A Florida family says a Tampa church canceled the funeral of 42-year-old Julion Evans because he was gay.
Evans’ family says New Hope Missionary Baptist Church canceled the day before the funeral when parishioners saw that his obituary listed his surviving “husband” of 17 years.
Evans died after a 4-year battle with a rare disease called Amyloidosis, which destroyed his internal organs.
His mother Julie Atwood says the pastor told her it would be “blasphemous” to hold services for her homosexual son, although he grew up attending New Hope. The family had less than 24 hours to make new arrangements.
“I did feel like he was being denied the dignity of death,” Atwood told WFLA-TV. “It was devastating.”
Evans married Kendall Capers last year in Maryland.
"Everyone who knew us knew about our relationship," Capers. "We didn't keep secrets."
New Hope Pastor T.W. Jenkins allegedly didn’t know that Evans was gay until members of his congregation saw the obituary and called him to complain. Jenkins told the news station that his church preaches against gay marriage.
"Based on our preaching of the scripture, we would have been in error to allow the service in our church," Jenkins said. "I'm not trying to condemn anyone's lifestyle, but at the same time, I am a man of God, and I have to stand up for my principles."
Capers said he understood the church’s opposition to the service, but to cancel during his husband’s wake was “disrespectful” and “wrong.”
"This is 2014, this is not the 60s or the 70s,” Capers said. “So at the end of the day I just want his wrong-doing to be exposed.
“If you agree to something, three and four days later, agree to it and stick to your plan, don't change at the last minute because your church constituents are calling you, or the church members are calling you to complain,” Capers told FOX 13. “Stand your ground.”
Image screenshot: Fox 13