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Texas Church Evicted After Pastor Criticized LGBTQ Mural In City Council Meeting

gay flag, pride
Image CreditTed Eytan/Flickr

A new mural in the city of Georgetown, Texas, is generating controversy for its support of LGBTQ ideology. Members of one church who spoke out against public subsidies for sexual politics at a city council meeting believe their subsequent eviction from the Georgetown Palace Theatre was retaliation for their speech.

The mural is part of a jointly sponsored initiative between the Georgetown Independent School District (GISD), Georgetown City Council, and the Georgetown Arts and Culture Board to display the work of one student artist a year. Under the agreement, GISD sponsors materials up to $500, and the city is responsible for hiring an artist costing up to $500, Georgetown Community Impact Newspaper reported in March.

Last year, the mural followed the theme “Everyone Deserves Kindness.” This year’s mural, designed by a student at Forbes Middle School, displays the phrase “be your own person” in rainbow text above an assortment of red poppies, with some flowers painted with the transgender, bisexual, non-binary, and other sexual pride flags.

Church Leaders Speak Up

Church on the Square Pastor Bradley J. Helgerson, along with two other church members, spoke out against the mural at an April 26 Georgetown City Council meeting. Calling the ideology expressed by the mural “an attempt to fundamentally reorder society,” Helgerson said his remarks were aimed to provide “theological context for the ideology lurking behind this artistic expression.”

“Many have been fooled into thinking that such a rebellion against reality is an act of liberation. That when we tear down every norm we will be left with a freer society, that true freedom comes when the shackles of the sacred are removed,” Helgerson said. “But the work of the LGBTQ movement is not the work of liberation, but of liberationists whose desire it is to destroy the societal order itself, precisely because of its demand for conformity.”

“In other words, it’s not a matter of open-mindedness, but of closed-heartedness to right judgment that is the problem,” the pastor said. “Therefore, their goal is to remove all judgment, all boundaries, as is testified to by the endless numbers of genders and sexual orientations they affirm.”

“I know this seems extreme in the context of one mural, but it’s not just a mural. It’s a piece of propaganda for an ideology that seeks to destroy Western civilization and to use our children as its foot soldiers,” he continued. “And so it’s not culture that we’re talking about, but it’s anti-culture. And to refuse to push back against it now will mean the substantial loss of real liberty for our children in the future.”

Two Church on the Square members followed Helgerson’s remarks with their own.

One member, Aliya Mathiesen, read Romans 1:18-32, and another, Kate Pamplin, expressed concern about the impact on her children and the well-being of children in public schools.

“It is a blatant lie that this mural is not an LGBT agenda push,” Pamplin said. “I don’t want my children desensitized to evil.”

At least one city council member also expressed concern that the mural was making a “political statement.”

‘It Was Retaliation’: Evicted without Explanation

On May 6, two days before its Mother’s Day service, Helgerson received an email from Palace Theatre Executive Artistic Director Ron Watson, stating the Church on the Square was evicted due to “resource management issues,” effective immediately. He did not elaborate further, even after multiple requests from Helgerson.

“I must say that I am perplexed,” Helgerson replied to Watson’s email. “Can you provide us more information as to what the issue is?… As a religious organization we are afforded certain protections by the federal government against discrimination and the immediacy and vagueness of your termination letter gives us reason for pause.”

Georgetown Palace Theatre is run by a non-profit separate from but with close ties to the Arts and Culture Board. Helgerson says the arts community in Georgetown is “very tight-knit.” One Palace Theatre board of directors member also holds a seat on the Arts and Culture Board.

A copy of the lease shows the church had a month-to-month agreement with the Palace Theatre, and Helgerson says they paid for May in full. The church has been renting the facility since September 20, 2020, according to the lease agreement.

Helgerson says Watson did reach out to the church member responsible for audiovisual work to coordinate a pickup time for equipment left in storage. When Helgerson and other members arrived at 4 p.m., Watson was not there, only the employee who let them into the building. A refund check for the remainder of May’s rent was left with the church’s belongings.

“It was highly suspicious,” Helgerson said. “The way that it was terminated just made no sense. It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, we changed our mind, we’ll give you until the end of the month’ or, ‘Here’s why…,’ or anything, it was just an immediate cutting off, giving us absolutely no chance of finding a place for our Mother’s Day service.”

The church has gathered the past two Sundays at the Historic Courthouse lawn. During their Mother’s Day service, two other churches joined in support.

“It ended up being amazing,” Helgerson said. “God took something that was done for evil and made it for good.”

Since the eviction, Helgerson still has not heard back from the Palace Theatre staff or Watson. Watson and Arts and Culture Board liaison Amanda Still did not respond to a request for comment and questions concerning the eviction.