Evangelical preachers have begun transforming the recent mania associating the LGBTQ community with pedophilia into demands for genocide. “Every single homosexual in our country … should be lined up against the wall and shot in the back of the head!” insisted one recently. “Put them to death. Put all queers to death. They die,” proclaimed another, adding: “When they die, that stops the pedophilia. It’s a very, very simple process.”
The eliminationist rhetoric based on the false pedophilia link being whipped up against the LGBTQ community—particularly heading into June with its multitude of Pride events around the nation—has already fomented ugly anti-LGBTQ protests by white nationalists outside Pride gatherings and threats by far-right “Patriot bikers” to bring guns to others. Among some evangelical Christians, this has served as a green light to embrace a hateful interpretation of biblical scripture—one originally promulgated by the white-supremacist Christian Identity movement—to demand they be put to death.
Possibly the most strident of these preachers was a member of Stedfast Baptist Church in the Fort Worth, Texas, area, named “Brother” Dillon Awes, who was invited to speak at the church’s pulpit on June 5. He spent over an hour denouncing “homosexuality” and demanding the systematic execution of any person found guilty of it:
What does God say is the answer, is the solution for the homosexual, in 2022, here in the New Testament, here in the book of Romans—that they are worthy of death! These people should be put to death! Every single homosexual in our country should be charged with the crime, the abomination of homosexuality that they have, they should be convicted in a lawful trial, they should be sentenced with death, they should be lined up against the wall and shot in the back of the head! That’s what God teaches! That’s what the Bible says. You don’t like it, you don’t like God’s word.
Awes justified their condemnation by reading passages from the Bible, claiming that LGBTQ people "are dangerous to society" and said that "all homosexuals are pedophiles."
"I’m not saying that every single homosexual that’s alive right now has committed that act with a child already because it could be they haven’t had the opportunity yet and they will at some point later in their life," he said. "This is why we need to put these people to death through the proper channels of the government. ... These people are not normal. They’re not your average everyday sinners. ... They have no hope of salvation."
Meanwhile, Pastor Joe Jones of the Shield of Faith Baptist Church in Boise, Idaho, recently unleashed a similar tirade:
It’s not God’s fault! He told nations how to deal with that! He told the government of his own nation, the nation that he ruled, “Put them to death. Put all queers to death. They die.” When they die, that stops the pedophilia. It’s a very, very simple process. …
Now, if the system was working properly, OK? It would be like a funnel process. God gives these people up, they expose themselves—like, yeah—they manifest themselves, OK? And we find out who they are, we report them to the authorities, and they send them down the chute to hell. OK? That’s how it’s supposed to work.
Unfortunately, in today’s day and age, they get promoted at your job, they want to take your kids, they want to take everything they have including your soul. If these people could, they would dig up your great-great-grandfather’s best friend and take his soul. That’s what they do! That’s how evil and wicked these people are.
Jones continued that “these people know they are worthy of death,” which he claimed explained the high rate of suicide among trans people “Why are the queers always blowing themselves up or whatever they do?” he added.
Ames’ sermon fully reflected the teachings promulgated at Stedfast Baptist Church, whose pastor, Jonathan Shelley, has drawn attention for his rabid anti-LGBTQ rhetoric. Originally based in the Fort Worth suburb of Hurst, Shelley’s church recently was evicted from its building in Hurst because Shelley’s violent rhetoric violated his lease, and the owner refused to tolerate it.
The Southern Poverty Law Center designated Stedfast Baptist an anti-LGBTQ hate group in 2021, based largely on Shelley’s incendiary rhetoric.
In his sermons, Shelley has frequently called for death to members of the LGBTQ community, but he claims he’s not calling for vigilante killings—he only wants it done officially, at the hands of the state. In one sermon, he celebrated the death of a 75-year-old gay man in Wilton Manors, Florida, after a vehicle accidentally ran him over during a Pride event: “And, you know, it’s great when trucks accidentally go through those, you know, parades,” he said. “I think only one person died. So hopefully we can hope for more in the future.”
“You say, ‘Well, that’s mean.’ Yeah, but the Bible says that they’re worthy of death!” he continued. “They say, ‘Are you sad when fags die?’ No. I think it’s great! I hope they all die! I would love it if every fag would die right now.”
“And you say, ‘Well, I don’t think that’s what you really mean.’ That’s exactly what I mean. I really mean it!”
Shelley raised a stir in Fort Worth last month when he testified at city council meeting against the city’s involvement in Pride events: “I don’t understand why we celebrate what used to be a crime not long ago,” he told them. “God has already ruled that murder, adultery, witchcraft, bestiality, and homosexuality are crimes worthy of capital punishment.”
He recently posted a video to Facebook decrying his church’s eviction and the negative publicity, claiming he was simply preaching within the Christian mainstream. He cited Leviticus 13 (which insists anyone who “lieth with a man as he lieth with a woman” has “committed an abomination” and should “be put to death), saying: “We believe that verse is true. We believe that God’s law clearly condemns homosexuality and even puts a capital punishment on that, which is a death penalty.”
Shelley ran through a long list of previous state anti-homosexuality laws, including Texas’. “Now, just because the Supreme Court deemed that law unconstitutional due to the 14th Amendment, which was a technicality, it does not mean that the Bible changed or that God’s law changed,” he said. “We still believe that it’s wrong and that the death penalty should be applied in that area.”
At the end, he launched into an explanation once again connecting pedophilia with the LGBTQ community as a rationale for putting them to death:
Here’s the thing: I believe that the Bible clearly teaches that those that are the LGBTQ are pedophiles in waiting and they would love to harm and hurt children. And so for the better interest of society, they should be punished according to God’s word, no more or no less.
The interpretation of the Bible claiming that it demands the execution of same-sex lovers has cropped up from time to time within conservative religious circles; the Leviticus and Romans verses are frequently cited as justification for anti-LGBTQ bigotry. But preachers have generally stopped short of insisting on enforcing them.
This interpretation was made most famously in the 1990s by the leading figure in the white supremacist Christian Identity movement, the late Rev. Pete Peters, who preached sermons titled, "Intolerance of, Discrimination Against and the Death Penalty for Homosexuals is prescribed in the Bible," and likewise penned a pamphlet titled Death Penalty for Homosexuals is Prescribed in the Bible (a piece that was, incidentally, the source of his falling-out with infamous militia leader Col. James “Bo” Gritz.) Peters was a major figure in the formation of the 1990s “militia movement”: His church in Colorado hosted the infamous “Rocky Mountain Rendezvous” in Estes Park that is credited with coalescing the militia strategy among a range of right-wing extremist sectors, from white supremacists to gun extremists to religious zealots.
Combined with the belief that U.S. law should replicate Biblical dictates—an essential feature of modern Christian nationalism, which has been surging in both evangelical and white-nationalist circles in recent years—it’s not hard to see how long-running anti-LGBTQ sentiments within evangelical circles could so readily take such a disturbing and lethal turn. Like all eliminationism, this rhetoric is intended to create permission—a rationale for unleashing the kind of violence that would make Jesus weep.
The question is: Will any mainstream evangelicals condemn it?