"I did feel like he was being denied the dignity of death."
That’s what Julion Evans’ mom, Julie Atwood, thought of the refusal by New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Tampa, Fla., to conduct her son’s service after finding out that he was a gay man, according to WFLA. Atwood was given the news the day before the service was to be held, after the pastor realized that Evans’ obituary had given a nod to his surviving husband. Conducting the service, she was told, would be “blasphemous.”
Evans and his husband, Kendall Capers, had been together for 17 years, but they were married just last year in Maryland. The 42-year-old succumbed to a rare disease called amyloidosis, which destroyed his organs, WFLA notes.
“Everyone who knew us knew about our relationship,” Capers said. “We didn’t keep secrets.”
New Hope, the church where Atwood was baptized as a child and where some of her family members are still congregants, was chosen because it was big enough to fit grieving attendees coming from all over the country. However, things changed once Evans’ obituary was published in a local newspaper. Members of New Hope called the pastor, T.W. Jenkins, to complain.
“Based on our preaching of the Scripture, we would have been in error to allow the service in our church,” Jenkins told WFLA. “I’m not trying to condemn anyone’s lifestyle, but at the same time, I am a man of God, and I have to stand up for my principles.”
And so, with less than 24 hours left, Evans’ family had to make other arrangements for his burial. In the rush, it was impossible to contact everyone who would have been attending, so some would-be attendees ended up missing the funeral after showing up at the wrong church.
“This is 2014; this is not the ’60s or the ’70s,” said Capers, who called the last-minute cancellation disrespectful. “So at the end of the day, I just want [this] wrongdoing to be exposed.”
Read more at WFLA.