Bellevue pastor under fire for comments about election - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Bellevue pastor under fire for comments about election

(WMC-TV) - The pastor at Bellevue Baptist Church is in the middle of a political controversy.

The battle started more than a year ago, when some pastors spoke out against an anti-discrimination proposal.

Sunday, Bellevue Baptist Church Pastor Steve Gaines spoke out again, saying the issue is important this election season. Gaines told his congregation to educate themselves about the Tennessee Equality Project.

A follow up digital letter claims the group is trying to pass anti-family legislation that gives special status based on sexual preference. The letter references an anti-discrimination ordinance from August, 2010, considered by the Memphis City Council, that was met by both support and backlash.

Bellevue's letter includes a link to the Tennessee Family Action Network's website, which provides another link to the group's preferred candidates in the upcoming city council election, including Kemp Conrad, Bill Morrison, and Bill Boyd - all of whom voted against the anti-discrimination ordinance.

"The good people of Bellevue probably deserve better leadership from their pastor than this," said Jonathan Cole of the Tennessee Equality Project PAC.

Cole said an investigation may be in order.

"I think it's worthy of an investigation by the IRS to find out if Pastor Gaines stepped over the line," he said. "I think he jeopardizes his church and its tax status."

Cole said the TEP PAC is merely fighting for important constitutional rights.

"Gay and transgender people are not a threat," he said. "They want to earn a living just like everyone else."

The PAC is distributing and image of  Gaines' outstretched hands pulling strings attached to Conrad, Morrison, and Boyd puppets.

Reached for comment Wednesday, Boyd scoffed at the accusation.  

By text, Conrad said he works, "to improve the quality of life for everyone," citing a dedication to cleaning up neighborhoods, lowering taxes, and adding bike lanes and more cops.

Morrison was not available for comment.

Meanwhile, Gaines is out of town, but a spokesperson said in a statement, "Churches have a responsibility, as Dr. Martin Luther King has said to be the conscience of the community and the state."

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