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The Tulare County Prayer Breakfast was held this morning in downtown Visalia, and was billed as an opportunity to come together and pray for the well-being of our city. And I was there — but I chose not to go inside. The heralded guest speaker for this event was Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a man who purports to “speak for Christians” as he bashes the LGBT community. I am saddened and embarrassed — but not surprised — that he was welcomed into Tulare County.

Rather than attend the breakfast, a group of us from the “rest” of the community (including folks from Gay Visalia, Gay Porterville, and Get Equal) walked outside the Visalia Convention Center in protest of his inclusion into the event. As those who had paid $25 to attend the official gathering were praying inside, those of us outside were being led by Rev. Suzy Ward of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in a Litany for Peace and Love, including (in part)

“Leader: In God’s family we recognize persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities and family units into the full life of the greater Christian community.
All: God calls us all, so we will send no one away…
Leader: May the Spirit of the living God so move every human heart, that barriers which divide us may crumble,
All: May suspicions disappear and hatreds cease, so that our divisions may be healed.”

I was glad to stand with with Suzy and proclaim, “Visalia is no place for hate.” I hope someday those words won’t be necessary.

I proudly stand with Suzy to proclaim: “Visalia is no place for HATE”.

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