Church Assails Activist Over Gay Marriage Link

     GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (CN) — A Michigan church wants a court to get it an apology from the marriage-equality activist who associated it “with a pro-homosexual message.”
     A Christian parish in Hudsonville, the Jenison Bible Church says it adheres to “the clear biblical teaching that marriage is a union limited to one man and one woman, and is not applicable to persons of the same gender.”
     The church filed suit last week in Ottawa County Circuit Court against Daniel VanderLey, an advocate for the other viewpoint.
     VanderLey, who is gay, founded a nonprofit called LSA Community, short for love, safety and acceptance.
     In June 2015, according to the church’s complaint, VanderLey tried to drum up protest over an event in the Jenison area featuring conservative Christian speaker Bradlee Dean.
     The church says it was one of several in the area that received a letter in which VanderLey said he was counting on them “to stand against Bradlee Dean.”
     In the letter, according to the complaint, VanderLey boasted that he created signs with the names of these churches, along with the slogan “stands for love.”
     Though the Jenison Bible Church ordinarily would not associate its name “with a demonstration in support of homosexuality,” it says VanderLey unfairly aligned it with his position.
     His letter allegedly notified the church: “LoveNotHate has hired a person to hold your sign for the TV and media sessions, so your church can be seen as standing against Bradlee Dean, and hate.”
     True to form, VanderLey caused the false sign about Jenison Bible Church “to be displayed at his demonstration,” according to the complaint.
     Jenison Bible Church says such messages “were clearly tailored to, and did in fact, create the message to those witnessing the demonstration that the churches named on the signs and the participants in the demonstration were opposed to the biblical definition of marriage and in favor of ‘same-sex marriage,'” the complaint states.
     Though the church believes “that alternative definitions of marriage … distort the Gospel message,” it says VanderLey’s protest of the Dean event garnered media attention that tarnished its reputation.
     The church filed the May 3 suit because it says VanderLey ignored a demand by its lawyers for an apology. Exhibits to the complaint include pictures of the protest, a copy of VanderLey’s letter and the apology demand to VanderLey through attorneys at Liberty Counsel.
     “While the signs you printed stated, ‘[name of church] believes in love,’ your definition of ‘love’ — support for homosexuality and claiming it is not sin — is without biblical basis, and is not the position of the churches whose names you wrongfully appropriated,” the letter by attorney Richard Mast states.
     Mast did not sign Jenison Bible’s complaint, which was filed by James Wierenga with David & Wierenga and by Jeffrey Johnson.
     VanderLey declined to comment on the Jenison Bible lawsuit, saying he has not been served with it. An alternate spelling of his surname is Vander Ley.
     This is not the first time VanderLey has been in conflict with a church. In March 2015 VanderLey made headlines for posing as the Westboro Baptist Church, a hate group known for protesting military funerals.
     VanderLey did so to protest against his former church, the First Baptist Church in Zeeland, Michigan, over a sermon that purportedly likened homosexuals to ax murderers.
     “I pretended to be Westboro Baptist Church; this was to demonstrate to people the hate and vitriol that is coming out of Zeeland First Baptist Church,” VanderLey told ABC affiliate WZZM 13.

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