‘Heartbroken and saddened’: Fla. megachurch responds after member seen at Capitol riot

Supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump protest outside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Demonstrators breached security and entered the Capitol as Congress debated the 2020 presidential election Electoral Vote Certification. | ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images

A Florida church has responded to the revelations that the wife of one of its worship leaders took part in the protest outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., last Wednesday.

Bayside Community Church, a multi-campus non-denominational church based in Bradenton,posted a statement to its Facebook page last Thursday regarding the Jan. 6 riot where fringe Trump supporters stormed the halls of Congress, many causing violence and destruction, and delayed the electoral vote count by hours. 

The riot at the Capitol began at the same time a rally was being held at the Ellipse near the White House where hundreds of thousands of Trump supporters listened to speakers, including President Donald Trump, who reasserted his claims that targeted voter fraud cost him the 2020 election. Following the rally, participants marched to the Capitol where a separate rally was to be held. That event, however, never took place because the riot had already ensued. 

At issue for Bayside was how Krystle Sommers, wife of the church’s worship pastor, Josh, participated in the protests on Capitol Hill.

The church explained that they were “heartbroken and saddened by the events” and that anyone tied to their church who attended the demonstrations “did so as a private individual, for their own purposes and not as a representative of Bayside Community Church.”

“We want to make it clear that Bayside Community Church does not support, agree with, or condone violence, lawlessness, riots, or terrorism of any kind,” the church’s statement reads.

“No pastor or staff member of Bayside Community Church attended or participated in any of the events which occurred in our Nation’s Capitol this past week.”

Bayside went on to say that the church “cannot control or dictate the attitudes or actions of our church attendees, including the spouses or family of our staff members.”

“Any actions, statements, and videos reflect personal viewpoints of the individual and in no way represent the viewpoints and beliefs of our church,” the statement continued.

“We will continue to pray for all those who have been involved or affected by these events and are asking God to bring his peace to our hearts and unity in our nation.”

Janet Casserley, Sommers' mother, told local media that they were part of the overall march on Capitol Hill and they had taken photos of themselves beside a controversial noose display.

“My daughter and I went to D.C. to support our president and it was a peaceful demonstration and we walked down to the Capitol which we were told to do,” explained Casserley to WWSB, adding that they climbed up on the scaffolding to have the pictures taken. “We all stood up there having our pictures taken. I mean this is history-making.”

Casserley told the news outlet that her daughter’s husband, Josh, was “not even in on us going on this trip.”

“He has no connection with us going,” she said. “Us girls decided last minute that we are going, which girls do.”

She said that the trip had “absolutely nothing to do with her husband or the church.” 

Casserley also told WWSB that before the violence began, she viewed the trip to D.C. as “a fun mother-daughter trip to make history” and to support Trump.

“All of a sudden all hell broke loose, a man stood next to me trying to smash the windows. I tried to stop him. I got somebody else to try to stop him,” the mother added.

“I literally climbed over the balcony on the outside, climbed down, grabbed my daughter and we got out of there.”   

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