Southern Nevada Health District severs ties with Canyon Ridge Christian Church

Short on time, but thought this was important to post. Southern Nevada Health District severed ties with Canyon Ridge Christian Church over their support for Martin Ssempa. Here is the letter:

July 9, 2010

Pastor Kevin Odor

6200 W. Lone Mountain Road

Las Vegas, NV 89130

Dear Pastor Odor:

It has been brought to the attention of the Southern Nevada Health District that Canyon Ridge Christian Church has an ongoing partnership with Pastor Martin Ssempa, the controversial Ugandan pastor. Pastor Ssempa’s support of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which would criminally penalize homosexuals, is in direct conflict with the overarching public health goals of the health district. It is with regret that I feel compelled to dissolve the health district’s relationship with your church as long as you continue this partnership.

One of the central tenets of public health is to provide services without judgment. We also apply this principle in working with our various partners. However, we are profoundly concerned about your partnership with Pastor Ssempa as it contradicts this central tenet in that it amounts to tacit approval of activities that violate the basic human rights that should be afforded to all Ugandans.

It is my understanding that your church has been a valuable partner and it is unfortunate that we will be unable to continue to work together as community partners. Please be assured our staff will be available to offer testing when requested by one of the independent groups that use your facility for meetings, such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous.

In closing, I would urge you and your congregation to revisit your continued support of Pastor Ssempa. I believe both of our mission’s will be better accomplished through the support of programs and activities that promote tolerance and acceptance.

I would be happy to discuss our decision with you further if you have additional questions.

Sincerely,

Lawrence Sands, DO, MPH

Chief Health Officer

Related posts:

February 1 – Canyon Ridge Christian Church issues statement on support for Martin Ssempa

June 10 – Canyon Ridge Christian Church in conversation with Martin Ssempa

June 20 – Canyon Ridge Christian Church hosts National HIV Testing Day

June 23 – Southern Nevada Health District to evaluate relationship with Canyon Ridge Christian Church

July 1 – Las Vegas newspaper covers Canyon Ridge controversy

July 2 – Salon article: Canyon Ridge, Willow Creek Association and Martin Ssempa

Also see this article on Salon.com:

Church loses partnership over “kill the gay” bill

  • stephen

    About time.

  • Michael Bussee

    Good for them.

  • Mary

    Unfortunately, in the name of politics, some people may not get tested. I wonder what the policies are for AA and NA?

  • Timothy Kincaid

    It is good for them. Nevada Health did what they needed to do. The message of the health board was being associated with a “kill the gays” image and there is no way that this could be acceptable.

    But it is also sad.

    The role of the church is to serve and by providing HIV testing they were serving. Sadly, CRCC’s desire to be affiliated with a heinous campaign was stronger than their desire to be the hands of God to those around them.

    There are no winners in this situation.

  • Eddy

    While the bill does advocate the death sentence for certain behaviors, to engender more support and outrage, ‘anti-homosexuality bill’ wasn’t strong enough so it was necessary to rename it the “kill the gays” bill.

    The bill was first proposed in April 2009. Canyon Ridge has sponsored several AIDS screening days since then. So they still managed to be the ‘hands of God to those around them.” It wasn’t until January of 2010, that Canyon Ridge’s affiliation with Ssempa and his wife was brought to national attention.

    Although Canyon Ridge has stated that they do not favor the death penalty, the demand has been that Canyon Ridge become a part of the political campaign and publicly renounce Ssempa and sever their ties from him. Because they did not cave to this pressure, it was necessary to ‘turn up the heat’. It was discovered that they host an AIDS testing day and this seemed like an excellent opportunity to apply some more pressure.

    Word went out via the internet advising people of their need to be outraged and how to express it. The campaign to pressure the Nevada Health Commission was late to start so the recent AIDS testing day happened. Because of the campaign and the outrage being expressed, the Nevada Health Commission had no choice other than to cut off Canyon Ridge as an AIDS testing site.

    I believe it’s an overstatement to say that Canyon Ridge has a ‘desire to be affiliated with a heinous campaign’. They have been affiliated with a man–and that man is a key player in the heinous campaign–but, since they have said clearly that they do not support the death penalty, it is an exaggeration to say that they have a desire to be affiliated with a heinous campaign. It is also beyond my scope as a human to make comparative judgements on the desires of others. The world’s impression of “their desire to be the hands of God to those around them” may have suffered but I’ll leave the actual comparative judgements up to God.

  • http://www.comingout4christians.net Dave

    I agree with Eddie that juding motive is not appropriate as we have no idea what the motive of this church was / is in continuing its ties with Ssempsa. The letter itself is well written and really addresses the main issue … re:

    One of the central tenets of public health is to provide services without judgment. We also apply this principle in working with our various partners. However, we are profoundly concerned about your partnership with Pastor Ssempa as it contradicts this central tenet in that it amounts to tacit approval of activities that violate the basic human rights that should be afforded to all Ugandans.

  • http://gayuganda.blogspot.com gayuganda

    Thanks Dave#.

    Sometimes I find that logic is lost in the abundance of words to justify something. Simple, and straight to the point gets across the message faster and more accurately than long winded and convoluted.

  • http://www.wthrockmorton.com Warren

    Eddy – I might be an overstatement to say what Timothy said, but then again it might not be. We just don’t know; but I am not inclined to give the benefit of the doubt when there is such contradictions in the evidence..

    Dave – I think you pulled out the crux of it.

  • Eddy

    Warren–

    But when we make a public statement declaring and assessing the heart and motives of fellow Christians that might be an overstatement, what do we call that?

    Imagine a young man who turns out to be a racist skinhead and says or does horrible things. (Oh wait, that’s not hard to imagine, we have examples.) The family is pressured to make a statement and states that this saddens them; they explain that they don’t feel this way themselves; they further acknowledge that they are in private dialogues with their son about his attitudes and behaviors. Now, although they make that small statement, for whatever reasons they have, they decide not to go the public denunciation route or to cut off the son/brother. Is it then fair of us to say of the family that they are racists…that they desire to be a part of his skinhead schemes? Given their small statement, is there any justification for presuming them to be racist themselves or to suggest that they desire to be affiliated with his heinous schemes?

    This is the last statement that I found from Canyon Ridge:

    The mission partners of Canyon Ridge Christian Church are more than just names on a bulletin board or a web site, they are our dearly loved friends and family. Because of this, we take seriously our commitment to them. When accusations or ill reports come to us about one of our partners and their ministry activities, we’re committed to do what the Bible instructs us to do; we go to our partners (when possible, going to see them face to face) and work through the issues with them personally. We don’t make public statements about our partners until we have worked through issues with them personally and brought those issues to resolution. We have been and are currently in conversation with Martin Ssempa and others regarding the controversy in Uganda and his activities in addressing it.

    Unless, we further judge them to be liars, the suggestion that they desire to be a part of Ssempa’s campaign IS an overstatement. (I wanted to add ‘clearly intended to inflame’ but that would be a judgement of the heart and motives of the one who made the comment.)

    And no, I don’t know what’s taking them so long to bring those issues to resolution; neither does anyone involved in these blog conversations.

    I’m in agreement with Dave, the letter from Nevada Health is well-written and addresses the main concern:

    One of the central tenets of public health is to provide services without judgment. We also apply this principle in working with our various partners. However, we are profoundly concerned about your partnership with Pastor Ssempa as it contradicts this central tenet in that it amounts to tacit approval of activities that violate the basic human rights that should be afforded to all Ugandans

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Eddy,

    Support for the leader of a campaign is indistinguishable from support for the campaign. Ssempa is not “a participant”; he is not “sometimes also supportive of the bill”; he is not “a brother with whom we disagree on a tiny point”. Martin Ssempa is the primary community activist for the passage of the bill, the cheif cheerleader, the point man.

    CRCC was informed. The were given a choice – continue support for Ssempa and by doing so for his campaign or participate in HIV testing. They chose Ssempa and his campaign.

    The uncomfortable truth is that CRCC is funding Ssempa’s efforts to incarcerate, intimidate, oppress and (depending on the day and who he’s talking to) perhaps execute gay people. This is the choice they made – freely and without coercion – and one must assume that they made this choice out of their desire to do so.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    I think that perhaps where we have disagreement is that I believe what Ssempa is doing is evil.

  • Eddy

    I think that perhaps where we have disagreement is that I believe what Ssempa is doing is evil.

    I’m not going to state my position on the bill or on Ssempa again, sir. You seem to have a short term memory problem.

    Support for the leader of a campaign is indistinguishable from support for the campaign.

    This is perhaps where we disagree. It plays well when the field is politics and only politics but it plays differently, as I believe I illustrated well enough for some, when the meaning of support and the type of support is in a broader context. The relationship they had/have with Ssempa was not and is not centered on politics. Their support for Ssempa is not centered or based on politics. They’ve said they disagree with the death penalty so it’s clearly not as black and white as you would like to paint it. And I’m quite sure we will continue to disagree. Further argument between us will not shed any more light on the matter. Both of us have spoken all that we really KNOW of the matter. Let the record show that we disagree; let the blog world judge our reasonings for their merits.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Eddy,

    I think you disapprove of what Ssempa is doing, but I don’t think you see it as evil. It’s a distinction that colors the way each of us views reaction to Ssempa and his activism.

  • Eddy

    Well, then, for the record: Let me tell you that I do think it’s evil and on several levels. I think he’s misguided and needs a trip to the toolshed for a serious whooping.

  • Timothy Kincaid

    Well then perhaps we differ in our perceptions about the appropriate response to evil.

    Because I don’t think that evil is synonymous to naughty. I don’t think a whoopin’ in a toolshed is an appropriate response to evil.

    And I have a hard time conceptualizing how it is that CRCC can see evil – real, genuine, depths-of-darkness evil – and respond by closing ranks around it and protecting it from criticism.

    This is one of those rare make-a-choice moments which define you. CRCC has made a choice.

    You don’t see this as black and white. I do. What Ssempa is doing is not offwhite or ecru or grey or even charcoal. It’s black – plain old undiluted evil.

    But to you there are shades, hues, mitigating circumstances, “not politics” issues, etc.

    So that is why I say that you don’t see this as evil. Because I really don’t believe, Eddy, that you would be so accommodating if you saw Ssempa’s campaign as I do.

  • Eddy

    Keep on judging!

    I used a colloquialism because I’d already said that I see no point in engaging in this conversation further. I did and I do object to your continued attempts to judge me and characterize me and don’t really feel much like giving you the time of day let alone answer to your attempts at judgement and doubting my words.

    BTW: How you doing with pressuring people to speak up and campaign against the Afhanistan ‘Kill The Christians’ bill?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

    Eddy wrote:

    BTW: How you doing with pressuring people to speak up and campaign against the Afhanistan ‘Kill The Christians’ bill?

    I don’t expect everyone to speak out on issues where they have no connection. I received this criticism as well – why don’t you work as hard as against _______ (fill in the blank with an evil)? The answer for me is that I can’t work as hard on other evils or else I wouldn’t be working hard on anything. I know this issue well, started on it and don’t like to quit something. In other less public ways, I am involved in righting other wrongs and I suspect Timothy is as well. One does not need to be equally vocal about all manifestations of evil in order to speak out on one of them.

    The point as I read Timothy’s post was that perception helps drive action and response. This makes sense to me and is a way to understand those who are not reacting in the same way to the same set of circumstances.

  • Michael Bussee

    One does not need to be equally vocal about all manifestations of evil in order to speak out on one of them. — W.Throckmorton.

    It makes sense to me, too. Thanks for stating it so well.

  • Michael Bussee

    When it comes to the Ugandan Bill, some have argued that we who object strongly to this law have “no right” to vocally oppose it — or to apply pressure for others to prompt them to do so.

    So, I am wondering: under what kinds of circumstances it is appropriate to pressure individuals, organizations or churches to “speak up” — if not this one, what sort of situation might warrrant it?

  • Eddy

    Sorry, I swear I recall reading posts that said ‘if it were Christians who were being considered for the death penalty, you’d want US to speak up, wouldn’t you?’…or statements to that effect.

    I don’t expect everyone to speak out on issues where they have no connection.

    No connection? I thought the one thing that the majority of us had in common was that we were Christians…making those people our brothers and sisters in Christ. Silly me to think of that as a ‘connection’. Christians, and not just those who had some previous connection to Uganda, were urged to join the campaign against the anti-homosexuality bill based on the ‘family of man’ connection…or did I read wrong the persuasions that were employed. And when some objected that they had other involvements, the reply was ‘but this is death we’re talking about’.

  • http://www.wthrockmorton.com Warren

    Eddy – What I meant was – I have no connections to the Afghani persecutors. Of course, I have connections to the victims and in other ways have been involved in that and other situations.

    In the Ugandan situation, it is Christians who are doing the persecuting. This is where we have a special responsibility in my view. In general, of course, I believe that restriction on conscience is wrong and I oppose it. Where Christians are doing the restricting and abusing their power, I feel more of a responsibility to make a difference.

    Finding more exceptions or raising issues of perceived inconsistency doesn’t change what is happening in the topic of this post. The general issue here is that some churches are reaching out to GLB and HIV communities here but supporting an opposing message and approach elsewhere. I agree with Andrew Marin that such a position is a non-starter and should be opposed.

  • Richard

    As far as I am concerned, Ssempa is no Christian. It appears to me that he worships selected fragments of the Bible, and pays little or no attention to the teachings of Christ. On theological grounds alone, Canyon Ridge (and, for that matter, any self-respecting church) should have nothing to do with him.

  • Michael Bussee

    I would be interested in more information about the Afhanistan ‘Kill The Christians’ bill. I am ashamed to admit that I was not aware of this until now. I will certainly do anything I can to stop it — since I oppose killing anyone — including gays or Christians. I have a special interest, since I am both. Is there an effort already in progress that I can join?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

    Michael – There is a somewhat comparable movement in Afghanistan – http://www.worldmag.com/webextra/16862

    Western Christians are apparently being silent about it and I think we should conduct a similar awareness campaign.

    More to come on it…

  • Michael Bussee

    Thanks, Warren. I will follow-up and do whatever I can. Looking for organizations alread involved in the effort. Do you know of any?

  • Timothy Kincaid

    BTW: How you doing with pressuring people to speak up and campaign against the Afhanistan ‘Kill The Christians’ bill?

    If there is drafted legislation proposing to incarcerate or execute Christians then that is unquestionably evil. And you’d better believe I won’t be making excuses for those who support it or who support its advocates.

  • Eddy

    And I’m going to, perhaps foolishly, believe the following words are true until I’m provided actual evidence to the contrary. As a former minister, I understand and believe in this process. I also understand the frustration of those who don’t comprehend that ‘going to’ and ‘working through’ take time. It frustrates me as well. But I’m not going to be compelled or shamed into believing that these people are lying. I have not declared that they aren’t…my position is simply that I’m not going to jump onto the bandwagon of presumption that they are–without sufficient evidence. I’m sorry that disturbs you so.

    When accusations or ill reports come to us about one of our partners and their ministry activities, we’re committed to do what the Bible instructs us to do; we go to our partners (when possible, going to see them face to face) and work through the issues with them personally. We don’t make public statements about our partners until we have worked through issues with them personally and brought those issues to resolution. We have been and are currently in conversation with Martin Ssempa and others regarding the controversy in Uganda and his activities in addressing it.

  • Michael Bussee

    I sincerely pray that they take this Christian duty seriously and that they will do the right thing — sooner rather than later. The months of delay by many Christian leaders and organizations has indeed been very frustrating.

    I also pray that Canyon Ridge will listen to God — and not let the issue of “who’s telling them” cause them to be lax or to delay — as Alan Chambers admited (with admirable humility) that he did.

    I pray that this statement from Canyon Ridge is an indication that Canyon Ridge does indeed have real issues with Ssempa and that that they are trying to address them. I pray that the leaders or Canyon RIdge can see that this is “evil and on several levels” — and that they can help Ssempa to see it too.

    Sometimes, faith needs to be patient. Sometimes, it needs to be quick. There is a time to go through the slow process of “working through” and a time to take decisive action. Personally, I think many Christians do too much of the first and too little of the latter.

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  • anteros

    Support for the leader of a campaign is indistinguishable from support for the campaign.

    I could not agree more.

    Ssempa will use everything and anything that is made available to him, and divert it towards his efforts to make life more difficult for gay people.

    Just think about his appearances on youtube:

    In the “eat da poo poo” clip, he introduced himself as “Pastor Doctor Martin Ssempa”. Philadelphia Biblical University awarded Ssempa an honorary degree for his ministry of compassion to HIV/AIDS victims in Uganda. But here we have Ssempa giving himself unwarranted credibility in his attempts to vilify homosexuals. PBU supported him by awarding that honorary degree, and later regretted being associated with Ssempa’s campaign. Would they have awared him that degree if they knew he would use the title “doctor” to abuse Ugandans’ ignorance and flare up hatred towards homosexuals?

    I am almost certain that the laptop, projector, internet used in that same youtube clip were purchased with money that was not intended for the screening of scat porn in an attempt to demonize homosexuals. Would he have had access to those tools if his all supporters and sponsors knew how he would use their support?

    Those who attended that church service, afforded him audience as a congregation – which he abused the church’s constituency by showing them scat porn. Would they have turned up if they knew he had a scat porn show prepared for them?

    Any support Ssempa gets, in whatever form, is support for the victimization of gay people.

  • anteros

    …and i don’t think Ssempa’s anti-gay rallies come cheap either.

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  • James Havard

    The health district can always be sued for religious discrimination. What happened to seperation of church and state? If muslims get control of managing the health district, will christians still receive care?


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