A protest was held Thursday at a Michigan church where the pastor is accused of offering gay conversion therapy to children.
Pride Source reports that nearly 300 community members, organized by the Metro-Detroit Political Action Network, peacefully protested outside Metro City Church in Riverview. They carried signs reading “Love Is Love,” “God Never Makes Mistakes,” and “Self Hatred Is Not Therapy,” among others.
In a Facebook post that has since been deleted, Metro City Church advertised a weekly “Unashamed Identity Workshop” for girls ages 12-16 who are “struggling with the thoughts that they are trans—bi—gay—or other.” The post was met with thousands of comments condemning the church as anti-LGBT.
Lead pastor Jeremy Schossau has defended the workshops, which he claims provide “a safe place for conversation about sexual orientation and identity.” He believes the backlash “has been fueled by impulsiveness and a lack of understanding.”
“These are folks who are seeking us out,” says Schossau in a statement. “These are folks who are questioning their sexual identity or are maybe in the gay or lesbian community and they are just not comfortable there. They think that maybe they don’t want to be there, and they are seeking out conversation and potentially help and guidance.”
“We believe sexuality is a choice,” Schossau says in a video posted on the church’s official YouTube channel. “We believe that you can be what you want to be and do what you want to do.”
“Conversion therapy is what it is, and Metro City Church is trying to repackage it as conversation therapy,” argues protest organizer Brianna Dee Kingsley. “But the basic premise is you are broken and you need to be fixed and that something is wrong, and we stand against that.”
Seth Tooley tells WJBK that Metro City leaders “tried to pray a demon out of him” because he is transgender.
“I understand their purposes and goals through their religious lens, but we have to consider if there’s a motive,” says Rev. Dr. Roland Stringfellow of Detroit’s Metropolitan Community Church. “Are they focusing on something they think is a problem, or are they legitimately helping someone who’s struggling with their identity.”
A second protest is scheduled for February 15, coinciding with another “Unashamed Identity Workshop.” The workshops, which cost $200, have been moved to an undisclosed location.
State Rep. Adam Zemke (D-Ann Arbor) has introduced House Bill 5550 to prevent mental health professionals from attempting to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a minor. If it passes, Michigan would become the 10th state to ban conversion therapy.
“It is wildly inappropriate to offer conversion therapy classes in our communities, and doing so is misrepresentative of our values as a welcoming state,” Zemke says. “It’s time to put an end to this terrible practice once and for all.”