Human rights complaint against Regina's Victory Church has more than 840 co-plaintiffs
On Sunday, LGBT advocates and faith leaders will peacefully protest in front of the church
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."
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.
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."
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."
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."