Baptist minister sent letter to congregation members, others warning voters about Russell’s “‘gay agenda’
Jason Russell has had enough.
Until now, Russell, 33, has kept quiet about a letter that was sent out days before the May 12 election attacking him for being gay.
But now Russell, who advanced to a runoff June 16 for Cedar Hill City Council Place 5, is speaking out. On Wednesday, May 23, Russell provided a copy of the letter to Stonewall Democrats of Dallas, which issued a press release that same day.
“It’s very hateful and it’s hurtful,” Russell told the Dallas Voice. “I’m not going to sit back and take it anymore.”
The letter, dated May 8, was written by the Rev. Karry D. Wesley, senior pastor of Antioch Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church on South Hampton Road in Dallas. Russell said Wesley, who lives in Cedar Hill, sent the letter to all members of the church’s congregation as well as everyone the pastor knows. Wesley could not be reached for comment, but a woman who answered the phone at the church said she was aware of the letter.
A man who answered the phone at Wesley’s residence after asking who was calling said the pastor was unavailable.
“A few years ago when openly gay men were elected to serve on the City Council in Dallas, I once again began to thank God for the wholesome city of Cedar Hill in which I live,” the five-paragraph letter reads in part. “If we permit him [Russell] to become a leader in our city, the moral fiber of our city will be threatened and possibly destroyed.”
Russell said he already has been a leader for several years.
Born in Dallas, he has lived in Cedar Hill since 2000, when he moved there from Oak Lawn with his partner of nearly 10 years.
In 2004, he opened a bakery and caf? in Cedar Hill, a booming suburb southwest of Dallas with a population of 43,000.
That same year, he was appointed to the city’s Board of Adjustments and Appeals by the City Council.
He’s also on the board of directors of the Chamber of Commerce and the Lions Club. And in 2005, he was named Cedar Hill Man of Year by the chamber.
“The people in Cedar Hill have been very open and accepting of myself and my partner,” Russell said. “This is a community that I believe in.”
Russell said there are many LGBT people in Cedar Hill, though some are not out.
He said although he has always been open about his sexual orientation, the letter marks the first time he’s come under public attack.
“I guess it seems like I’m more of a threat now,’ he said.
In a three-candidate field, Russell made it to the runoff by only 15 votes, garnering 27 percent of the tally and beating out Valerie Banks. He finished behind 12-year incumbent Makia Epie, who got 39 percent of the vote. Russell and Epie were separated by only 180 votes.
Neither Epie nor Banks could not be reached for comment.
Asked whether he thinks the letter hurt him in the election, Russell said he is unsure. He said he knows some members of Wesley’s congregation who were “infuriated” by it, but feels others who are less educated may have been swayed.
“It’s hard to say,” he said. “I think it hurt me and I think it helped me.”
Stonewall Democrats of Dallas said Russell is the third candidate in the Metroplex to be targeted this year for being openly gay. On election day, a robocall was sent out saying openly gay Dallas City Councilman Ed Oakley, who’s running for mayor, has a “radical gay agenda.” Oakley’s opponent in the runoff, Tom Leppert, has denied involvement.
And District 3 City Council candidate Joseph Hernandez accused his opponent in the runoff, Dave Neumann, of having his poll workers tell people Hernandez has a gay agenda and is the wrong candidate due to his sexual orientation. Neumann has denied those charges.
“The Stonewall Democrats of Dallas is angry that once again sexual orientation is being made a wedge issue in a municipal election,” President Jesse Garcia said.
Garcia called Wesley a “small-minded hatemonger.”
“To hear Wesley wrap himself in Christianity while launching an attack of hate toward someone who is trying to better his community is not only un-American, but un-Christian,” Garcia said.
“This attack once again underscores the need for LGBT people to get involved in the June 16 election. Our community cannot sit this election out.”
For more information, go online to www.stonewalldemocratsofdallas.org or to www.jasonforcedarhill.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, May 25, 2007.