UPDATE: Q Christian disseminated this letter directly to the office of Orlando’s city government, and after following up with local officials, District Commissioner Patty Sheehan corresponded with us. Having looked into the Freedom March, she stated that they booked the park’s bandshell with the intent to march to Pulse. They did not, however, submit their permits on time to perform the march. A gathering is still planned.
Mayor Buddy Dwyer’s Diversity & Equity Senior Specialist, Felipe Sousa Matos Rodriguez, responded to our letter reasserting the city’s commitment to inclusion and their partnerships with One Orlando Alliance and the Zebra Coalition.
In a statement on social media, the Mental Health Association of Central Florida endorsed Q Christian’s intentions in alerting the City of Orlando to the Freedom March: “Mental Health Association of Central Florida, as a member of The One Orlando Alliance, stands with Q Christian Fellowship to inform the public and City of Orlando - Government about September 14th's "Freedom March Orlando." This march is promoting conversion therapy for individuals in the LGBTQ+ community. Conversion therapy, especially for LGBTQ+ youth, has been heavily researched, and shown to create poor mental health outcomes for those who have gone through it.”
To the Orlando city government and elected officials,
We are Q Christian Fellowship, a national organization dedicated to cultivating radical belonging for LGBTQ+ Christians and allies.
Orlando prides itself on being a “city for everyone”. You have enacted local ordinances and legislation designed to protect the rights of your LGBTQ+ community, cultivating a safe and inclusive space for them to live, especially after the horrors of the Pulse Nightclub attack in 2016. We wish more cities around the country protected their sexual and gender minorities with the same level of concern and transparency.
We are writing to you to express our concerns about the “Freedom March Orlando” that is planned for September 14th at 1:00PM EST, to be held at the Walt Disney Amphitheater at Lake Eloa Park in Orlando.
The Freedom March describes their movement as “former homosexuals and transgenders sharing our testimonies and celebrating our freedom”. At Q Christian Fellowship, our members have far too much experience with the damage that can be done by organizations promoting “ex-gay” ideologies and conversion therapies premised on the false and dangerous claim that people must be “delivered from LGBTQ+ lifestyles”.
You should be aware that The Freedom March possesses significant organizational overlap with anti-LGBTQ+ groups such as Equipped to Love, the Changed Movement, and Moral Revolution, which describes itself as “a company of radicals helping to define a healthy sexuality” in a “generation overwhelmed by conflicting messages about love, lust, and relationships”.
Each of these entities can be traced back to Bethel Church in Redding, California, a massively influential organization in Protestant Evangelicalism whose reach numbers in the millions. As recently as August 13th, Bethel Church shared story of a Changed Movement member claiming to have had her sexuality “changed” to its 443,000 Facebook followers and 676,000 Instagram followers. Kris Vallotton, the Senior Associate Leader for Bethel Church, tweeted on August 14th with the claim that “these former gay people are gathering by the thousands all over America to dispel the lie that you can never change.”
The message promoted by “Freedom March Orlando” represents a serious threat to LGBTQ people in your city, particularly youth. The Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to providing suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ youth in crisis, recently released a national study on LGBTQ+ youth mental health. They found that:
2 in 3 youth reported that someone tried to convince them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Youth who had been pressured to change who they are reported vastly higher rates of suicide attempt (23% vs 8%).
5% of youth actually reported undergoing conversion or reparative therapy.
42% of youth who were subjected to conversion therapy reported a suicide attempt in the last year (compared to 17%)
57% of transgender and non-binary youth who have undergone conversion therapy report a suicide attempt in the last year
We have a responsibility to work for the liberation and equity of LGBTQ+ people, particularly vulnerable youth. The Freedom March tells the parents of LGBTQ+ youth that LGBTQ+ identities and relationships are fundamentally flawed and immoral, and encourages parents (and vulnerable LGBTQ+ adults) to consider undergoing practices which we know to be ineffective and harmful as the price of maintaining their place in their faith communities.
Given the stakes, we are asking you to stand with your LGBTQ+ community by publicly disavowing Freedom March and their stated mission. While we recognize that the City cannot stop this organization from marching, you do have the power to speak out against conversion therapy, to pass ordinances or resolutions against this dangerous practice, or simply to again affirm your support for your LGBTQ+ residents exactly as God made them to be.
We recognize the significance of such a request, and should you have further questions, we encourage you to contact us at email@example.com. We are happy to provide you with resources, information on Freedom March and their affiliated groups, and we invite you to consider partnering with Q Christian at our annual Conference for LGBTQ+ Christians and allies being hosted January 2nd through 5th in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
You can also read the stories of LGBTQ+ Christians who have found liberation, belonging, and the courage to speak up against repression and conversion therapy through our response to these organizations: the Unchanged Movement.
on behalf of Q Christian Fellowship
With the consultation including
Ralph Jones, Jr. (Public Information Officer for the City of Atlanta)