Press

Another prominent anti-gay minister arrested on sex charge

Date: 
January 06, 2006

A statement from Matt Foreman, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

MEDIA CONTACT:
Roberta Sklar, Director of Communications
media@theTaskForce.org
646.358.1465

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2006 — It was reported yesterday, Thursday, Jan. 5, that Rev. Lonnie Latham, a member of the executive committee of the Southern Baptist Convention and senior pastor of the South Tulsa First Baptist Church, was arrested for offering to engage in "an act of lewdness" with a male undercover police officer.

The incident occurred at the Habana Inn in Oklahoma City, which describes itself as, "the Southwest's Largest Gay Resort." Rev. Latham denied the charges to reporters as he left the Oklahoma County jail and claimed, "I was set up. I was in the area pastoring..." This isn't the first time he's been in the area, having received a traffic violation there a few years back.

Rev. Latham has been an outspoken opponent of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. And, of course, in recent years the Southern Baptist Convention — the nation's largest Protestant denomination — has become increasingly homophobic and aligned itself with the worst elements of the far right in working to stop marriage equality for gay people. Rev. Latham supported a directive urging its churches to befriend gays and lesbians and try to convince them that they can become heterosexual "if they accept Jesus Christ as their savior and reject their 'sinful, destructive lifestyle.'"

These kinds of situations involving anti-gay political and religious leaders being caught, literally, with their pants down are hardly uncommon. My instinctual reaction has always been one of smug satisfaction — "serves the damn hypocrite right."

Maybe I'm getting old, or maybe it's lingering good will from being with my family in Wyoming over the holidays, or maybe it's thinking about Brokeback Mountain too much, but today I only feel sadness for Rev. Latham and his family. Homophobia — directed at others and at one's own very being — is the real perpetrator here.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.