Religious group flays Renfroe over remarks on gays, murder as ‘hate speech’

religionA spokesman for the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado on Wednesday condemned remarks made Monday by state Sen. Scott Renfroe when he called homosexuality an “abomination” and an “offense to God” in a debate over a bill to extend health benefits to same-sex partners of state employees.

“As a Christian, I am profoundly saddened by the hate speech uttered by Sen. Renfroe in the name of God,” the Rev. Richard Craft, interim pastor at Family of Christ Presbyterian Church of Greeley, said in a statement.

The Greeley Republican’s “inflammatory remarks reinforce the kind of hostile climate that can put real people in harm’s way,” Alliance officials wrote, noting that Angie Zapata was violently beaten to death with a fire extinguisher in Renfroe’s hometown last year because she was transgender.

“Such speech is not simply an expression of neutral opinion; it emboldens attitudes of exclusion and even violence against our neighbors, whom we are called upon to love,” Craft said. “And, it feeds the growing idea that Christianity is a religion of hate.”

Quoting the Old Testament on the Senate floor, Renfroe said gays “have committed a detestable act and they shall surely be put to death,” and then went on to compare homosexuality with murder — both sins, he said, that the state has no business making “legally OK.”

Another member of the Interfaith Alliance questioned Renfroe’s “disregard for the boundaries between religion and government.” Renfroe’s “particular religious convictions have no place in the debate about Senate Bill 88,” said the Rev. Dr. Phil Campbell, a member of the board of the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado and a faculty member at the Iliff School of Theology. “Regardless of one’s opinion about homosexuality, this overt attempt to establish one’s religious view is seriously alarming.”

More from Campbell:

“In sharp contrast with Senator Renfroe’s religious convictions, which are of course his right to believe, my religious convictions lead me to affirm the dignity of all people and to respect their fundamental rights. However, this is not about my religious views or his religious views. This bill is about providing health insurance to individuals, who in some cases, may not be insured. This bill provides basic equal rights for all state employees and this commitment is a fundamental principle that the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado affirms.”

The Alliance urged legislators to enact SB 88 — which passed the Senate on a vote of 22-12 with the support of two Republicans and every Democrat — and said the group would “work with” Gov. Bill Ritter to make sure it was signed into law.

Another member of the Alliance weighed in on Renfroe’s remarks:

“I am concerned that the beliefs held by Senator Renfroe continue to be the proclamation of the Christian church and that all are left with the impression that this is Christianity’s view on the matter,” said the Rev. Dr. Dan Geslin, pastor at Sixth Avenue United Church of Christ in Denver. “As an ordained Christian minister, I follow Jesus’ way of love and understand Christianity not to be an imperialistic religion, but a spirituality of service. Senator Renfroe’s remarks demonstrate a belief system that is anything but loving.”

Earlier today, a prominent local conservative blogger called for Renfroe to resign over his “bigoted” remarks.

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Ernest Luning

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