- The Washington Times - Friday, August 12, 2016

A California pastor who advocated killing homosexuals hours only after dozens were massacred at an Orlando, Florida, nightclub was sued this week along with 100 of his parishioners by a gay man who says he was assaulted while protesting outside the congregation’s Sacramento church.

Filed Tuesday in California Superior Court, the complaint accuses Verity Baptist Church and its pastor, Roger Jimenez, of inciting a scuffle last month that traumatized protester Spenser Fritz and left him suffering from severe emotional distress.

The incident unfolded July 6 when around a small group of protesters, including Mr. Fritz, gathered outside the church for one of several demonstrations in response to remarks made by the pastor in the immediate aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting a month earlier that claimed the lives of 49 people.

“People say, like: Well, aren’t you sad that 50 sodomites died?” the preacher said during his June 12 sermon. “Here’s the problem with that. It’s like the equivalent of asking me — what if you asked me: ​Hey, are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today?’

“Um, no, I think that’s great,” the pastor said. “I think that helps society. You know, I think Orlando, Florida, is a little safer tonight.”

The comments, recorded on video and uploaded to YouTube, instantly went viral and prompted a wave of protests outside Verity that culminated in the incident described in this week’s lawsuit.

According to Mr. Fritz’s attorney, Lora Grevious, Verity’s members had repeatedly subjected protesters to verbal attacks and bigotry over the course of their frequents demonstrations during June and July.

On July 6, an unidentified parishioner approached the demonstrators with a knife in her hand “with the intention of intimidating or threatening the protestors with bodily harm,” according to the lawsuit. That same day, another churchgoer brandished a gun in Verity’s parking lot and prominently displayed it to the protesters, the suit alleges.

“During that day’s services. Plaintiff could clearly see into the church,” the complaint reads. “Plaintiff noticed a small child, no older than 5, was looking out the door towards the protestors. Plaintiff smiled and waved in hopes of instilling a sense in the child that homosexuals are not dangerous but can be friendly. A parishioner saw Plaintiff wave and whispered something into the child’s ear. The child then began to mimic shooting Plaintiff with a gun. The child continued to mimic this behavior for about a minute while the parishioner who had whispered into the child’s ear laughed.”

Mr. Fritz approached another child following Mass and encouraged them to question their parents’ apparent anti-homosexuality stance, according to the suit. A female parishioner responded by telling Mr. Fritz to leave the child alone, but the protesters attempt to respond was interrupted when another churchgoer, Johnny Cervantes III, allegedly said: “Don’t [expletive] talk to my wife!”

“As Cervantes made this statement, without provocation or just cause, he lunged forward and placed his hands on Plaintiff’s chest and pushed Plaintiff with a great deal of force,” according to the lawsuit. “Plaintiff lost his balance and stumbled backwards about 10 feet. Luckily, Plaintiff did not fall to the ground.”

While the alleged assault failed to result in any serious physical injuries for Mr. Fritz, the lawsuit attests that the incident has caused him to suffer from severe anxiety and panic attacks “as a result of the fear instilled in him” by the churchgoers’ conduct.

Mr. Fritz is seeking punitive damages from Mr. Cervantes, the church and its pastor over the alleged altercation. Verity Baptist Church did not respond to a request for comment when contacted Thursday by Courthouse News, where the suit was first reported.

Mr. Fritz was unavailable to comment when reached Friday by The Washington Times.

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