An update to the story of Rev. Wilfredo De Jesus, the influential anti-gay Chicago evangelical minister who is being considered by Mayor Richard Daley for a vacant alderman seat. Despite his noted public opposition to gay rights, De Jesus tells the Tribune he will "not not let his religious beliefs influence his policy making."
To reinforce his point, he even pledged to seek city funds for a proposed homeless shelter for gay teens in Humboldt Park. 'I would tell [critics]: Isn't it ironic that you're asking me to be tolerant and you're intolerant to my beliefs. How is that? [De Jesus] said. 'We already know there are differences. Let's put that to the side. What's hurting our community today? Let's focus on that.'
Much of the opposition to De Jesus stems from previous public statements and information on the church's Web site. In an interview last year, De Jesus told Christianity Today that his paramount priorities were opposing abortion and homosexuality. In a neighborhood newspaper story about a proposed new high school geared toward gay students, De Jesus raised the specter of a virgin being harassed by gays or lesbians to have sex.
And a member of De Jesus' congregation posted a testimonial on the church Web site about how she 'started doing drugs, drinking, partying, gang banging, fighting and hanging with the wrong crowd. I also lived a lifestyle of homosexuality and sexual immorality.' Through the church, she wrote, "I was delivered from homosexuality, anger, bitterness and resentment.'"
De Jesus is the senior pastor of 4,000-member New Life Covenant Ministries, which is affiliated with the charismatic and very anti-gay Assemblies of God/Pentecostal movement. The Tribune also claims "some gay residents [say] De Jesus' record of community service should trump any concerns about his religious views." None were quoted by name and it's difficult to imagine they would be welcome at De Jesus' church.
Julio Rodriguez, president of the Association of Latino Men for Action, a Chicago-based gay advocacy group, disputes De Jesus' statements that his religious views are irrelevant. Rodriguez tells the Tribune: "We don't see how someone who has such a strong foundation with his church can separate his belief system [from] his public role, even though he thinks he can."
Mayor Daley has until August 1 to fill the 26th Ward City Council seat, which was vacated when former Ald. Bill Ocasio became an adviser to Gov. Pat Quinn.
Will An Anti-Gay Minister Be Appointed as a Chicago Alderman? [R20]