Colorado church under fire for stopping woman’s funeral because she was gay

Vanessa Collier Family photo

Protestors pray across the street from New Hope Ministries during a rally in Lakewood, Colo., Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015 after a minister refused to hold a memorial service on Saturday for Vanessa Collier, a mother of two at New Hope Ministries because the woman was gay, family and friends said Tuesday.Craig F. Walker, AP

Protestors pray across the street from New Hope Ministries during a rally in Lakewood, Colo., Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015 after a minister refused to hold a memorial service on Saturday for Vanessa Collier, a mother of two at New Hope Ministries because the woman was gay, family and friends said Tuesday.

DENVER — A “Dignity in Death” rally was held Tuesday for a Colorado woman whose funeral was abruptly cancelled by a Lakewood, Colo., church when a minister refused to allow a picture to be shown of the deceased woman proposing to her surviving wife.

Vanessa Collier’s friends say her planned funeral at New Hope Ministries (Facebook) was canceled Saturday by the church 15 minutes after its scheduled start time, despite an open casket in place and about 170 mourners in attendance, reports KUSA-TV.

Vanessa CollierFamily photo

Vanessa Collier

Chaplain Gary Rolando, who would later preside over the funeral across the street at Newcomer Funeral Home, said moments prior to the funeral, a video that was supposed to be played during the service was reviewed by church officials.

The church asked for the video to be edited and the image of Collier’s proposal removed from the video before the service could go forward.

Rolando, who is not affiliated with New Hope, said Tuesday that Collier’s family refused to remove the photos from the memorial video.

The Denver Post reported that Pastor Ray Chavez said the memorial could not continue as long as pictures of Collier and her wife were going to be displayed. He said there could be no indication that Collier was gay.

A representative for New Hope Ministries, where Chavez is based, declined to comment before hanging up on a Denver Post reporter.

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“A church turning away a funeral. Who has ever heard of anything like that happening?” said Jeanette Arguello, a friend.

About four dozen supporters gathered outside of the church on Tuesday afternoon in protest, chanting “Give us an apology!” and “Shame on Pastor Ray!” Security guards were stationed in front of the building to ensure none of the marchers made their way onto the property.

“You will not find Jesus at New Hope but you will find hypocrisy,” said a sign carried at the demonstration. “Indignity in death,” read another.

Collier, 33, died Dec. 30 after a gun she was cleaning accidentally fired. She is survived by her wife and two children.

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