Human Rights

Florida Church Cancels Gay Man’s Funeral the Night Before Service

“Based on our preaching of the scripture, we would have been in error to allow the service in our church,” the pastor said.

Julie Atwood was at her son’s casket when she received a phone call. It was her church telling her that after realizing her son was gay from his obituary, they were canceling his funeral service scheduled for the next day.

The New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, located in Tampa, said it would be “blasphemous” to hold the funeral service there.

Late last month, Atwood’s son, Julion Evans, died at age 42, after suffering from a rare disease called amyloidosis that slowly destroys the organs. Evans was in a relationship with his husband, Kendall Capers, for 17 years, and they married two years ago in Maryland.

When Evans’ family, who attended New Hope, asked the church to hold the funeral service there, they immediately said yes. But when members of the church read Evans’ obituary that stated he was married to a man, they began calling up the church to complain.

T.W. Jenkins, New Hope’s pastor, told WFLA:

Based on our preaching of the scripture, we would have been in error to allow the service in our church. …I'm not trying to condemn anyone's lifestyle, but at the same time, I am a man of God, and I have to stand up for my principles.

The family was rushed to find new arrangements in less than 24 hours, and ultimately, some mourners showed up to New Hope and missed the funeral.

Capers said that he wouldn’t have had a problem if they denied his husband a funeral service earlier, but doing it during his wake was “disrespectful” and “wrong.”

Atwood told reporters: “I did feel like he was being denied the dignity of death."

Watch more below: 

WFLA News Channel 8

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Alyssa Figueroa is an associate editor at AlterNet.