Des Moines Pastor Mike Demastus Wants You to Know Being Gay Is Not Okay (Updated)

February 8th, 2012 · 35 Comments

Earlier this evening, Patrick Boltinghouse was driving past the Fort Des Moines Church of Christ on East Army Post Road and snapped a photo of its marquee:

The message may be a teaser for church pastor Mike Demastus’ next sermon. On his Facebook page this afternoon, he wrote, “I am pausing my series on Moses this Sunday and addressing the issue of homosexuality from the pulpit…even though there is [sic] a lot of conflicting voices in our culture on the topic, God’s Word does not stutter, stammer or hesitate about what it has to say on the issue.”

And it’s no surprise: gay rights have been front and center in the news this week. On Tuesday, a federal appeals court in San Francisco struck down the state’s anti-gay marriage Prop 8. That same night, Rick “man on dog” Santorum — the favorite of Iowa’s premiere anti-gay activist Bob Vander Plaats — gave presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney his latest headache by sweeping Colorado, Minnesota, and Missouri in the GOP primary. On Wednesday, Washington state legislators voted to legalize gay marriage.

Demastus didn’t endorse Santorum for the Iowa caucuses. But he played an active role in the process, touring the state with a group of pastors supporting Michele Bachmann, infamous in gay-rights circles for her husband’s pray-away-the-gay clinic in Minnesota. In his most recent blog post, titled “What’s at stake…” and written before the caucuses, Demastus warned that “Iowans like to see their babies dead” and claimed (falsely) that “the number one source of money for Planned Parenthood comes from the abortions they perform.” Then he reminded caucus-goers that Iowa “seems to have devolved into the homosexual version of Mecca.”

Surprisingly, Demastus also didn’t support Vander Plaats during his failed bid for governor in 2010. Instead, he donated $100 to the campaign of former Republican state Rep. Rod Roberts, who said that gay marriage would be moral if Iowans endorsed it in a popular vote. Demastus did, however, donate another $50 to, and ultimately vote for, independent candidate Jonathan Narcisse, who told the Progressive before the 2010 election that the Iowa Supreme Court was guilty of “despotism” for effectively legalizing gay marriage in the state the previous year. (More recently, Demastus gave $20 to the state senate campaign of fellow anti-gay — and Newt Gingrich-endorsed — pastor Jeff Mullen.)

When I contacted him at home this evening, Demastus wouldn’t discuss the marquee but said, “You can call me at my church office tomorrow.” I’ll update this story if he comments then.

UPDATE, Thursday, February 9 12:46 a.m.: Shortly after Patrick Boltinghouse posted the church marquee photo below on his Facebook wall, a “People against the bigots at Fort Des Moines Church of Christ” page was created, as was a sit-in protest event. Later, a commenter on Boltinghouse’s wall reported that the “sign has been changed to ‘Adultery is not okay’. We tried to take a photo, but a van started following us.”

UPDATE II, Thursday, February 9, 3:03 p.m.: Fort Des Moines Church of Christ Pastor Mike Demastus has confirmed that he put the words “Gay is not okay” on his church’s marquee around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, but “with all my heart I did not foresee or envision” such a negative reaction. He said he came up with the marquee idea after speaking with people about homosexuality a few weeks ago. “I realized — this is my naivete — it’s provocative, I might get an email, might get a phone call,” Demastus explained. “The statement was ‘Gay is not okay’ but how it was interpreted was ‘Gays are not okay.’ I’m preaching a Biblical message. They are in the image of the creator, just like me. They are no different than an adulterer, or cheater, or liar. They’re sinners, just like me…that was the intention of the message, but it got muddied up real quick.”

Before he changed the marquee about 12 hours later to read “Adultery is not okay,” Demastus said the sign was vandalized three times and the church’s Facebook page (since taken offline) was “inundated with vulgarities and vitriol and just tons of hate speech, which they were accusing me of.” He told me that he decided to change the marquee after receiving three separate messages with “my address and ‘Hope you feel safe at home,’” which was why he was hesitant to speak with me last night when I reached him at home.

Demastus told me that he has been in contact with Des Moines police regarding the threats, and next Sunday “we will have a number of police officers in the building to help ensure the safety and security of the people in the church” during a planned sit-in protest. “We are happy [protesters] are going to employ their First Amendment rights. They are, however, not welcome to do that in the building or on our property.”

One last note: Last night, a Des Moines resident posted an alleged screenshot of a Facebook message he received from the church’s account calling him a “little faggot.” “It is completely fake, and it’s awful that a person would stoop down to such a level,” Demastus told me. “It’s so wrong in every way.” The image appears to have been deleted from Facebook, but you can see it here. Its poster did not respond to a request for comment.

UPDATE III, Thursday, February 9, 8:00 p.m.: Out of respect for his privacy, the name of the individual mentioned in Update II below, who has informed me that he is a minor, has been removed at his request. The image he posted of the fake Facebook message (its font does not match Facebook’s typical font) purportedly sent to him by the Fort Des Moines Church of Christ is still available here.

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Tags: Ames Prog Blog · Blogs · Gavin Aronsen

35 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Ed Fallon // Feb 9, 2012 at 12:01 am

    Demastus is securing his place in the history books, and it won’t be favorable. He’ll be remembered much like the bigots who opposed marriage equality for bi-racial couples forty years ago. The thinking person’s best response to Demastus is to feel sorry for him, then wave ‘goodbye’ in the rear-view mirror as equality and justice march on without him.

  • 2 Shannon Magnani // Feb 9, 2012 at 1:36 am

    just wanted to thank you for covering this…i am the one who started the “People against the bigots at Fort Des Moines Church of Christ” page

  • 3 Shannon Magnani // Feb 9, 2012 at 1:40 am

    just so everyone knows what type of guy this pastor is he sent this to one individual that posted on the church’s facebook page

  • 4 Ross // Feb 9, 2012 at 1:58 am

    Bigots hate gays. God loves us all.

  • 5 Arianna // Feb 9, 2012 at 2:02 am

    I cannot tell you how proud I am of the people of Iowa for taking a stand against, not only the bigotry and intolerance envisaged by this sign, this pastor and this church, but against the very notion that Iowans are all a bunch of ignorant hicks. Jesus turned no one away, not the tax man nor the woman caught in adultery. Thing is, he actually saved her life. I wonder when the last time this church actually saved someones’ life was? Oh, and pastor, you can use the bit about the woman caught in adultery, if you promise to tell the Whole story.

  • 6 Mazie // Feb 9, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Since the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin, Pastor Demastus has every right to share that message with his congregation. I know that most people only support First Amendment rights when it pertains to something they like or agree with, but it doesn’t work that way. If we start censoring churches because we disagree with what they say/believe, how long before somebody starts to censor YOU or your organization because they don’t agree with what you say/believe? Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. That applies to EVERYONE not just the people you like. Is he encouraging people to go out and abuse homosexuals, or is he just saying that it is a sin? Big difference there. Again, he is free to say what he wants and teach the Bible according to what he believes it says. If his congregation doesn’t like it they are free to find a different church. If you don’t like it than don’t go to his church.

  • 7 Mazie // Feb 9, 2012 at 8:53 am

    @Arianna – If the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin and he is preaching, from the Bible, that homosexuality is a sin, how is that “intolerance” in your eyes? The Bible also says that adultery is sinful. Would it be “intolerant” for him to do a sermon on the sinfulness of adultery? Stealing is also sinful, if he did a sermon on that would that make him intolerant toward thieves? Who says he’s turning anyone away? You get all of this out of one sign? Jesus may not have turned anyone away but He also didn’t encourage them to continue in their sinful ways. Remember that. You can’t pick and choose which parts of the Bible you agree/disagree with and force churches to teach only the parts that you like.

  • 8 qb // Feb 9, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Okay Mazie, in that case I’ll just burn giant letters in my yard spelling out “Christian’s love Fistin’,” and see how long it takes before your contingent gets fed up.

  • 9 Nick D // Feb 9, 2012 at 9:16 am

    Mazie – You are right about the first amendment. Which means we have just as much right to protest and speak up against the biggotry as the pastor does to be a biggot. There are many things that the bible lists as sins – many things that most people do on a daily basis – why is this one being singled out?

    People who have flat noses, or are blind or lame, cannot go to an altar of God
    ~Leviticus 21:17-18

    If a man beats his male or female slave with a rod and the slave dies as a direct result, he must be punished, but he is not to be punished if the slave gets up after a day or two, since the slave is his property
    ~Exodus 21:20-21
    -Slavery is OK – and its OK to beat your slave?

    Exodus 35:2 :
    “For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have a holy day, a sabbath of complete rest to the LORD; whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.”
    -I work on Sunday – apparently I need to be put to death.

  • 10 Mazie // Feb 9, 2012 at 9:56 am

    @qb – If you want to burn giant letters in your yard than, as long as your homeowners association doesn’t have a problem with it, you have every right to do that, stupid as it may be. When my children were in elementary school there was a woman that lived directly across the street from their school that, every year at Halloween, would put up signs in her yard that said, among other things, “people who celebrate Halloween are going to hell”. Did I like it? No. Did I agree with her? No. Do I think she had the right to display those signs, whether I liked/agreed with them or not? YES!
    @NickD – You’re right, you have every right to protest peacefully, but you have NO right to tell a church, or anybody else, what they can teach and/or believe. Just because somebody believes that homosexuality is a sin does not make them a bigot. I know MANY Christians who agree with the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality but are still loving, kind and compassionate toward gay people. Again, you want to pick and choose things from the Bible to prove a point. I’m not going to play that game, sorry.

  • 11 Mazie // Feb 9, 2012 at 9:59 am

    BTW @NickD- You’re right, there are many sins that are discussed in the Bible, and I promise you that in most churches that these sins are covered in WAY more detail than homosexuality. It’s not being singled out, it’s just the one all of you people have the most problem with.

  • 12 jp // Feb 9, 2012 at 10:12 am

    this isn’t about free speech, it is about someone using religion as a disguise for their hate. Gays are children of God also, nothing in the Bible says they do not have the right to exist, or their mere existence is sinful. What is addressed is the act, not the person.

  • 13 Andrew // Feb 9, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Mazie please check out the link posted by shannon on this page at 140am where someone from the church told a gay man that he was a little faggot and that he would be embarrassed to have him as a son. How is this being Christ like and preaching anything but hate?

  • 14 qb // Feb 9, 2012 at 11:18 am

    @Andrew – that image is fake and that group likes to ban anyone that has a discerning opinion. You’re not furthering your case against this church by creating false content.

  • 15 Mazie // Feb 9, 2012 at 11:27 am

    @jp – It IS about free speech. You are trying to make the point that everyone who believes that homosexuality is a sin is a hateful person. That simply isn’t true. Christians also believe that promiscuity is a sin. Does that mean they are hateful toward people who are running around having sex with everyone they meet, just because they believe it to be wrong? Are you going to protest when the pastor does a sermon on that? Unfortunately there are “religious” people who commit hate crimes, or are hateful toward gays. There are also MANY non-Christians and people of other faiths who are equally as hateful. Do they use their “religion” as an excuse. Unfortunately they do. But it’s wrong to put ALL Christians into that category. You are judging an ENTIRE group of people based on the actions of a few. We are all children of God and I haven’t heard one pastor preach that anyone’s existence is sinful. I’m sure there are some that do (Westboro Baptist comes to mine) but in my experience the majority do not. And, as far as I know, that church IS talking about the ACT of homosexuality, not the person. The only reason anyone should have a problem with that is if they are encouraging people to go out and commit crimes against homosexuals.
    @Andrew – Again, that ONE man doesn’t speak for EVERY Christian or even for that entire congregation. Was it the preacher? Because if it wasn’t he isn’t “preaching” anything, he is simply running his mouth. I would never say anything like that to anyone, at anytime, for any reason. Most of the TRUE Christians that I know would never say any such thing either. It isn’t Christ like and he should be ashamed of himself! BUT, again, believing something is sinful and being a hateful person are two completely different things.

  • 16 Kati // Feb 9, 2012 at 11:57 am

    @Mazie, “all of you people?” Really? The Bible tells those who are without sin to cast the first stone. This supposed man of God (and your old neighbor) are casting their stones and I would bet they are most definitely NOT without sin. No, we “people” don’t have to go to this church, BUT by putting the sign up on public display, a reaction has been invoked and even invited.

  • 17 jp // Feb 9, 2012 at 12:25 pm

    you are reinterpreting my words “You are trying to make the point that everyone who believes that homosexuality is a sin is a hateful person” where and in what context did I say that. I believe these are the words of the pastor there, and why else would someone claim that people are not “ok”? It would suggest that they are the opposite of “ok”
    “Antonyms: bad, incorrect, intolerable, unacceptable, unsatisfactory, unsuitable, wrong”

  • 18 Jdm // Feb 9, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    No one of illegitimate birth shall enter the assembly of the LORD; none of his descendants, even to the tenth generation, shall enter the assembly of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 23:2 NASB)

    Talking about picking and choosing Bible vereses, Are you checking the ancestry of all of your church peers?

  • 19 Samuel // Feb 9, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    I am interested in seeing proof of the death threats and other threatened acts of physical violence. I have rarely seen such actions from GLBT/equality activists, this is normally a device used by those opposed…in fact it seems almost as the “Pastor” is accusing the Equality crowd from his the anti-gay protocol handbook, as that is most likely all they know. Hate, violence, threats. Come on, Pastor, do you really think you were really threatened? I certainly don’t. Do you need police protection? Probably not…Do you crave media attention? That is most likely the motive behind this stupid stunt. I can harldy call it bigotry, it’s just an ignorant stunt to call attention to some pissant church. So stupid.

  • 20 Mazie // Feb 9, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    @jp – Where did you say that? I will quote you, “this isn’t about free speech, it is about someone using religion as a disguise for their hate”. Since a large majority of Christians (Christianity is a religion) believe that homosexuality is a sin, based on what the Bible says, than you must believe that a majority of Christians are hateful. I don’t know any other way to interpret what you said. The pastor, and a majority of Christians, do not believe that homosexuality is OK. They believe that it is wrong, incorrect, unacceptable and unsatisfactory. Now, let’s quit playing word games. I am going to say this one more time, just because you don’t approve of something doesn’t make you a hateful person. And just because there are people who don’t approve of this pastor’s message doesn’t negate his right to preach it.
    @Kati- Of all of the things I have said “all of you people” is what you’re going to focus in on? I was referring to everyone who has a problem with the sign/teaching. Now, get over yourself. It’s true we are all sinful. What does that have to do with a pastor teaching something straight out of the Bible? Nothing! People react to a lot of different things. I see things every single day that I don’t like or agree with. That’s life. The church has the right to put anything they want on their sign just as that pastor has every right to preach anything he wants from the Bible. You don’t have to like it.
    @Jdm – As I told somebody else, you want to pick and choose verses to make your point and I’m not going to play that game. It’s interesting that you choose Old Testament scriptures. Go read your Bible, learn the difference between Old Testament law and New Testament grace.
    @Samuel – Who said the threats were coming from the gay community?
    Pastor Demastus is preaching a Biblical message. You don’t have to like it but everyone should support his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion. We need to be VERY CAREFUL about trying to censor what other people say and believe because one day someone might have a problem with YOU! By the way, if standing outside of that church “protesting” his message makes you feel better than more power to you, but you’re not going to change one person’s mind in regards to their beliefs about homosexuality.

  • 21 Teresa Trettin // Feb 9, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Is Mazie the only Christian who believes in the Word of God? Every post seems to be rhetoric that has been beaten to death to excuse sin for what it is. The whole message is that we are ALL sinners and fall short before the Lord so stop the pathetic excuses. The adultress in the Bible was forgiven by Jesus, yes, but was also told to go and sin no more! Forgiveness is for all of us but we need to acknowledge that sin and change. You can’t continue a sinful lifestyle and serve

  • 22 jp // Feb 9, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    i in no way said or hinted at “a majority of Christians” you saying “than you must believe that a majority of Christians are hateful” is making things up. I’m sorry you do not understand.

    I spoke with my Priest about this today — yeah, I’m Christian too, and so is he. He thought the sign shameful and doesn’t agree with his actions. My Priest said we all should be treated with dignity. This was not the first sign of this nature that I saw from this Church, but none as provocative.
    Mark 12:31
    English Standard Version (ESV)
    31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

    Romans 13:9
    For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (NKJV)

    that sign had nothing to do with spreading love

  • 23 Mazie // Feb 9, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    @jp – I didn’t misunderstand you and I am not making things up. You said what you said. I’m sorry you can’t verbalize your opinions better. I didn’t say that I thought the sign was a good idea only that they have every right to say what they want. I am a big fan of the Constitution. I don’t know anything about the other signs this church has displayed. We are talking about this one specific sign. Part of preaching the word of God is talking about sin, and it seldom produces a warm and fuzzy feeling. Just because you don’t condone sin doesn’t mean that you don’t love your brother. It’s sad that you can’t separate the two.
    I John 1: 7-8 But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.
    @TeresaTrettin- I was beginning to think I was all alone here, lol.

  • 24 Brian // Feb 9, 2012 at 10:42 pm

    The problem with people like Mazie, the pastor, and all the other sheeple who pick out a few debatable passages in the Bible and ignore others (buffet Christians some call them), is that their logic dictates that we have to take everything in the Bible in the same fashion as we do those few passages about homosexuality. People like Mazie, the pastor, and other sheeple should also be speaking out against blacks and women, since the Bible is clear about their inferiority. Of course, society over the years as become more tolerant, and so the church was forced to as well. Otherwise, religion would fall apart. We just haven’t gotten to that point yet with gays. The sad thing is that if the pastor and Mazie had lived in a time when the church called for the burning of witches, they’d be right there with the rest of the people with no mind of their own burning people to death. That’s what you get when you follow blindly and don’t understand the real messages in the Bible.

  • 25 jp // Feb 10, 2012 at 12:18 am

    yeah you did. i’m sorry that you have interpreting skills other than what is said. The man himself changed the sign, if his words were so correct, why does he not still stand by them? “Part of preaching the word of God is talking about sin, and it seldom produces a warm and fuzzy feeling.” I’m really sorry you don’t get that from where/what you worship. I enjoy the feeling of spirit that overwhelms me. I was taught that part of being a good Christian is being a good representative of Christianity. If you can show me somewhere that this is the behavior of Jesus, and these are the words he preached, I will change my ways.

  • 26 Mazie // Feb 10, 2012 at 8:33 am

    @Brian – The only “problem” that I have is that I believe that the Constitution applies to EVERYBODY, and not just to the people I like. I am not hateful toward anybody, but you just spent an entire paragraph calling me names. Fortunately we are guaranteed freedom of speech under the Constitution and so you are free to say whatever you want. I’m not going to reciprocate in the name calling but I will pray for you.

    @jp – I’m happy he changed the sign. I have already said that I didn’t think the sign was a good idea. What I have been trying to say throughout this entire conversation is that, while you may not have liked or agreed with the message, he has every right to say what he wants. I get it, you only want to extend those rights to people you like or agree with. I am equally sorry for you if you’re involved in a church that never talks about sin, or the consequences of it. That is a part of God’s word too. Not only did Jesus rebuke sin, he also commanded His disciples to rebuke sin. (Luke 17:3 – If your brother sins, rebuke him. Ephesians 5:11 – Do not have fellowship with sin, but reprove it.) Jesus and the Apostles were very bold and openly rebuked and condemned evil. Open up your Bible and you will find MANY examples of this. By the way, it’s not hateful or wrong to correct/discipline someone in love as Christ did. If you want to “represent” Christianity, you might want to learn a little more about Christ.

  • 27 jp // Feb 10, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Mazie –you have your own version of Christianity, and we’ll just have to agree on that
    ” I get it, you only want to extend those rights to people you like or agree with. ” you’re making stuff up again.

  • 28 jp // Feb 10, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    Mazie, I’m going to ask you this in response to your statement there, how do you feel about other religions? If that were to say “Islam, or Judaism is not ok”? would you condone that? One can claim not accepting Christ is a sin.
    Mark 16:16 ESV
    Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
    Why would you be accepting of other religions and beliefs of some and not others? Do you represent Christ in that fashion and convert people? Would you idly sit back and condone Antisemitism because of free speech?

  • 29 Mazie // Feb 10, 2012 at 4:13 pm

    @jp – As I have CLEARLY stated time and time and time again ( I now realize that you have a problem with words and their actual meanings) I DO NOT CONDONE what was written on that sign. What I support is their FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHT to FREE SPEECH and FREEDOM OF RELIGION. Read through that sentence a couple of times real slow until you understand it. I’m not going to get into yet another conversation about “what if it said this, or what if it said that.” I’m tired of playing your silly games. It’s OBVIOUS how you feel about the Constitution. The only people who should be covered are people who don’t offend you. I get my “version” of Christianity from the Bible, THE BOOK of Christianity. Maybe you should pop one open and give it a read because you seem to know so very little about what is inside. Our conversation is going nowhere so I’m going to have to end it now. Have a blessed life.

  • 30 jp // Feb 10, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    bless you Mazie. I’ll be praying for you and I hope that you one day you do find a place in your spirituality that is less negative. God and Jesus is love, I thought we all as Christians shared that belief

  • 31 Deanna // Feb 12, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    The question is not “is homosexuality a sin.” The question is do you believe there is an absolute truth and if so from what foundation do you draw your truth. True Christians believe there is one truth and it is found in the Bible and the Bible is very clear about homosexuality being a sin. If you do not believe there is one truth then this dialogue is pointless.

  • 32 Abree Wiliam // May 14, 2014 at 3:21 pm

    Maybe being gay is wrong, I woudn’t know because I am not god. But God said love everyone and he didn’t stutter. So whether someone is gay or not, you should love them and do not judge. “If your sin is loving someone keep sinning” and “You are sinning more by judging”.

  • 33 9 Most Homophobic Church Signs | Katie Halper // Aug 19, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    [...] victim of intolerance from gay people who don’t want to accept his rejection of their lifestyle. Calling out the alleged hypocrisy, the pastor said, “This is the community that cries wanting us to be tolerant [...]

  • 34 MC // Aug 22, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    Church of Christ?? Damn! That was my religious belief and the church I attended… before I became an atheist…

  • 35 Phil // Jun 3, 2017 at 6:06 pm

    Not moved the needle one notch?????

    How about ending the Johnson Amendment that gagged ministers and threatened the 501c-3 status of churches????

    How about ending taxpayer funds for any organization that kills babies in the womb???

    Is Des Moines in the middle of a black hole where outside news cannot be received???

    Be grateful for what you receive and you will receive much!!

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