March 17, 2011 at 5:23 pm EDT | by Staff reports
National news in brief: March 18

The choir loft and famous pipe organ at the altar of the Crystal Cathedral in California. (Photo courtesy of the church)

Megachurch asks choir to sign anti-gay statement

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. — Several choir members at Orange County’s Crystal Cathedral say they’re upset over a document they’ve been asked to sign that takes a strong stand against homosexuality, the Associated Press and other news outlets reported this week.

The “Crystal Cathedral Worship Choir and Worship Team Covenant” recently handed out to members states that they should commit to being Christians by following the Bible in every way, the Orange County Register reported Tuesday.

Former and current choir members say they are particularly offended by a statement in the document that refers to homosexuality. Long-time church members say this is the first time they have seen the cathedral take a firm stand against homosexuality and are disturbed by it, the AP reported.

“I understand that in an era where images of family relationship and personal sexuality are often confused, Crystal Cathedral Ministries believes that it is important to teach and model the biblical view,” the covenant reads. “I understand that Crystal Cathedral Ministries teaches that sexual intimacy is intended by God to only be within the bonds of marriage, between one man and one woman.”

Sheila Schuller Coleman, daughter of the founder and senior pastor of the megachurch, issued a statement saying the document is intended to “clarify expectations placed on them as ministry leaders.” Coleman also apologized for the pain the covenant has caused some choir members.

Don Neuen, the cathedral’s longtime choir director, left the church last year because he disagreed with Gretchen Schuller Penner’s view that choir members should be “vetted” to make sure they are good Christians, the Register reported.

John Charles, a spokesman for the cathedral, said this does not mean gays are banned from the choir.

“This contract is to educate choir members about what our church believes in,” he said.

Texas Dem official draws heat for comments

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — The chairman of the Democratic Party for Bexar County, Texas, is drawing heat around the country for comments he made to a state newspaper last week that said gays were like polio-stricken children and Stonewall Democrats, a gay group, is akin to Nazis.

In immediate response, State Democratic Party Chair Boyd Richie called on Dan Ramos to resign his post. Texas Stonewall Democrats called on him to apologize or resign. And Bexar County Young Democrats urged him to apologize and resign “for his profane display of bigotry.”

Among his more incendiary comments to the San Antonio Current last week, Ramos said, “I liken [Stonewall Democrats] to the Tea Party — the Tea Party and the fucking Nazi Party — because they’re 90 percent white, blue-eyed, and Anglo, and I don’t give a shit who knows that. That’s the truth. Just like the blacks, they’re strong. And there’s nothing wrong — they’re Americans — but you can’t get your way just because you’re black.”

Richie lambasted Ramos’ “bigoted attitudes.” Not only that, Richie blamed Ramos in a prepared statement for a “constant state of turmoil” in the Bexar County party.

San Antonio State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer filed legislation last week that would give state party leaders power to remove county chairs for “incompetency or official misconduct.”

Four N.Y. teens charged in fatal attack

NEW YORK — Four teenagers have been charged in connection with an alleged bias attack in Queens that claimed the life of an 18-year-old man, NY1, a New York City-based news affiliate reported this week.

Police say it began around midnight Saturday after five teenagers crashed a birthday party that had been advertised on Facebook on 90th Street in Woodhaven.

Once inside, investigators say the teens smashed windows and yelled anti-gay slurs while flashing gang signs. They then chased Anthony Collao, 18, as he was leaving the party and beat him with a pipe.

Collao was put on life support, but died Monday at Jamaica Hospital.

The host of the party, who did not want his identity released, tells NY1 that while the suspects were not invited, they are known in the neighborhood.

He also says while he himself is gay, Collao was not and doesn’t understand why he was attacked.

Court papers identify the suspects as Luis Tabales, 16, Alex Velez, 16, Christophe Lozada, 17 and Nolis Ogando, 17.

They are being held on bail and face charges of gang assault, manslaughter and criminal possession of a weapon. As of late Tuesday, police were still looking for a fifth suspect. The hate crime task force is involved in the investigation.

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