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by Bob Roehr
Another cornerstone of the antigay religious right has passed away. Rev. D. James Kennedy died in his sleep on Sept. 5, at the age of 76, of complications from heart disease. He had preached his last sermon last Christmas eve.
Kennedy founded the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and built it into one of the first megachurches. He was a leader of the 1973 conservative schism within the Presbyterian Church. He was among the first televangelists and through the Coral Ridge Ministries used the media to increase his influence and political power.
He often declared that his job was “to reclaim America for Christ.” He worked toward those ends as a co-founder of groups such as the Moral Majority and the Alliance Defense Fund, which files lawsuits on church-state issues.
Kennedy was an ally of Anita Bryant during the 1977 fight that overturned the Miami-Dade human rights ordinance which protected sexual orientation. It launched the national political backlash by social conservatives toward gay rights advances. Kennedy continued to oppose “the gay agenda” and supported ex-gay ministries.
The head of the Metropolitan Community Church, Rev. Elder Nancy L. Wilson, said “His work demonized countless thousands of our brothers and sisters who believe in the separation of church and state, the value of cultivating and celebrating diversity, the right of public schools to present curriculum that is scientifically sustainable, the equality of women, and the human rights of God’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children.”
Jason Cianciotto, at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, said, “Through his advocacy of ex-gay ministries, Kennedy called for the ‘transformation’ of LGBT Americans while ignoring scientific truths about the lack of efficacy and gross mental, physical, and spiritual harm caused by so-called ‘conversion therapy’ programs.”
Wayne Besen, who monitors antigay religious groups, said “We believe that a person should be remembered for the totality of his or her achievements and sins. Kennedy undoubtedly helped many people and inspired them to become better human beings. Unfortunately, he also leaves an ignoble legacy of intolerance that divided South Florida, destroyed families in the name of family values, and relentlessly assaulted the U.S. Constitution.”