An Arizona man moved to Fort Worth, declared he’s a pastor and posted a video he calls a sermon saying gays should be killed
Donnie Romero recently moved to Fort Worth after being ordained by Arizona preacher Steven Anderson, who made national news on World AIDS Day when he released a video claiming we could have an AIDS-free world by Christmas if we killed all the gays.
Now Romero has introduced himself to North Texas by posting a video last week espousing a similar message of violence and hate. Romero claims to lead Stedfast Baptist Church, located at 2501 True Ave., Fort Worth. A search found nothing more than a dilapidated house at the address.
In his YouTube video that appears to be filmed with Romero standing in front of a podium placed in front of a blank wall, he declares: “I’m not going to let these dirty faggots in my church. They are all pedophiles.”
Romero does not, however, explain why he thinks any gay person would want to go to his church.
In his video, Romero claims gay people in Genesis and Deuteronomy rape and hurt other people, and he uses that as justification to call for gay people to be killed today.
The Rev. Carol West of Fort Worth’s Celebration Community Church said she considers Romero’s video alarming.
“I think it’s sad when people use religion as a weapon,” West said. “I don’t care how you hide behind God, it’s still hatred and bigotry.
She said she thinks his words border on being a hate crime. “We have a right to say what we think, but when we start infringing on other people’s rights, we’ve crossed a line,” she said, calling his video a direct threat.
West also said that while Romero may be crossing a legal line, he is definitely crossing a moral line: “He’s inciting other people to violence.”
West compared Romero’s “sermon” to rhetoric from the Westboro Baptist Church, which is known for its “God hates fags” campaign. She said she thinks Romero may be worse than Westboro’s Phelps clan.
While Westboro protests at military funerals and against any groups that are pro-gay, West said that church doesn’t cross the line by inciting violence. They declare that anyone who supports the LGBT community will go to hell, but they don’t encourage illegal action to send LGBTs or their supporters to hell sooner.
West also said she doesn’t believe Romero should be considered a pastor, and that she hopes the IRS will not consider an application from his supposed church.
“If you’re a leader and no one’s following, you’re just taking a walk,” West said.
The Rev. Steve Sprinkle, a Baptist minister, is director of field education and supervised ministry and professor of practical theology at Brite Divinity School.
“Baptist churches have family trees,” Sprinkle said. “Donnie Romero is an example of bad fruit on the tree.”
Sprinkle said congregations ordain ministers in the Baptist church. If an individual Baptist church is part of a larger convention or association, that convention or association may require the individual churches to meet higher standards, he explained. But as a radically free Baptist, Sprinkle said, Anderson in Arizona is free to ordain any of his followers to plant around the country to spread his version of religion. Once he has ordained Romero and Romero has formed his own church, only Romero’s own congregation can defrock him.
“There’s nothing to prevent him from calling himself a pastor or his church a Baptist church,” Sprinkle said, “but that doesn’t make it true.”
Sprinkle called Romero a “jack-leg preacher,” meaning someone who is self-appointed and self-endorsed with no one listening to him. He said the video is more a recruiting tool than a threat.
“He’s poking around looking for others who hate like he does,” Sprinkle said of Romero. “I denounce the guy and do not consider him to be a minister of Jesus Christ.”
Candy Marcum, a licensed professional counselor, said she wonders about Romero’s mental stability and whether he’s dealing with his own coming out issues.
“Who would care that much unless he has something going on himself?” Marcum said.
She said the North Texas LGBT community is very religious and most LGBT North Texans were raised in religious households.
“When a faith-based leader comes out publicly against GLBT folks, it puts many of us in a quandary,” Marcum said. “The quandary is, ‘I am a child of God and there is a faith-based leader who says God does not love me. As a matter of fact, God hates me and wants me put to death.’”
Marcum called that a jarring juxtaposition that causes shame and makes individuals feel unworthy. But she also said she wonders if Romero isn’t just dealing with those issues himself.
Marcum described coming out as a four-step process: “Stage One: I think I might be gay/lesbian and I must not tell anyone. Stage Two: I hate myself for being gay/lesbian and I hate anyone else who is gay or lesbian. Stage Three: There is a whole world out there that is gay and lesbian. I want to be part of that community. I start telling people about my sexual orientation. Stage Four: There is more to me than being gay/lesbian. I am a part of a larger community. I want to give back.”
Marcum called the suggestion that Romero is a closeted gay man conjecture on her part, but said it is conjecture “based on a theoretical possibility.” She said if Romero is gay, he’s stuck in stage two — “Hating himself because he might be gay.”
Fairness Fort Worth President David Henderson said Romero is looking for a fight — if only to bring himself money and attention, and that LGBT people should give him neither.
“He’s sick and we need to put a stop [to his antics],” Henderson said. “But there is a right way and a wrong way. It’s one thing to simply be angry and call out how wrong he is, but what will hold the day is to demonstrate how right we are.”
Dallas Voice notified Fort Worth Police about Romero, police officials said they now have the preacher on their radar, but Public Information Officer and LGBT Liaison Tracey Knight declined to comment further.
James Russell contributed to this report
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 19, 2014