KEITHVILLE, LA (KSLA) - A local Alcoholics Anonymous group will have to find another place to meet, after the church told them they are no longer welcome because they don't want to be forced to accommodate homosexual weddings.
In a letter signed by the pastor and minister of Westwood Baptist Church, the AA group was informed that the church facility will no longer be available to their organization beginning October 1, 2014.
The AA group had been holding their weekly meetings at the church for more than 5 years.
"As I am sure you are aware, God's church, his written word, and its values and principles have come under a constant and aggressive attack from the homosexual and lesbian community," the letter begins, before going on to say that "Churches and Christian businesses alike, across our nation, are being forced, by our legal system, to accommodate these groups in the use of their buildings/facilities to perform marriage ceremonies, receptions, etc." due to a court decision they say was based on the fact the churches and business were accepting and accommodating other public entities, and therefore must also accommodate the homosexual and lesbian community."
Church officials say they aren't turning anyone away from the church and all people are free to worship at the church, but Pastor David Venable says in order to stay in line with God's word, the church had to make a tough and carefully considered decision.
"They have every protection, gay people have no protection, so who is it that should be afraid of being victimized," said People Acting for Change and Equality political director, Adrienne Critcher.
"They say they are not out to get anyone but they singled out, homosexuals as having some agenda that they are trying to force on the Baptist Church," said Critcher.
The pastor of the church admits that he did in fact approve of the letter, but the church says that they were only acting on the advisement of an article that was published in the Louisiana Baptist Church Message that gave suggestions for safeguarding against homosexual weddings.
"Even if we have legalized gay marriage throughout the country no church will be forced to marry gay people if they don't want to," Critcher points out.
In the article that the church claims to have looked to for advisement, a popular New Jersey court ruling involving a lesbian couple is highlighted as the example of why churches should safeguard against homosexual weddings.
According to Critcher, the church is misguided in basing their fear off of that ruling. "It was property the church owned, they applied for a New Jersey program that was specifically for non-profits that could get their property tax exempt if they rented it out to the public."
She says in that case the church was only in the wrong because they filed under the wrong tax exemption and churches have absolutely nothing to worry about but she says it startles her that a church would turn protection into discrimination.
"Unfortunately, Louisiana has no state wide protections for gay people so in the state of Louisiana, you can discriminate if you want to," said Critcher.
The pastor of the church says that the letter could have been worded differently, but they stand by their decision. In fact, he says they've written new bylaws that now only allows use of church facilities by members.