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‘Christian’ Church Halts Woman’s Funeral Midway Because She Was Gay

Religion is not about hate. It is not about intolerance. It should never be used to harm innocents. Believers need to be very suspect of those who quote holy words to justify such things. Je suis Vanessa Collier.

Hundreds of Vanessa Collier’s friends and family gathered Saturday at New Hope Ministries, sitting before an open casket that held the woman they loved, when suddenly the minister overseeing her funeral stopped the service.

An hour-long viewing of Collier’s body had just finished and the memorial service was 15 minutes underway when Chavez stopped it.

The memorial could not continue, Pastor Ray Chavez said, as long as pictures of Collier with the love of her life, the spouse she shared two children with, were to be displayed. Chavez said there could be no images of Collier with her wife, Christina. There could be no indication that Collier was gay. Because, Christianity.

Chavez, who apparently read one line out of the Bible’s Old Testament and completely missed the entire point of love, caring, tolerance and peace in the entire freaking New Testament, committed a hate crime. He harmed every grieving friend and relative of the deceased, and harmed her children. “It was humiliating,” said Victoria Quintana, Collier’s longtime friend. “It was devastating.”

Those who loved Collier picked up programs, flowers and eventually the dead woman’s casket itself, hand-carrying them to a mortuary across the street.

A representative for New Hope Ministries declined to comment before hanging up on a Denver Post reporter on Tuesday. A biography on the church website says Chavez founded the ministry in 1981 with his wife, Lola. It says the church “is a place where those bound by drugs, alcohol, gangs and violence can find an ‘Ounce of Hope.'”

About four dozen supporters of Ms. Collier and her family gathered outside of the church in protest, chanting “Give us an apology!” and “Shame on Pastor Ray!” Security guards were stationed in front of the building to ensure none of the marchers made their way onto the property.

Collier’s friends say they still haven’t been reimbursed by New Hope Ministry for the cost of the funeral.

Unclear from news reports is how the church was unaware that the deceased was a gay woman, and why that only became apparent to the hateful pastor well into the memorial service.

And hey, if you have thoughts you’d like to share with the pastor, he and his church can be contacted online.
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Peter Van Buren writes about current events at blog. His book,Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the #99Percent, is available now from Amazon

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Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren

Peter Van Buren has served with the Foreign Service for over 23 years. He received a Meritorious Honor Award for assistance to Americans following the Hanshin earthquake in Kobe, a Superior Honor Award for helping an American rape victim in Japan, and another award for work in the tsunami relief efforts in Thailand. Previous assignments include Taiwan, Japan, Korea, the UK and Hong Kong. He volunteered for Iraq service and was assigned to ePRT duty 2009-10. His tour extended past the withdrawal of the last combat troops.

Van Buren worked extensively with the military while overseeing evacuation planning in Japan and Korea. This experience included multiple field exercises, plus civil-military work in Seoul, Tokyo, Hawaii, and Sydney with allies from the UK, Australia, and elsewhere. The Marine Corps selected Van Buren to travel to Camp Lejeune in 2006 to participate in a field exercise that included simulated Iraqi conditions. Van Buren spent a year on the Hill in the Department of State’s Congressional Liaison Office.

Van Buren speaks Japanese, Chinese Mandarin, and some Korean (the book’s all in English, don’t worry). Born in New York City, he lives in Virginia with his spouse, two daughters, and a docile Rottweiler.

Though this is his first book, Peter’s commentary has been featured on TomDispatch, Salon, Huffington Post, The Nation, American Conservative Magazine, Mother Jones, Michael Moore.com, Le Monde, Daily Kos, Middle East Online, Guernica and others.

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