(Photo: AP Images / J. Michael Short, File)
John Hagee, senior pastor of the 20,000 member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, has said that he now supports a controversial ordinance that looks to protect the rights of LGBT residents, though some fear it might discriminate against religious beliefs.
"All of the previous language that infringed upon the freedom of speech, the freedom of exercise of religion and the ability for people of faith to serve on City Council has been expunged," Hagee shared with the Cornerstone congregation on Sunday, My San Antonio reported.
The ordinance, which is expected to go before the City Council on Sept. 5, looks to stop discrimination against LGBT people, but some are concerned that it might also target religious people for their socially conservative views on the subject.
Hagee had previously opposed the ordinance, but after the proposal's author, Councilman Diego Bernal, removed the problematic language from the new version of the proposal, the megachurch pastor changed course and gave his approval.
"I was happy to share the changes with the pastor and his son," Bernal revealed, referring to Mathew Hagee, the executive pastor at Cornerstone.
"The ability to speak face to face about what the ordinance does and doesn't do has proven to me time and time again to be the most effective method."
Those supporting the ordinance say that adding "gender identity" and "sexual orientation" to the city's current anti-discrimination policy is crucial for protecting the rights of all of San Antonio's residents.
"To say that you agree with this ordinance," said Mayor Julian Castro, "is to say that you do not believe that someone who is gay or lesbian ought to be discriminated against in the same way that an African American or a Hispanic or a woman shouldn't be discriminated against."
Still, a number of Christian groups have warned that the ordinance might pose problems for religious people if their convictions do not align with the city's policies.
"No protection for people in how they speak and express their religious beliefs," said Robert P. Wilson, an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom. "On one hand, (the proposal) is promoting equality. On the other hand, it criminalizes religious convictions if a business does not operate according to the way the city says is right."
American Family Association President Tim Wildmon added that it is "yet another tactic to exclude Christians from the political process and silence them, not to mention the assault on religious liberties that this unconstitutional policy demonstrates."
"This course of action is well on its way to thought control if people won't even be able to voice their faith-based beliefs about homosexuality in a respectful way," Wildmon continued, according to CBN. "This leaves Christians with nowhere to go and backs them into a corner, which is exactly what the homosexual lobby wants."
Bernal has argued, however, that it is a vocal minority opposed to gay people who are trying to stop the ordinance.
"What has surprised me is the lengths to which peiople have gone to say something that's not true. To say that we're persecuting Christians? I'm a Christian. I go to church regularly. I have an awesome pastor. He's amazing," Bernal said, according to News 4 San Antonio.