Chap­lain draws scru­tiny over ties to group against gay rights

The Union Democrat - - FRONT PAGE - By LYN RID­DLE

A Sonora pas­tor who has been a chap­lain for the Sonora Po­lice De­part­ment has ties to a Modesto group that fights against gay rights.

David Bush, pas­tor of Oak Hill Pres­by­te­rian Church, is al­lied with Straight Pride Coali­tion, which last year staged a protest against gay rights and in­tends to hold an­other in Au­gust.

His de­nom­i­na­tion, Ortho­dox Pres­by­te­rian, ad­vises its mem­bers that ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity is a sin and trans­gen­der is a psy­cho­log­i­cal con­di­tion not based in re­al­ity. It cau­tions, though, that peo­ple should be ap­proached with com­pas­sion to en­cour­age them to change.

At least one per­son has called Sonora Po­lice Chief Turu Van­der­wiel to com­plain about Bush’s ties to the de­part­ment in light of his be­liefs.

Van­der­wiel said Wed­nes­day Bush is not of­fi­cially on the ros­ter as chap­lain, but has re­mained on the on-call list. He said he is look­ing into the com­plaints and, for now, the de­part­ment would call on Sher­iff’s Of­fice Chap­lain Greg Elam for help, if needed.

The po­lice de­part­ment chap­lain is a vol­un­teer post that is not a plat­form for es­pous­ing an in­di­vid­ual’s re­li­gious be­liefs, Van­der­wiel said. The chap­lain helps of­fi­cers with the stresses of the job and ac­com­pa­nies of­fi­cers when they no­tify rel­a­tives of a death.

Van­der­wiel said Bush was on the chap­lain ros­ter when he joined the de­part­ment in 2004. He said he has never re­ceived a com­plaint about Bush try­ing to pros­the­ly­tize while work­ing as a chap­lain.

On his church web­site, Bush says he is chap­lain for the po­lice de­part­ment and the Tuolumne County Sher­iff’s Of­fice. Nic­coli San­delin, spokesman for the sher­iff’s

of­fice, said Thurs­day that Bush has never been a chap­lain for his de­part­ment.

Bush said he vol­un­teered for both agen­cies shortly af­ter he came to Sonora in 2002 and has be­come less in­volved in the past few years be­cause he is lead­ing four Ortho­dox Pres­by­te­rian groups — two in Ne­vada, one in Calav­eras County and his own church on Peace­ful Val­ley Road.

Sonora res­i­dent Lau­ren Hur­ley, who is­sued a call for com­mu­nity ac­tion on Face­book, said she be­lieves a per­son who es­pouses that gays are per­verts and sodomy should be crim­i­nal­ized should not have ties to lo­cal law en­force­ment.

“Some peo­ple have said he’s a good per­son, which is great and won­der­ful, but if ho­mo­pho­bia is part of it, it’s fright­en­ing to me,” she said. “I can’t stay silent.”

Carly Fox, a teacher in San Car­los who grew up in Tuolumne County, said she is con­cerned that Straight Pride also has ties to white evan­gel­i­cal na­tion­al­ism and has ex­pressed her con­cern to Van­der­wiel.

Fox at­tended an evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tian church as a child and her ex­pe­ri­ence was that mem­bers and lead­ers could not sep­a­rate their world views from their ac­tions with peo­ple out­side their be­lief sys­tem.

“It’s hard to en­gage in any way. It’s black and white,” she said, adding that for them be­liev­ing any­thing out­side the in­errancy of the Bi­ble is a “de­monic bat­tle.”

Bush called the charge that Straight Pride is a white supremi­cist group slan­der and patently un­true. He said var­i­ous groups have tried to de­scribe the or­ga­ni­za­tion as such based on its be­lief that Amer­ica has strayed from its found­ing prin­ci­ples, which he de­scribed as Chris­tian. He said Black peo­ple are in­volved in the or­ga­ni­za­tion, which be­lieves all lives mat­ter.

He also said he does be­lieve the Bi­ble says ho­mo­sex­u­aity is a sin and there are two gen­ders — male and fe­male, de­fined at birth.

“The most lov­ing thing I can do is to tell ho­mo­sex­u­als it is a dan­ger­ous thing to do and they are play­ing with sin.” One day, he said, they will stand be­fore God in judg­ment.

“I love ho­mo­sex­u­als,” he said, not­ing that he has fam­ily mem­bers who iden­tify as LGBT. Be­fore he was saved at the age of 29, he said, he sup­ported gay rights.

But, he said he does not ex­press his be­liefs while work­ing as a chap­lain. His job is to help peo­ple through the trauma of death, the phys­i­cal as­pects of grief, the death process, and to free up of­fi­cers to do their work.

“This is not the ground to fight that on,” he said. “It’s not time to teach.”

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