Target: Pastor Ray Chavez, founder of New Hope Ministries
Goal: Reprimand alleged decision to cancel lesbian’s funeral and support dignity in death.
It would seem obvious that, in death, all lives deserve to be celebrated equally. However, in a Colorado suburb, one family mourns not only the loss of their family member and friend, but also grieves for the lack of freedom to celebrate her life the way they see fit. A church in Lakewood, Colorado, New Hope Ministries, is reportedly guilty of canceling the funeral of a Vanessa Collier, an out and proud lesbian, just minutes before the service was scheduled to begin.
When pressed for an explanation, the church’s pastor allegedly told friends and family that Collier’s funeral was banned due to the inappropriate images found in the memorial video. Those ‘inappropriate images’ just happened to be photos of Collier’s proposal to her wife and another of the couple kissing to celebrate their budding union.
Instead of having the funeral at New Hope Ministries, Collier’s family was forced to move her service to a mortuary across the street. The church allegedly even suggested that Collier’s family remove photos from her memorial video, but, according to a close friend of Collier’s, who was interviewed by a local news outlet, “…[the family] didn’t want to edit her life…” And, why should they?
The battle between laws that discriminate against the LGBT community and religious freedom ensues and continues to ignite fiery debates all across the United States about dignity in death. Although the Collier family hasn’t revealed whether they will take the issue to court, Collier’s story is eerily similar to other stories of the past year, such as the cancellation of Julion Evans’ funeral in Tampa, Florida, and Jennifer Gable being laid to rest as a man, although she had been a trans woman for many years.
In Colorado, state law prohibits discrimination against individuals based on sexual orientation by public accommodations. However, churches and other religious entities do not fall under this definition. Everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender representation, deserves the right to be celebrated. No one should have to emend their lives or true selves, even in death.
Sign the petition to chastise New Hope Ministries for their insensitivity and support dignity in death.
Dear Pastor Ray Chavez,
It has recently come to my attention that a woman by the name of Vanessa Collier was reportedly denied a funeral at your church, simply because she was gay. What’s worse is that you allegedly encouraged the family to edit Collier’s life by taking out photographs from her beautifully rendered memorial video — photographs you deemed ‘inappropriate.’
Your supposed actions were not only heartless and insensitive, but bigoted and severely flawed. All people, the LGBT community included, deserve dignity in death: the right to be celebrated regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. To cancel a woman’s funeral a mere 15 minutes before it was scheduled to begin, because of her sexuality, is spiteful and, above all else, upsetting.
As the war between religious institutions and laws that discriminate against the LGBT community soldiers on, I hope you understand the unnecessary pain and anguish you’ve inflicted upon Vanessa Collier’s family and friends, and realize that LGBT lives, however deviant in your eyes, do indeed matter.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Drama Queen via Wikimedia Commons