Pastor who praised Orlando mass shooting resigns after 'paying for sex with prostitutes'

Donnie Romero leaves Baptist church after allegations of drug use, gambling and involvement with prostitution

Liam Stack
Thursday 10 January 2019 13:51
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Pastor who praised Pulse Nightclub gunman resigns after allegedly paying for sex

A Baptist minister in Texas who came to national attention in 2016 when he praised the gunman who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, resigned from his ministry last week after allegedly using drugs, gambling and paying for sex with prostitutes.

Donnie Romero, who founded the Stedfast Baptist Church in Fort Worth in 2014, told congregants at a church meeting on 2 January he had not “been ruling my house well.”

“I have been a terrible husband and father,” Mr Romero said in a video of the meeting that was posted to the church’s official YouTube channel. “This is the best decision — for my family and my church — to make.”

Mr Romero did not elaborate on his alleged impropriety at that meeting, which was largely run by another pastor, Steven L Anderson. Mr Anderson told congregants “the Lord says” Mr Romero was “disqualified” to lead them.

Later, in a video he posted to YouTube, Mr Anderson expanded on what he called the pastor’s “major sins.”

“Basically, the major sin involved was being with prostitutes and then there were also marijuana and gambling that were also discovered,” Mr Anderson said.

He added no one else at the church had been “tainted with any of this or were involved with any of this.”

Mr Anderson did not specify the gender of the prostitutes or provide a timeline for the infractions.

Neither Mr Anderson, Mr Romero nor the new pastor of Stedfast Baptist Church, Jonathan Shelley, responded to messages seeking comment.

Stedfast Baptist Church is part of a nationwide network of almost 30 independent Baptist churches associated with Mr Anderson, who founded Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona.

He gained notoriety in 2009 for saying in a sermon he had prayed for the death of President Barack Obama, and was criticised by the Anti-Defamation League in 2014 for what it called his “history of antisemitism.”

Both churches are vehemently opposed to homosexuality and have been classified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremism in the United States.

The website of Faithful Word Baptist Church describes homosexuality as “a sin and an abomination which God punishes with the death penalty.”

“This network is not coming out of nowhere, it’s not like it’s one little church in one little place with some guy who liked to go to prostitutes,” said Heidi Beirich, a researcher at the law centre. “It’s a network of congregations across the country with this guy who preaches a — I don’t want to call it a theology because it is so hateful, but who preaches that gay people are destroying the country.”

Mr Romero and Mr Anderson were among a small group of extreme Christian conservatives who were widely criticised in 2016 for praising Omar Mateen, the gunman who killed 49 people that year at Pulse nightclub, a centre of gay night life in Orlando. Mateen said at the time he was acting in the name of the Isis.

More than 50 additional people were injured in the attack. In a sermon shortly after the shooting, Mr Romero said he hoped they would die, too.

In the sermon, which was posted to YouTube, Mr Romero told congregants that gay people were all paedophiles and he hoped the injured would die of their wounds “so that they don’t get any more opportunity to go out and hurt little children.”

“I’ll pray to God that God will finish the job that that man started,” he said, referring to Mateen. The video of the sermon has since been removed from YouTube.

The New York Times

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