The Seattle Police Department has declined an invitation to a law enforcement appreciation event sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, a Christian religious organization, over concerns that attending will offend the city’s and the department’s LGBTQ community.
The rejection came after the organization’s leader, Franklin Graham, made the invite as part of the BGEA’s nationwide effort to hold events that show support for police in an era when departments across the country are under assault and unprecedented scrutiny, mostly by left-wing organizations and politicians.
“An internal email was shared this week informing SPD employees of a free appreciation dinner hosted by the Rev. Franklin Graham. Based on Graham’s history and affiliations, the email has raised concerns that the SPD may not be committed to the equity of our community’s LGBTQ members,” Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz wrote on the department’s police blotter April 16, ahead of the scheduled May 11 event.
“I want to make clear the Department fully supports the equity and just treatment of all people. The SPD did not sponsor this event and is not connected in any way to its hosts. Today I sent a department-wide email to rescind the invitation because its hosts do not share the inclusive values of the SPD,” Diaz continued.
After officers received the invitation, some of them took their complaints public, which prompted some pushback from the department.
Sgt. Randy Huserik, an SPD spokesperson, told the Seattle Times he wasn’t sure how the invites wound up in officers’ email accounts but that it would have been better if those who were offended by it would have addressed the issue through their chain of command instead.
“If you’re not aware of an issue somebody has, you can’t do anything to resolve it,” Huserik said. “Obviously it was not the department’s intent to offend the LGBTQ members of the department and the LGBTQ community at large.”
Democratic Seattle City Council President M. Lorena González, who is a mayoral candidate, questioned why the invitation was even sent, citing Graham’s anti-gay beliefs.
“There is no legitimate reason why the Seattle Police Department should be promoting an anti-LGBTQ, far-right group, and this incident just shows the importance of the next mayor in choosing a police chief who can reform the department’s culture,” González said in a statement to the local paper. “Actions like these undermine trust between SPD and Seattle’s LGBTQ community, which is tenuous at best.”
But a check of the BGEA’s website says the organization is only interested in holding the events to show appreciation for law enforcement, not to push a Christian, or anti-LGBTQ, worldview.
In appreciation of your devotion to protect and serve others, the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team is pleased to support the law enforcement community through annual retreats and dinners,” the website says. “These events acknowledge the unique challenges officers and their families face. We hope you will take this opportunity to step away from the pressing demands of life and career to focus on the truths found in God’s Word.”
Graham told the Seattle Times in a statement he and his organization have an appreciation for police officers regardless of their background.
“Regardless of their beliefs, sexual orientation, or the color of their skin, it doesn’t change in any way the fact that we are deeply grateful for the jobs they do and the sacrifices they make. They deserve our support and to know how much they are appreciated,” he said.
“Even though the email from Interim Seattle Police Chief Diaz announcing the event has been rescinded, our invitation and the dates still stand. I hope many officers in the surrounding areas will take advantage of this special night dedicated to them,” Graham noted further.
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