Nevada Health Officials Sever Ties with Megachurch Over Martin Ssempa
July 13th, 2010
As we reported over the past month, Canyon Ridge Christian Church, the Las Vegas megachurch which has been providing financial support for Uganda’s “kill-the-gays bill” cheerleading pastor Martin Ssempa, was found to be simultaneously attempting an outreach program to Las Vegas’s LGBT and HIV/AIDS constituencies by being a test site for National HIV Testing Day on June 27.
In other words, the Las Vegas church that wanted to test you for HIV, is the same church whose strategic partner and “dearly beloved friend and family” wants to put you to death if you are HIV-positive. Despite widespread condemnation for their conflicting stance, Canyon Ridge defended Ssempa, saying they “do not believe Martin Ssempa to be the man the media and others have portrayed him to be.” We, who have been following Ssempa’s role closely through every twist and turn of Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, have countered by skipping how Ssempa was portrayed in the media, and instead reminded viewers of how Ssempa portrayed himself directly. That appears to have made no impression on Canyon Ridge’s leaders.
Southern Nevada Health District, which partnered with Canyon Ridge for National HIV Testing Day, however has announced that they are severing ties with Canyon Ridge. According to a letter from the health district posted on Warren Throckmorton’s blog:
Pastor Ssempa’s support of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which would criminally penalize homosexuals, is in direct conflict with the overarching public health goals of the health district. It is with regret that I feel compelled to dissolve the health district’s relationship with your church as long as you continue this partnership.
One of the central tenets of public health is to provide services without judgment. We also apply this principle in working with our various partners. However, we are profoundly concerned about your partnership with Pastor Ssempa as it contradicts this central tenet in that it amounts to tacit approval of activities that violate the basic human rights that should be afforded to all Ugandans.
Canyon Ridge continues to stand behind Ssempa. That same day Canyon Ridge was notified that the health district was severing ties with them, Teri McCoy, Executive Assistant to pastors Kevin Odor and Doug Parks, sent the following response to a BTB reader:
Martin has given us some documentation to clarify his position as he has represented it to us. We also have included this link to a radio interview where he discusses his position. (http://lineoffireradio.askdrbrown.org/?s=ssempa)
Because of the documents he has given us and our interactions with him, we do not believe Martin Ssempa to be the man the media and others have portrayed him to be. He has, with other pastors in Uganda, publicly expressed objection to the death penalty in the Anti-Homosexuality bill and made recommendations to Parliament to remove the death penalty from the bill and reduce the severity of other penalties in it. (Please see attached documents.)
We have worked with Martin for several years, making trips to Uganda to see his ministry first hand. He has welcomed and ministered to homosexual people in his church. He has championed the cause of abstinence, sexual purity and faithfulness in marriage that has been instrumental in pushing back the scourge of HIV/AIDS in Uganda. This work has now become a model for other African nations in stemming the tide of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on that continent. This work of saving lives in Africa was the genesis of our partnership in Uganda.
As you know, we have, through recent face to face (March 11, 2010) and video phone conversations, questioned Martin about the controversial issues and asked him to provide additional video and written statements that further clarify his positions. He has asked for and graciously received our counsel and correction and committed to continue pursuing balanced teaching of the grace and truth of God.
However, since March 11, we have diligently recorded several instances in which Ssempa has continued to support the Anti-Homosexuality Bill without modifications, while publicly displaying hard core pornography in a campaign to vilify LGBT people. Ssempa continues to insist that the bill does not target gay people with the death penalty — a lie that Canyon Ridge repeated when they defended Ssempa to a local newspaper — and a lie that he attempted to repeat on Michael Brown’s radio program that Canyon Ridge referred the BTB reader to. While BTB has repeatedly posted the official text of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and referred to the actual text of the bill to test Ssempa’s claims of what it would do, Ssempa and his supporters have refused to do the same despite repeated calls to do so.
It’s hard to imaging a church turning a blind eye to a truly disturbed man pushing an evil agenda. One can only speculate what Canyon Ridge’s true motivation might be to ignore the mountain of evidence that is available to them.