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Christian hate group calls Pulse shooting the “Great Redemption” as it pushes conversion therapy

The Pulse Nightclub memorial in Orlando, Florida Photo: Shutterstock

The Christian group Liberty Counsel, an SPLC-designated hate group, is using the 2016 shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, to promote conversion therapy, calling the shooting the “Great Redemption.” The 2016 shooting in the LGBTQ+ nightclub left 49 people dead.

In a blog post published earlier this week, the organization describes the experiences of Pulse survivor Angel Colon, where they claim “our beautiful Savior both rescued and redeemed Angel that night.”

“Angel has a ministry helping lead people out of the LGBTQ lifestyle. But that ministry is now at risk, thanks to city and state bans on Christian change counseling, as well as federal legislation that seeks to ban this lifesaving practice and ministries like Angel’s permanently”

This refers to the group Fearless Identity, founded alongside fellow survivor Luis Javier Ruiz. It seeks to promote LGBTQ+ individuals embracing conversion therapy and leaving the community behind.

Liberty Counsel does not mention how Colon admitted already being conflicted about his identity before the shooting.

The post describes the shooting from Colon’s perspective in great detail, saying shooter Omar Mateen “proceeded [to hunt] down bar patrons like ducks in a pen.”

It then quotes an interview with Colon where he says, “I was petrified knowing I was next. I heard the shooter behind me, gauging his next move. That’s when I asked the Lord for forgiveness, to forgive me for failing Him, for turning my back on Him. I wanted to be at peace with God, but at that moment, my prayer changed to prophecy.”

He continued, “I promised Him I would worship Him for the rest of my days. The very moment I said, ‘amen,’ I felt the bullet. Heat swelled through my abdomen, and I was certain I was dead. But when I opened my eyes, I knew the Lord spared me.”

The post concludes by opposing H.R. 15, the Equality Act, which they claim would “ban Christian change counseling.” The Equality Act adds sexual orientation and gender identity to federal civil rights legislation. The act does mention conversion therapy in its findings but doesn’t say that the practice would be banned. It’s H.R. 4340, the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act, that bans conversion therapy in exchange for money.

Liberty Counsel claims restricting conversion therapy, a practice known to cause mental, emotional, and physical anguish, is a violation of the First Amendment protections for religious freedom.

The 2022 study showed that young people who underwent conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide afterward. Numerous conversion therapy advocates have later come out as still gay and apologized for the harm that conversion therapy causes.

While the city was still mourning the victims of the attack, Colon and Ruiz set up a “Freedom March” five minutes away from the nightclub to encourage people to “overcome” being gay and trans. They wanted to “bring hope of deliverance to the LGBTQ community and point them toward Christ,” as Colon said to PinkNews.

Ruiz and Colon claim that neither of them support conversion therapy and that they’re simply supporting people in their individual decisions to seek change.

“We are not at all advocates for conversion therapy or shock therapy,” Ruiz said to NBC News. “We stand with the gay community, and our main message is about falling in love with Jesus, but if an LGBTQ person wanted to talk to a pastor or counselor, that’s a whole different story.”

Members of the community condemned this march. Christopher Cuevas of the organization QLatinx said to NBC News, “While we honor the freedom for expressions of faith and hold the beauty of religiosity in our community, we cannot condone the gross misuse of religious text and faith to exploit LGBTQ+ people or support conversion therapy.”

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