A pastor from Sioux City, Iowa, has demanded that the city remove a newly appointed gay activist member of its Human Rights Commission who told him that he and his family deserved to "burn in hell" for opposing homosexuality.
In a blog post last Wednesday, the Rev. Cary Gordon, executive pastor of Cornerstone World Outreach church, said new Sioux City Human Rights Commission member Scott Raasch, 49, sent him threatening e-mails after he launched a campaign in 2010 to remove Iowa's state Supreme Court justices.
According to Gordon, the justices "ignored the reality that the behavior of sodomy was criminalized under our constitution for nearly 200 years in American history" and ruled same-sex couples were allowed to marry.
Gordon's advocacy, along with that of conservative family groups, resulted in the removal of three of the justices by Iowa voters. But following the vote, Gordon and his church and family came under serious threats as a result.
One of the threats sent to him in 2010 was signed by Scott Raasch, a businessman who also happens to be gay.
"You are a joke and your "church" is our version of Westboro Baptist. You are haters and bigots and you will get what's coming to you sooner or later. I hope you rot in hell," Raasch wrote Gordon.
The pastor explained that he tried to witness to Raasch by telling him about Jesus and repentance but his efforts were rebuffed.
"I responded to him with as much decorum as I could muster, attempting to share the purpose of Jesus' crucifixion with him and its connection to the Christmas holiday he was desecrating," wrote Gordon.
According to the Sioux City Journal, Gordon replied: "I hope you repent of your sins and accept Jesus as your Lord and Savior. I wouldn't want you or anyone else to go to hell."
Gordon's words must have infuriated Raasch because according to his account Raasch slammed him and his entire family in response to his witnessing.
"I know Christ and don't need a snake oil salesman like you to tell me about him. I guess that's the difference between us because I think there are many people that deserve to burn in hell ... including you and your entire family," Raasch allegedly told him.
"The sooner the better for our community! Now be a good little bigot and go break some more laws now so you can get more attention for your snake oil show," he added.
In the Journal's report, Gordon questioned Raasch's ability to be impartial on discrimination cases the commission hears that involve religious issues.
"Let me be very clear: A man who gives 'death wishes' to a local pastor's wife and children at Christmas guarantees an atmosphere where prosecutorial powers of the HRC are likely to become abusive and threatening to people of faith in Sioux City," he wrote in his blog post.
Raasch, who was unanimously named to a three-year term on the Sioux City Human Rights Commission on July 8, confirmed in the Journal that he had the online exchange with the pastor and said he was sorry.
"I would like to say that if I caused him or his family any stress, I do apologize for that, as that was not my intention. I feel badly about this," said Raasch. "I don't want to get off to a bad start. I think I can do a good job on this commission."
Sioux City councilwoman Rhonda Capron defended Raasch's appointment, charging that it happened long ago.
"This was three years ago, and all of a sudden Pastor Gordon makes a point of it now?" she told the Journal on Friday. "He just doesn't want Scott on the commission. I think he'll do a great job."
Another councilman, Tom Padgett, agreed with Capron. Councilman John Fitch, however, said he was concerned.
"Religion is one of the protected classes," Fitch said. "He (Raasch) showed no regard for a pastor or a church and his beliefs. … We voted him in and we can vote him back out."