Pastor pushes ahead after right-wing attacks

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday May 3, 2023
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The Reverend Casey Martinez-Tinnin was the victim of an attack by right-wing provocateur Project Veritas. Photo: Courtesy Martinez-Tinnin's LinkedIn<br><br>
The Reverend Casey Martinez-Tinnin was the victim of an attack by right-wing provocateur Project Veritas. Photo: Courtesy Martinez-Tinnin's LinkedIn

An LGBTQ-affirming church near Sacramento is back to in-person worship weeks after attacks from right-wing groups forced it to switch to virtual services. The onslaught from conservatives also led to a school district canceling a drag show and two districts cutting ties with an LGBTQ youth organization.

The Reverend Casey Martinez-Tinnin, who is gay, of the Loomis Basin Congregational United Church of Christ in Placer County, told the Bay Area Reporter that the congregation started meeting virtually March 26 after his life was threatened.

"I've had Proud Boys outside my home calling me a groomer and a pedophile," Martinez-Tinnin said, referring to the right-wing extremist group. In a statement, he said two Proud Boys showed up outside his home for 45 minutes on March 22 and 23, though he was not home at the time.

Martinez-Tinnin said he and his neighbors called the police.

"I am saddened that our community feels as though it has hit a boiling point. I am sad that so many people will choose fake news and hate over the life-saving work we have done," Martinez-Tinnin stated. "I am angry that they claim ownership of the same Christianity as I do but chose to twist it with hate.

"I am worried for our LGBTQ+ youth who must live in a world so riddled with disdain for them, Martinez-Tinnin, 36, added. "I did not grow up in a world with social media, and I feel like now I am experiencing what so many of our queer youth go through every day. But we will not be silenced, and we will not be moved."

According to Sara Bocciardi, one of the leaders at the church, in-person services have been taking place since April 26, though livestreaming has not.

Some "people showed up" at the church who were "affiliates of Proud Boys" in prior weeks, Martinez-Tinnin said, and there were protesters down the street from the church.

"One man said he came due to the controversy but left in peace because he was impressed how kind UCC was," Martinez-Tinnin said. "I hope eventually everyone will realize we are not the problem here."

Martinez-Tinnin said he reached out to the UCC NorCal Nevada Conference, which he said was helpful, as were other congregations.

"They have been very supportive," Martinez-Tinnin said. "We've had a lot of outpouring from churches in the UCC throughout California. We are a welcoming denomination so the thinking is if this happens to us this can happen to any of our progressive, queer-friendly churches."

The conference has not returned a request for comment as of press time.

The imbroglio began back in February, Martinez-Tinnin said, when two people who said they were parents moving to Placer County from the Bay Area contacted him and said they needed support.

It turned out the couple were from Project Veritas, a right-wing group that secretly records videos of conversations but deceptively edits them to discredit liberal groups or people. The group posted a video of Martinez-Tinnin on its site.

Project Veritas first gained wide public attention after videos secretly recorded at a Planned Parenthood location in 2015 and purported that the reproductive services agency trafficking fetal organs and tissue, which would be a federal crime. A complete view of the video showed the Planned Parenthood doctor explicitly stating that tissues are not for sale, as the Atlantic reported at the time.

It seems that Project Veritas is continuing its deceptive efforts.

"These people say they are somebody else and edit it for a far-right agenda," Martinez-Tinnin said.

The video clip shows Martinez-Tinnin saying, regarding discussions with parents, "it's not lying but it's not fully telling the truth." The video also shows him saying he'd call Child Protective Services if a trans child is misgendered.

Project Veritas did not respond to a request for comment for this report as of press time. Its founder, conservative provocateur James O'Keefe, was forced out of the organization in February, according to an NPR article.

The Western Placer Unified School District, and the Roseville Joint Union High School District responded to the release of the video by cutting ties with The Landing Spot, a secular organization that Martinez-Tinnin also leads that would send volunteers to support LGBTQ youth in schools.

The two districts did not respond to requests for comment for this report as of press time.

"They threw us out of all the schools and said we were not allowed back," Martinez-Tinnin said. "These young people are now left in the dark. ... Placer County has no support for LGBTQ youth outside the Landing Spot, a non-religious support group we've been hosting for seven years."

Martinez-Tinnin said that the Landing Spot, which meets every month, provided an alternative to what he experienced during his own youth, in which he said that he felt isolated as a gay child.

"We had to learn how to grow up on our own," he said. "You don't get to move through adolescence until you've had one. We had to learn heartache and friendship later in life. The Landing Spot is trying to create a space for young people to have an adolescent life."

Asked if he's set up any meetings to get the Landing Spot back in the schools or if there is any hope of the Landing Spot returning, Martinez-Tinnin said, "I would say it is important for community members to express to school boards how essential this life-saving work is. Only the school district and school board can make those decisions but there are no other primary resources in Placer County other than the Landing Spot.

"Anybody and everybody who has had experience with the Landing Spot has spoken highly of it," he added.

Drag show canceled

Around the same time that the school districts cut ties with the Landing Spot, the Roseville Joint Union High School District decided to cancel a drag show March 31 that the Landing Spot was going to host at Roseville High School as a fundraiser "to raise money for our second-ever summer camp, Camp Fruit Loop," Martinez-Tinnin said.

"It was intended very purposefully to be on Trans Visibility Day because 98% of the youth we serve are trans," he explained.

The district did not respond to a request for comment about why the drag show was canceled.

Meanwhile, Martinez-Tinnin made the decision to stop in-person services, just before Easter, after the Proud Boys incident.

KCRA-TV reported that a self-proclaimed Proud Boy, Jeffrey Perrine, went to a Roseville Joint Union High School District board meeting to speak and was arrested after the meeting for showing up at Martinez-Tinnin's residence, cited, and released.

An attempt to reach Perrine on Twitter has been unsuccessful as of press time.

Martinez-Tinnin said the experience has left him and his family shaken.

"I ask for your prayers as Jose and I feel fear, anger, and outrage. I have served this community for 10 years, and my character, my livelihood, and my family's safety are all put in jeopardy," Martinez-Tinnin stated, referring to his partner. "With legislation being passed all over our country that seeks to silence, and erase the queer community, it has arrived here."

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