Division Over Fairness Ordinance

The pastor and congregation of Mount Olive Lutheran Church knew putting a sign referencing Sodom and the City Council was a risk--but they felt it was something they had to do based on their moral beliefs and the teachings of the bible.

It's a sign at 80th and Holdrege in Lincoln that may grab your attention.

Pastor Tim Kemnitz of Mt. Olive Lutheran Church told 10/11, "We're not trying to make a political statement, we see it as a moral issue and we see it as being politicized by the City Council."

When 10/11 showed a picture of the sign to Council Member Carl Eskridge and Mayor Chris Beutler-- it certainly got a reaction from both of them.

The issue the fairness ordinance and a reference to Sodom-- of Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities in the bible destroyed by God for their sins.

Pastor Kemnitz said, "We made reference to Sodom out of love, we're not trying to single out any kind of sin, like homosexuality, but we are including it in sins that God's word calls us to repent of."

He added it's the fairness ordinance, but it's not fair the city council is pushing an agenda onto people who have different beliefs.

"I think the City Council has taken a moral issue like homosexuality and bisexuality and I think they have forced us to make a stand here, and they brought it into a political realm here."

During a press conference Thursday morning Carl Eskridge said, "I thought we were clear, that this issue, it's not a moral issue, it's one that's simply an issue of fairness and how we treat people in the city, it doesn't advocate or question the morality of actions or people, so that whole debate of morality was unexpected."

But the debate between moral and political has created somewhat of a division in the city.

Pastor Kemnitz said, "I'd reach out to the Mayor and anyone else who thinks we're trying to be divisive, that's not what this is about, we again feel the issue that's been pressed here is a moral stand on individuals who have their own beliefs."

When asked about the division Mayor Beutler told 10/11, "There are a variety of reasons for opposing it, and I want to be respectful for all those reasons, but it just seems to me that the imperative to be fair is so clear in this case, that I find that a little frustrating."

Tyler Richard President of Outlinc an LGBT group in Lincoln had this to say Thursday, "Fairness should not be held hostage to extreme religious viewpoints especially when the religious exemption for this ordinance was strengthened at the request of some of these same religious leaders. This effort is clearly about discrimination."

When it came to the sign Pastor Kemnitz said they knew not everyone would agree with the sign they put up.

"I won't kid you, we took a risk putting it up, we prayed that it would be received in a proper way, and some have received it very positively and understand that it's not really about picking on a group of people, it's not really what it's about, it's about a moral issue, and saying what God says."

Kemnitz said they've gotten calls from people who are in opposition to it, but he said it's been 2-to-1 people who've called say they understand it and appreciate it.

According to Mayor Beutler and Councilman Eskridge, the ordinance and amendment passed on May 14th, does allow for exemptions for churches and religiously affiliated groups.

To read the entire ordinance and the amendment exemption, click on the link to the left.