Christians in This Town Dropped Out of a Nativity Procession Because It Was Hosted By an LGBT-Affirming Church

For 42 years, there was a Nativity scene placed in a local park in Bellevue, Kentucky. But in order to prevent any potential church/state separation lawsuits, the display was moved to St. John United Church of Christ. Which is exactly what they should’ve done a long time ago, though it’s really wonderful that the city did the right thing without an atheist group having to force their hand.

A weak invitation for a lawsuit (via Facebook)

There’s also another tradition in Bellevue. Local churches gather around the Nativity scene every year and have a procession with Bible readings and a candlelight vigil. On Friday night, that procession was scheduled to be held at St. John UCC — instead of the park where it had taken place in the past — but the four other churches in the area all declined the invitation.

What was the problem?

It turns out the UCC church is just too damn inclusive. They have a gay pastor. They welcome LGBT church members. And the other churches want nothing to do with that pesky idea of “tolerance”:

“We were the only place that had space for it,” the Rev. Keith Haithcock, the openly-gay pastor of St. John UCC, said of the life-sized nativity scene. “Then all of a sudden, it began to surface that our location was causing controversy for some people because of our Open and Affirming stance.

Haithcock extended invitations to the heads of each Bellevue church. He said two declined to participate for various reasons, one did not respond at all, and the other told Haithcock his church would not participate because St. John UCC does not follow the teachings of Christ.

A local news station spoke with the pastor of one of those other churches and his bigotry was palpable:

WLWT reached out to the pastor Aaron Sams of First Baptist Church in Bellevue.

He released a statement that said,”We support St. John’s religious liberty. We appreciate that they want to have a positive impact in our community. They are clear however on what they believe and we are clear on what we believe and there are contrasts. We have some different beliefs that prevent us from linking arms from this activity.

They can’t link arms with the church that is accepting and inclusive? Of course not, because that sounds like something Jesus would do, and there’s no way members of a Baptist church would be caught dead acting like that hippie.

(Thanks to Lauren for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Houndentenor

    If the other churches don’t like it, they should put up their own nativity scene(s) on their own property. I don’t really understand why this is so complicated for the fundamentalists. For people who claim government can’t do anything right, it’s odd that they want government to manage their religious displays for them.

  • Buckley

    I’m not religious and I have no intention of becoming so, but I respect the UCC greatly. In the the 1830s to the 1860s when they were the Congregationalist Church, they were the only openly Anti-Slavery Church. They’ve been on the cutting edge for a long time. Many Congregationalists also became Unitarians, and as we know, Unitarians are a “gateway drug” to Atheism.

  • Dawn Cadwell


    Ohhhh, that’s gooood!

    “For people who claim government can’t do anything right, it’s odd that they want government to manage their religious displays for them”

  • Rain

    Nothing beats peace on earth and good will toward others during the totally Christian holidays. I even had to awkwardly change “toward men” to “toward others”, it’s just so freaking wonderful.

    • Feminerd

      Peace on earth and goodwill toward all scans better.

  • Anton

    Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after injustice.

  • Whitney

    Does anyone else ever get the feeling that Christmas for Christians is a bit like a family reunion? It has to be held on neutral ground, and there’s always some social disaster or another brewing. Oh, yeah, and there’s much rejoicing if Weird Cousin Bernie can’t come. People are really, really strange.

    • Jeff

      I think, in this case, it’s Aunt Bernie.

      • Matt D

        Sure, if his parents are inbreeding rednecks, he could end up a cyclops as well.

  • Lori F

    Apparently the UCC has cooties.
    It’s nice to see other churches sharing the Christians spirit and love. (Snark intended)

  • randomfactor

    Religious intolerance…the gift that keeps on giving.

  • Mick

    The anti UCC crowd are merely obeying Jesus who told his followers that if anybody thinks differently than they do, they should walk away and have nothing more to do with them:

    And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place
    and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.
    (Mark 6:11)

    • skinnercitycyclist

      Sounded to me like Mr Haithcock was welcoming and willing to listen. Unless those words mean something different when Christianists look at them.

  • Rogue Medic

    “We have some different beliefs that prevent us from linking arms from this activity.“


    • momtarkle

      All are united in christ.

      • The Other Weirdo

        Not that united, or else I’ve been living in a parallel world where 2000 years of Christian Europe isn’t what I thought it was. :)

        • momtarkle

          Untied! I meant untied!

          • Matt D


  • Erp

    I have a suspicion that First Baptist Church in Bellevue wouldn’t link arms with First Baptist of my town (the closest church to where I live, the minister there is gay and though I think slightly uncomfortable with humanists welcomes them joining in activities). But Bellevue is Southern Baptist and my town is American Baptist (though well on the liberal side for American Baptist).

    • The Other Weirdo

      “Umm, yeah, so Humanists… ewww, but they’ve got some good ideas.”

  • squinney

    No big news here. It is just christians being christians.

  • Zomberina Contagion

    I lived in Bellevue and its neighbor Dayton. Plenty of racism, and bigotry. Period. The communities are starting to stagnate and they are reaping what their divisive attitudes have sown. The Baptust church is well known for its judgemental behavior towards many other churches in the area. If it weren’t about a pastor being gay, it would be about a difference in general doctrines — OT law for example. Waste of internet space even giving these towns time of day. For as much gawd thst they claim to have there, it seems the meth and heroin offer better escapes than Jebus.

    • evodevo

      That applies to most of the state, except for Louisville and Lexington !

  • Richard Wade

    “…his church would not participate because St. John UCC does not follow the teachings of Christ.”

    This confirms once again the trend accelerating in the last decade or so, the emergence of a major new branch of Christianity that specifically hates LGBT people far more than they love Jesus. The old version of Jesus that is.

    They’re inventing a new version of Jesus, revealed by The Lost Gospel of Bubba the Bigot who chronicled how Jesus went on and on, saying that everyone should hate and shun men who lay with men as with women, and women who lay with women as with men: “Whosoever showeth them kindness and good will shall be in danger of hell fire.” –Bubba 1:3 “The Law hast saith that they are an abomination unto the Lord, and that hast not changed one iota since I last saw Dad.” –Bubba 3:2

    Just keep opening that femoral artery wider and wider, guys. Your shift to a hate cult is one of the biggest reasons you’re rapidly losing young members.

    • Gunnar Tveiten

      Indeed. The degree to which certain churches demand that their religion should be ALL ABOUT HATE is flabbergasting — I mean, even if you think being gay is a sin, on the level with wearing mixed fibres or engaging in gluttony — why would you want to make it ALL about that ? I don’t see nearly the same hate for those wearing mixed fibres now that I think about it, could it be that they prefer hating someone who isn’t themselves ?

    • rwlawoffice

      Richard this is simply not true. The orthodox view of Christianity and the prevailing view of the faith is that homosexuality is a sin. It is the new liberal stance in an attempt to bow to the winds of culture that try to interpret the scripture to say that homosexual behavior is ok. They are changing, not the other way around.

      Jesus clearly hung out with sinners. It is equally clear that he did not condemn them. However, as he told the woman caught in adultery, go and sin no more. In other words, provide love and acceptance to the sinner, but do not accept the sin.

      • Oranje

        Yet we hear nothing about churches condemning each other over mixing fibers or eating shellfish. It is precisely the categorization of anything other than monogamous heterosexuality as a sin that is driving away younger members. Especially when they know people with different backgrounds or identities and don’t see how they can be judged as bad.

        It’s not that Christianity in a general sense did not oppose homosexuality in the past, it’s that it has become the central issue, much the way abortion was in the 80s and 90s. It’s the one they’re focusing on. And many Christians I know are sick of it.

        • rwlawoffice

          Considering that the rules for the Jewish nation of Israel regarding their garments or their food do not and have never applied to Christians (See Acts) then there is no doubt that you would not hear an argument over mixed garments or shellfish.

          I agree that the homosexuality issue is tiresome. But I don’t think it will go away any time soon. the clear intent of the homosexual community is not tolerance, it is moral equivalent acceptance for their behavior. Until they have that, even in the realm of religion, they will not be satisfied. Christians are not focusing on it because they think it is so important. It is the focus because of the agenda for moral acceptance that is being forced upon them so they must respond.

          • Oswald Carnes

            You’re still alive? Wouldn’t you be much happier in paradise? In any event, hope it’s slow and painful!

          • Rogue Medic


            Until they have that, even in the realm of religion, they will not be satisfied.

            That claim is made every time someone asks for equal rights.

            Remember how the world ended once women were given the right to vote.

            Christians are not any more moral than anyone else.

            There are plenty of Christian hypocrites using the Bible for confirmation bias.

            When looking for an excuse to mistreat someone different from us, the Bible is our friend.


          • Matt D

            At this point, it would easier to hear what you *don’t* blame minorities for, since the other list is apparently infinite.

          • Neko

            Hi, I’m aware of the prohibitions against homosexuality in the Bible, but I’m wondering what in particular informs your views.

      • Rogue Medic


        It is the new liberal stance in an attempt to bow to the winds of culture that try to interpret the scripture to say that homosexual behavior is ok. They are changing, not the other way around.


        Morality evolves.

        Religion tries to keep up.

        Religion is opposed to morality until enough time has passed that they feel they can claim that they are the source of morality.

        If morality is religious, why can’t religious people agree on morality?

        Even people of the same faith disagree on morality.

        Christians opposed slavery based on the Bible.

        Christians supported slavery based on the Bible.

        America’s most deadly war had the same God on both sides.

        The Bible is the Ultimate Book of Relativity, you can find justification for moral behavior and justification for immoral behavior in there.

        When you see what you want to see, it is not morality.

        The Bible is just a source to quote mine for support for immorality. Morality should not need a defense.


      • baal

        The whole good/evil and sinning (thought crimes against god the imaginary being) need to go. If you’re focused on appeasing the non-existent supernatural being of some middle eastern tribes from 2 millennial ago, you’re not focused on helping people here today. You’re at best one step removed from thinking about how your actions promote a better society for everyone or from thinking about how to not create incidental harms to those around you.

  • PsiCop

    More needless Christian dissension and rancor, over a practice (i.e. public expressions of piety) that their own Jesus clearly and unambiguously forbid them ever to engage in:

    “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-6)

    Maybe if these Christians all stopped making a big deal of putting up their Christmas displays … “practicing [their] righteousness before men to be noticed by them” … then they might be able to grow the heck up for once, and we’d all be a little better off. No?

  • evodevo

    The Episcopal church in Maysville – just up the river from Bellevue – split a few years ago over the gay question.

  • Psychotic Atheist

    The gays and their supporters are intolerant of our religious views and our traditional values.some time later…
    We’re so intolerant of the religious views of that other church we’re going to break our tradition.

  • Stev84

    Most Christians just suck. Terrible people.

  • SeekerLancer

    I’ve said it before but… Christmas, the time of year when Christians come together to hate everyone who isn’t like them.

    • b s

      Every day is christmas for some.

  • joshuaism

    Fundies are just modern day pharisees, too focused on the letter of the law and not the intent. If you want to see WWJD today in regards to gays, just look at his entourage of whores, tax collectors, Samaritans, and gentiles. Jesus was an advocate for government workers, social pariahs, outcasts, and the downtrodden. His followers today, not so much.