Human rights complaint against Regina's Victory Church has more than 840 co-plaintiffs

A member of the local LGBTQ community is filing a human rights complaint against Regina's Victory Church.

On Sunday, LGBT advocates and faith leaders will peacefully protest in front of the church

Terry Van Mackelberg goes by Flo Mingo on stage. Flo performs to raise money for Lulu's Lodge, a Regina shelter for LGBTQ youth. (Terry Van Mackelberg)

A member of the local LGBTQ community is filing a human rights complaint against Regina's Victory Church. 

Terry Van Mackelberg organized the application under the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, which protects a person's right to equality without discrimination based on age, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Within two days, more than 840 people — mainly from Regina and Saskatoon — signed the application, becoming co-plaintiffs.

"Unfortunately, we're not in a place yet where we are fully accepted and we can live our true lives," Van Mackelberg said. "We're getting there. We're getting close. But definitely, there are some people out there that are not happy with the steps I'm taking."

Terry Van Mackelberg filed a human rights complaint against Regina Victory Church. (Terry Van Mackelberg)

The filing is in response to a sermon made by Regina Victory Church's pastor Terry Murphy.

"I don't believe we've done anything to break human rights, but the LGBTQ community has rights as well. And like everyone else, they have the right to complain when they want to," Murphy said in response to the application. 

Since Murphy's sermon was posted online, it has received backlash from the community. Local leaders have called it homophobic and transphobic, and Regina businesses have been changing their profile pictures on social media accounts to Pride flags to promote acceptance and inclusiveness. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the congregation at Regina Victory Church has moved online on Sundays. On March 6, Pastor Terry Murphy delivered an online sermon that drew ire from the community. On Sunday, LGBT advocates and faith leaders will peacefully protest in front of the church. (Matthew Howard/CBC)

This Sunday, faith leaders and LGBT activists are holding a peaceful rally in front of Regina Victory Church. 

Protecting LGBT youth

Van Mackelberg has been a long-standing advocate for LGBT youth. He has raised money for LuLu's Lodge, a Regina shelter for LGBT youth, under the stage name Flo Mingo. 

"I hid in the closet for 34 years and was afraid to come out based on knowing what would happen to me and the community that I grew up in," Van Mackelberg said. 

He said his parents do not speak to him and that if he came out as a youth, he would have been homeless. 

"My story isn't that different than other youth out there that may no longer have a relationship with their family due to who they truly are."

Flo Mingo uses her drag shows to raise money for Lulu's Lodge, a Regina shelter for LGBTQ youth. (Terry Van Mackelberg)

Although he lost family, he gained a community, and said he wants to show youth who watched the sermon that they are accepted and loved. 

In the sermon, Murphy criticized LGBT youth, saying gender fluidity is a form of child abuse.

"I want to show that this type of behaviour is not acceptable in society, and it never has been acceptable," Van Mackelberg said. "We can't be silenced and we can't be forced to live a life where we can't be who we truly are. Being gay is normal. I was born like this and there's nothing that anybody can do to change that."

Murphy defends sermon

The Victory Church pastor remains adamant he did not come from a place of hate and that his church is accepting of LGBT people.

"What I said was not hate speech. I've been misquoted. I've been misinterpreted. Some have even tried to interpret what I meant instead of what I said. There's been a large misrepresentation of my message," Murphy said. 

"I spent my life working with people, loving people and trying to help families in distress and help young people."

Pastor Terry Murphy of Regina Victory Church. (Matthew Howard/CBC)

He said he has been bullied and that people have "spewed hatred at us," something he called painful.

"Our services are our services. You don't go into a bake shop and ask them to fix your car. Then you can't come into a Christian church and expect us to convey messages that we don't agree with. We have our philosophy and ideology just like they do."