Brooklyn City Councilmember Jumaane Williams on Saturday spoke to a church that condemns homosexuality and likens same-sex marriage to “disappointing social trends.”
Williams, who is a candidate in the February 26 election to fill the city public advocate office vacancy, said in a tweet on Saturday afternoon that he had a “great morning of worship & fellowship at the Brooklyn Faith Seventh-Day Adventist Church” and thanked Pastor Roger Williamson for “welcoming me into your congregation & allowing me to discuss my platform to be the #PeoplesAdvocate of NYC.”
The church, which is located at 5518 Church Avenue in East Flatbush, has a history of preaching homophobia and making offensive anti-LGBTQ statements on its website and via social media.
Perhaps the starkest example of homophobia displayed by Brooklyn Faith came during a 2017 lecture entitled “Human Sexuality,” which was recorded on Facebook Live. Pastor Nigel Lewis, who is listed on the church’s website among those who work with Williamson, blasted same-sex relationships and even asked a member of the audience to read a Bible verse known as Leviticus 18:22. The audience member proceeded to read it, saying, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”
It didn’t end there. Last year, Brooklyn Faith described one of its “Family Life Day” events on its website by saying, “With all the disappointing social trends, with divorce, gay marriage, disillusionment about lifetime partnerships among the youth, is marriage really worth it?”
Also last year, a Facebook post on the church’s youth department page said, “Leviticus speaks: No earrings, no tattoos, no incest, no homosexuality, no cutting of the flesh, no drinking blood, no prostitution, no gossip, no fortune telling... The reason? And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I detested them.”
Brooklyn Faith could not be reached for comment regarding its history of homophobia or its current stance on LGBTQ folks.
The Williams campaign did not directly respond when Gay City News asked the councilmember to explain why he went to the church in light of its history of homophobia. Instead, a spokesperson only touched on the church’s Facebook post about Leviticus.
“While Jumaane agrees that folks shouldn’t drink blood — per Leviticus 20:23 — he disagrees with any social media post that promotes homophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, or bigotry in any form,” the spokesperson said. “Jumaane attended the church’s worship service wearing earrings, he proudly supports legislation to decriminalize sex work, and has a long track record of supporting the LGBTQ community and marriage equality, which he’ll continue to do as our city’s next public advocate.”
The councilmember’s visit to the church adds to the mounting questions that have surrounded him on LGBTQ issues during his campaign for public advocate.
Williams is fresh off a tumultuous week during which Gay City News reported that he falsely declared in a Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City questionnaire that he had never donated to or endorsed anti-gay politicians despite giving $1,375 apiece to Councilmembers Chaim Deutsch of Brooklyn and Fernando Cabrera of the Bronx in 2017.
In response to his answer on the questionnaire, Williams apologized for what he said was an “oversight,” reiterated his dedication to protecting the LGBTQ community, and said he would make a donation to pro-LGBTQ organizations.
During Stonewall’s endorsement meeting on January 23, Williams said he understood that he has historically “done some things that have made some people uneasy” and that he wanted to “work that out.” During that same meeting, he also defended his abstention from a 2014 bill to allow a birth certificate gender designation change, citing concerns he had over a part of the bill that would have provided midwives with power to sign an affidavit affirming the change in gender. (Such affidavits affirming an individual’s gender transition are no longer required under city law.)
Upper West Side Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell went on to land Stonewall’s endorsement, but Williams had earlier received the backing of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club.