatever it is he wants.
"Prop 8 is about democracy and goes back to our founding fathers. There are checks and balances in place to protect the minority from the mood swings of the majority. Slavery was once considered legal, until the courts decided otherwise."
—Sergio Benavides (local out gay attorney)
On Nov 16th there were demonstrations held in front of three churches here in Fresno. The major one was held at Cornerstone Church, led by Robin McGehee of the GSA Network. The demonstrators where handing out flowers to members of Jim Franklin’s congregation which read, "Do onto others as you would have them do onto you". Robin felt that the flowers would make a bigger impact then waving signs and protesting. At one point Franklin invited Robin and Jason Scott of the “No On 8” campaign to join him on stage and to speak with his congregation, during which he said, "There are some friends from the community outside and they have been handing out flowers, and I would just like to say that I appreciate their attitude and they have not been in any way offensive to anybody coming in, and I appreciate that." Well the very next week he changes his tune when he broadcasts this from the top of his church, "We had a group of protesters, those that where against prop 8, that came out and protested in front of corner stone church. I really don’t believe that places of worship are places to protest. Basically when you protest in front of a church you are basically telling people that you disagree with their religion." Now if you ask me this is kind of shady, but I’m sure you don’t want to hear what I have to say, which is why I went and talked with Robin Mcgehee who organized the event in front of his church.
JM: Jay Matthew
RM: Robin McGehee
JM: Hi, I’m Jay Matthew and I’m writing for a couple of websites. What’s your name?
RM: Robin McGehee
JM: When Jim Franklin Invited you on stage did that come as a surprise to you?
RM: Absolutely, I had thought ahead of time what I would do if he invited us into worship, like if we would sit in and attempt to worship with him, and I made the decision that I wasn’t going to do that. Personally growing up as a person of faith in Mississippi I know the rhetoric that comes from very traditional conservative churches, which I believe Jim Franklin is at, and my only response to him coming and asking me to worship was going to be no but that I appreciated the invite or whatever. When Jason came up to me and said, "They wanted me to speak on stage but I don’t want to do it, would you be willing to do it?" my response was "Are you serious?!" cause I really didn’t believe he was just going to let us be on his stage. Once we got up there it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, because I didn’t really know just what to expect, and my opinion of him is that he could say something that could belittle what we where trying to do, or say something to not honor the respect that I felt I was giving him to even be willing to go on his stage. So it was just an awkward moment.
JM: Did anything he said surprise you?
RM: No, because I knew he would try to justify it in his own mind and to his parishioners by calling us friends. We worked together on a committee, and I don’t believe friends eliminate rights of a person, or work to eliminate the rights of a person. I think that we have had a cordial working relationship, but you know how to present that to a group and give the history of what we have done together as a community member, in that setting I think was just hard to do. He had to make sense to them in a quick amount of time and what irritated me the most about the news that was presented around it was that it looked like he had invited us there. We were there based on our own networking and organizing, he invited us on his stage. Yeah we went to his neighborhood, yeah we went to his house, it would be like us being the missionary for peace and he has never tried to come and engage me at my place of worship. He has never tried to engage me at my home, and you know reach out and try and create this olive branch that’s saying, “Can’t we figure out a way we can agree to disagree?” I was surprised that he took that stance to say "Friend" but I want surprised that he took the "we come from two different sides" on this. I knew he was going to try and throw his whole two cents in there.
JM: I noticed that when you were up on stage that you did not mention anything about him throwing away the flowers, was there a reason for that?
RM: No because in my opinion I did not have proof that he gave the directive, and I feel actions speak louder then words. So for me whenever he acknowledged it and said "I don’t know why that was happening" I would have to trust him on his word until I know that he gave the order that those flowers need to be thrown away. My assumption about the church is that there is probably nothing that happens there that Jim Franklin doesn’t know about, especially because the group was so ready for us to show up, that I believe they’re on their walkie-talkies discussing what they thought was going to happen and what their response was going to be. I would venture a guess that someone walkie-talkie’d to him and said "They have got flowers what do we do? I think we should take them from them so they are not in the church." And he probably agreed to that or gave the directive, but in that moment I had no idea what his decision was. Actions speak louder then words, I don’t need to call him on something publicly when his parishioners knew what he did. What good would it have done for me to say "Why did you take our flowers and throw them away?" because listening to me they knew the person that I was representing myself to be, and they had to think about the actions that they saw their church taking.
JM: Did they give you any specific rules about speaking or say anything about not mentioning certain subjects?
RM: No. The only thing he said is "You know Robin, we have worked together and I hope that you will be respectful when you are up there and the way you talk to my audience or what you say" I don’t know what he meant by that. I took that as you’re not going to get up there and ‘LETS PROTEST!!" on his stage. He said "I know you and your work in the community and I believe that you are one to work together in a peaceful manner to try and figure out how we can both voice our religious beliefs and our freedom of speech" and I said to him, "Yes absolutely I will be very respectful but I’m going to say what my convictions are and your audience is going to make sense for themselves what they feel about that. And then I asked of him if he would do us the same respect, Jason and I, and not say anything or do anything that would be disrespectful to us. My thought was, “What if we get up there and he wants to have this "throw snakes on us" or have an exorcism, or whatever it is that he believes would need to be done to us in front of his congregation?”
JM: Please lord take this…
RM: Exactly right. Exactly, and even then the last thing he said was, “Would you guys mind praying with me?” He asked Jason that and asked me that. I said I don’t mind at all I’m a person of faith and I’m willing to pray, but my thought was I hope that he stays true to his promise. He could have definitely gone into his rhetoric about "Now let’s take this moment to rid her of her sins……"
JM: where you aware that the very next day he was referring to you and the other people handing out flowers as protestors, and how does that make you feel?
RM: It doesn’t bother me because I believe that we were protesting, and I think that his definition of protesting may have changed a little in reference to how he talked about us the night before. "Coming down to a person’s place of worship with signs and yelling is not appropriate" or what ever he was saying. What I loved about it was that I took that away from him. It wasn’t like we planned to change what we were doing based on what he said we were already planning to do what we were doing. And when he said that comment, well I just thought, “Well aren’t you going to be surprised tomorrow?” It still doesn’t surprise me that on Monday he would still call this protesting and I just think that he, and I know that they will never probably admit it, but I know that they where shocked. They where expecting signage, yelling, and screaming. I’m happy that we did not meet what they thought we would do. And it doesn’t mean that people that want to do that are wrong, it just means that for myself I felt like the first plan of attack was to say "Do onto others as you have them do onto you." and I know that I wouldn’t want Jim Franklin standing outside of my church with the biggest Leviticus sign that is quoting bible scriptures just as much as he doesn’t want me standing outside his church saying, "Judge not lest ye be judged." So I think it’s a double edged sword when you are dealing with it from that perspective.
JM: Were you in any way protesting Jim Franklins religion or the faith of his members?
RM: Absolutely not, I think that they are entitled to believe in whatever they want to believe in, just like I am. Their religion doesn’t trump my religion, even though that proposition reflects their religious belief, but that’s one of the major reasons I feel that proposition 8 is unconstitutional. It’s saying that one person’s religious beliefs are going to be put into law over my own. You know, my religion marries people at the church, and now they are saying that my church can’t do what they feel is religiously correct. But again, I don’t feel like his religion is bad or wrong, I just believe that he has a different perspective on religion than I do. But what I do believe is totally wrong is when you use programs like Exodus or the "changing people from being gay" programs that you find people who are impressionable, depressed, psychologically unstable, and have been battered down by the community. And although those programs for him are maybe working I don’t think they are working for our community. I think that they lead to higher suicide rates, higher divorce and self hate, things that come from programs like that. So if I were to be protesting anything it would be protesting that program at his church, and not his belief. When you start advocating and running programs like that in your church that are psychologically damaging to individuals, that’s how you create internalized homophobia.
"I pray that they stand by the letter of the law that those who supported prop 8 stood by."
When I heard that one I was so confused with what he was trying to say. Yeah they followed the letter of the law when it came to getting something on the ballot for people to vote on it, even though they went and did almost all of that inside of the churches. However, when I talked to Sergio Benevedias, a local out attorney about whether or not they followed the letter of the law when it came to prop 8 he had this to say, "What I believe now is that there is a real question whether or not they followed the letter of the law to accomplish what they wanted."
"We are going to treat everyone with respect and dignity, and even though we disapprove we are going to call a halt to the violence, the threats, and the vandalism that has happened to churches" Jim Franklin
That quote was said a little over a month ago, when all the cameras were on him. Now what has he done exactly to show that he now respects the people he disagrees with? Has anyone heard this awe-inspiring sermon Coming Out of the Closet, which is still on the front page of his churches website, If you haven’t I would suggest you check it out. In this ground breaking sermon he says that the court’s decision to overturn prop 22 "reeks of arrogance," and that the whole reason "we are in this mess," is apathy. Now if you were to ask me right now how I would describe this to my friends, I think that I would describe his words as dignified and respectful. I would also like to know where he got those religious statistics on the beliefs of the voters; last I checked the government did not keep track of that info at the polls. Now if you can listen to all of that, and ignore all the mistakes, you would get some really good quotes. Again I would like to mention that just the very next week after the flower demonstration, and you can see that in the above video, he was telling people that there was a group of people protesting the faith of the members of his church… well basically that was what he was saying. Sure some people may say, "A few bad apples," but just so you know the whole metaphor is, "even a few bad apples will quickly ruin the whole barrel." And man, that barrel is starting to stink over there.
I would like to end this with a special note to whomever it was making those death threats. It doesn’t matter what you think about Jim Franklin or Mayor Autry, get your crap together and get yourself some help. (Fresno County Mental Health 453-4260) Give them a call, its confidential.