Franklin Pride

Below is a letter I wrote to the Franklin Board of Mayor and Aldermen (BOMA). It came after someone contacted me about the controversy surrounding Franklin Pride applying for a permit to use a public park for their celebration. Thankfully, eventually, Franklin’s BOMA voted to approve their permit. However, it was a tie vote and only broken by a vote from the Mayor of Franklin.


Monday, April 3, 2023

Dear BOMA,

I am writing you to let you know of my support for our LGBTQIA+ community and their annual Franklin Pride Event. I am also writing to encourage you to approve their permit. With the reason for my writing out of the way, please allow me time to place my support of Franklin Pride and my concern of those opposing Franklin Pride into context. I apologize upfront for the length of this email. If you choose not to read any further, I understand. That is why I wanted to start with a sentence of my support.

I recently returned from Harris-Manchester College, Oxford University, Oxford, England. I was there by invitation only to participate in a colloquium on the rise and dangers of Christian/Religious Nationalism in our country and around the world. I returned on Sunday, March 26th. The week before my trip to England, I was in Mexico on vacation with my wife. Before I left the country, I heard a little bit about certain people trying to stop Franklin Pride from happening this year. To be honest, I did not pay it much attention because I knew there were no grounds to deny the permit. On Wednesday, March 29th, someone who is friends with PFLAG, Franklin Pride, and Wilco, contacted me to let me know what had happened at the BOMA workshop meeting on Tuesday, March 28th. This person told me how Mom’s for Liberty had many people at the meeting to speak against Franklin Pride and our beautiful LGBTQIA+ community. This person told me how bible verses were used to condemn people to hell and to promote fear in our community because of some hidden agenda the Franklin Pride organizers had. This person even told me how the tragedy at Covenant School, one day earlier, was used as reasons not to support Franklin Pride. It is for these reasons I have decided to speak. From my perspective, what happened Tuesday evening is evidence of the dangers of Christian Nationalism in our wonderful city. Now, in addition to constitutional reasons, you must support Franklin Pride to push back against an extremely dangerous ideology that has taken root in Franklin. (If you are still reading, thank you.)

Christian Nationalism is A cultural framework—a collection of myths, traditions, symbols, narratives, and value systems—that idealizes and advocates the fusion of American civil life with a very particular kind of Christianity” (Samuel Perry & Andrew Whitehead. Adapted from Taking America Back for God, p. 10). Christian Nationalism is the belief that the United States is defined by Christianity, and the government should take active steps to keep it that way. In other words, according to Christian Nationalists, America IS and MUST REMAIN a “Christian Nation.” The type of Christianity being pushed is a narrow, conservative, fundamentalist type of Christianity. On the one hand, Christian Nationalists will tell you they accept the First Amendment, but on the other hand they will tell you that their version of Christianity should enjoy a privileged position in the public square, and all laws and permit approvals should reflect their values. It is my belief that Christian Nationalism is really a dog whistle for White Christian Nationalism. In other words, it is associated with white racial identity.

The reason I am sharing this is because, from my perspective, Moms for Liberty is a Christian nationalist group. As such, they and others like them, believe they have a God-given mandate to keep our country Christian, as defined by them. They believe they have the God given mandate to take control of the seven mountains of influence in every culture. Local governments and local school boards is one of those seven mountains. Through their efforts, and the efforts by our State Legislature, they are slowly turning us into a theocratic city/state. History has shown us the only thing worse than a dictatorship is a theocracy, and the only thing worse than an autocratic government is a theocratic government. It is my belief, as a conservative Christian pastor, that the kingdom of God, what Dr. King called “the beloved community,” advances through non-violent resistance, love, peace, forgiveness, humility, sacrifice and service. God’s kingdom does not advance through intimidation, divisiveness, fear, or force. The Apostle Paul wrote, “If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned” (Galatians 1:9). The gospel of Jesus, the one that has been passed down through the Apostles, is one of mercy, grace, forgiveness, and love of enemies. This “other gospel,” the one espoused by Christian Nationalists, is the antithesis to all Jesus taught. It is also anti-democratic.

Everyone, including LGBTQIA+ persons, are created in the image of God. The LGBTQIA+ community is an essential part of the beloved community, the kingdom of God. Their total acceptance by our community, and complete inclusion in our community, is one of the many reasons our city is one of the best cities in the country. Not to grant them a permit for Franklin Pride would be to denigrate the intrinsic worth and dignity they possess as humans made in God’s image. It would also violate their First Amendment rights. Living in a representative democracy where freedom of religion is valued, no form of government can favor one religion over all the others. The First Amendment is for everyone’s benefit and safety. I implore each and everyone of you to approve Franklin Pride’s permit. I promise, you will not go to hell for doing so.

Thank you for your time.

Rev. Dr. Kevin Riggs, Senior Pastor

Franklin Community Church


About Pastor Kevin

I am a husband, father, pastor, teacher, scuba diver, reader, bike rider, that order.
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