The Sure Foundation Baptist Church of Vancouver—already acknowledged as a “hate church”—became internationally known when one of their congregants, Tyler Dinsmoore, was arrested for anti-LGBTQ hate crimes. Video essayist Jordan L., also known as YouTube commentator Dead Domain, was shocked to discover that an Independent Baptist sister church in her backyard of Spokane, Washington, was preaching the same. She transformed herself to infiltrate the hate church to investigate the extent of their antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ views and to try and understand the hearts and minds of the congregants. Please join us for this extraordinary conversation with Jordan as she reveals what she uncovered during her weeks attending services and potluck dinners. Content warning: violent, racist, homophobic, and transphobic language.
Production: Stephen Janis, Taya Graham
Studio Production: David Hebden, Cameron Granadino
Post-Production: Alina Nehlich
Taya Graham: Welcome to The Real News Network Podcast, where we delve deep into powerful stories that challenge the status quo and shed light on untold narratives. I’m your host, Taya Graham, with my co-host, Stephen Janis, and today, we bring you an incredible story of a person who decided to take hate head on and risk their own well-being to do so. It’s a story of both resilience and bravery, a tale of a person willing to do whatever it takes to expose the inner workings of one of the most fearsome culture warriors in America.
Stephen Janis: The story we are going to tell starts in the heart of Spokane, Washington. That’s where a church, no less, was spouting a theology that is both disturbing and alarming. There, a pastor named Jason Graber was calling for the execution and hanging of parents of transgender children. A video of the sermon went viral, and though some religious leaders united in condemnation, others saw his sermon as an inspiration.
Our guest took on the daunting task of going undercover as a man to infiltrate the Sure Foundation Baptist Church known for its anti-LGBTQ beliefs and practices. She sought to understand the inner workings of this hate group and reveal the truth behind its dangerous rhetoric.
Taya Graham: Today, you’re going to meet Jordan, the trans woman who risked her safety and went undercover as a man to infiltrate the very same hate church responsible for the chilling threats. Today, she joins us to share her courageous journey and the powerful insights she uncovered. As we navigate this heart-wrenching story, we will uncover a deep well of organized hatred towards LGBT people and witness how the Christian New Testament doctrine of love and acceptance has somehow been twisted into calls for social isolation and even death.
We’ll delve into the dark corners of hate and discrimination, exploring the consequences of words that incite violence and the challenges of safeguarding our constitutional right to freedom of speech. We warn you ahead of time that some of this discussion will contain hate speech, racial and homophobic slurs, and disturbing violent content, so please be forewarned. We are keeping the language unedited and unaltered so you can judge for yourself the goals of the Sure Foundation Baptist Church and its potential impact on the young minds they reach.
Stephen Janis: Let’s remember, this is a story of determination and courage. Throughout this episode, we’ll listen to Jordan’s harrowing experiences, her unyielding commitment to justice, and the impact this mission has had on her life and those around her.
Taya Graham: Stay tuned for this powerful episode of The Real News Network Podcast. We’re here to elevate voices, ignite change, and build a world where everyone can live without fear. So stay with us for the sobering and eye-opening conversation coming up next.
Jordan, thank you so much for joining us today.
Jordan L: Thank you, Taya. Thank you both for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Taya Graham: So now we’re going to play a clip of Pastor Graber that went viral. Let’s listen to the pastor in his own words for a moment so we can start to understand the environment Jordan was embedding herself in. And, again, a warning for content.
[AUDIO CLIP BEGINS]
Pastor Graber: …Have a transgender surgery done on them. Any parent that would do that, they just need to be shot in the back of the head, and then we can string them up above a bridge.
[AUDIO CLIP ENDS]
Taya Graham: So Jordan, first, just to set the scene, please tell us a little about Pastor Graber’s church.
Jordan L: Well, Sure Foundation Baptist Church in Spokane, Washington, is an offshoot of the Vancouver branch, also called Sure Foundation Baptist Church, which is run by a pastor named Aaron Thompson. For those who know about the New IFB movement, or the New Independent Fundamental Baptist movement, you’ll probably know that Aaron Thompson has also gone viral, has also made headlines, and that the Sure Foundation as a whole comes from Steven Anderson’s church in the New IFB. Steven Anderson, of course, is no stranger to controversy. He’s been blacklisted and banned from entering dozens of countries around the world for his hate speech.
The thing about Jason Graber going viral is that this church really does relish the headlines, as I show in my video, but it was one of the first times that it’s happened from the Spokane church. Like I mentioned, Aaron Thompson has previously gone viral, Steven Anderson and his protege, Jonathan Shelley, who runs the New IFB church down in Texas, they’ve all had their time in the spotlight, but this was the first time that it had happened in Spokane.
Stephen Janis: So Jordan, at what point did you feel like you had to do something? What motivated you to take this risk in this dangerous undercover mission to infiltrate the church?
Jordan L: Well, I’ve been, for several years now, I’ve been running my YouTube channel, and have primarily focused both on video games and media analysis and deeper critique. In the last year or so, as things for trans people and non-binary people like myself have gotten harder in the world, as there has been just a slew of transphobic legislation across the country, I started feeling a need to use what very small platform I had at the time to speak out and create videos on subject matter like the death of Eden Knight, a trans woman who was killed in the last year, and other societal issues that similarly affect people like me.
So it just came to me when I saw that… I read the headline because I like to keep up on things happening in the world of hate speech and hate groups as they grow. It surprised me that the church was actually in Spokane. It was unexpected. I didn’t see the local headlines until I started researching it later, but the way that the story had come to me was through Twitter. I read through the story, read through what Jason Graber said, and then I came across the fact that it was happening quite literally in my town, less than four miles from where I live.
Taya Graham: So how did you prepare yourself mentally and emotionally, or even physically, for going undercover? Let’s play this clip from a sermon of evangelist Danil Kutsar and then have Jordan tell us how she prepared herself to face this.
[AUDIO CLIP BEGINS]
Danil Kutsar: Every single time a sodomite dies of AIDS, let’s just rejoice and be like, yes, another one died. Let’s pray for more Muslims to go and shoot up these gay nightclubs, and whenever 50 of them die be like, yes, less pedophiles on this earth. Let’s rejoice. Let’s be glad. You know why? Because that’s our reward.
[AUDIO CLIP ENDS]
Taya Graham: Jordan, how did you prepare to face this?
Jordan L: Well, I had the idea to go to this church, and it originally stemmed from a curiosity of how similar the rhetoric of these hate churches were to a lot of the rhetoric we see espoused by mainstream political commentators, especially the kind of people who are driving a lot of anti-transgender sentiment like people from the Daily Wire like Matt Walsh, Michael Knowles, Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, that whole lot. So it started as just more of a curiosity to see if these people also watched Fox News, if these people also subscribed to the Daily Wire or if they were so far past that on the side of the right that they were something else entirely.
But of course, I knew that they had this violent rhetoric and these very violent beliefs about what should happen to people like me. So it became a matter of deciding how to cover my tracks, how would I present myself, how would I arrive, how would I leave. I had a partner who picked me up and dropped me off every time we went to one of the services. I went alone, but they would drop me off, and I would be dropped off a block away from the church and around the corner so that I was sure nobody saw me arriving, nobody saw me leaving.
Then of course, there was the issue of disguising myself physically. I’ve been on low level estrogen for about two years now, and it has had a lot of effects on my body, but not nearly as much as some other trans and non-binary people who will go on additional hormone blockers, spironolactone, other HRT like that. So dressed in the right clothes and presented the right way, I can still pass pretty well. So it became a matter of putting my hair in a messy bun, making sure I didn’t have any nail polish or anything like that, maybe growing out a little bit of stubble, and just generally presenting myself as unthreatening and regular as possible.
Taya Graham: So what was it like when you first walked into that church? How did you feel, and how were you greeted?
Jordan L: It’s weird, because I grew up in church. I grew up in a Lutheran church and went to church almost every Sunday for most of my childhood on through my teenage years. While I’ve distanced myself from religion like that, I don’t have necessarily any bad memories of the church or the congregants, and I don’t have anything against Evangelical Christianity in and of itself.
The reason I bring that up is that I was familiar with so many of the workings of this church before I even stepped foot in there, and that was the bizarre part of it, is walking in there, having people greet me in the most friendly manner, welcome me in the door, asked my name at least three – Before this first service even started, at least three or four people walked right up to me, asked my name, shook my hand, said, welcome in. We’re going to have this after church, you should stick around. It was really like any other church, any other gathering of people of faith who want to welcome a newcomer into their fold.
Stephen Janis: Jordan, what did you have to do to establish trust? I’m sure they had suspicions about you, but now it seems like they didn’t. So how did you protect yourself from discovery and establish your bonafides as an extremist conservative?
Jordan L: Well, I didn’t want to come across as too eager or too extreme because the church does have a history of other extremists. Like I mention in my video, there was a man in Vancouver named Tyler Dinsmore, who, as all records would indicate, had made plans to physically attack and possibly open fire on a pride parade in that area, and for several weeks leading up to that, he had fervently sought out the church’s doctrine, to the extent he would drive overnight to go to the Vancouver church and sleep in his car so that he could attend service there.
So I knew that they would probably be wary of people who would bring too much attention or too much disrepute right out of the gate. So I didn’t want to appear over eager. So it was really a fine line to walk, I feel, where I just tried to engage them in conversation, engage them both before and after. If they asked, like you mentioned, that sermon that Danil Kutsar preached was the first time I had been there, and right afterwards, he came up and shook my hand and asked if it was too hardcore. Of course, this church prides themselves on how hard their preaching is, how violent and heated it can get. So he wasn’t really asking if I was comfortable so much as, I feel, making sure that I was on board with that.
So it was also a matter of, I feel, coming up with a character to play, which is how I viewed it. I came up with, as I detail in the video, I came up with a brief background on me: my family history, my history with faith and religion, and people in my family I disagree with because they had leftist beliefs, and things that were essentially cobbled together from what I had heard of years of different family members who had been kicked out of their families or shunned or what have you, separated from their families for believing differently or not wanting to put aside bigotry.
Which was very interesting because I think those were the things that garnered me that trust. Because when I got to talking about family, when I got to talking openly with some of the other preachers, whether it was an after-church potluck or before church, I would often hear very similar stories that their own families wouldn’t talk to them anymore because of the church, because of what they engaged in.
Taya Graham: Let’s take another listen to Pastor Graber where he draws specific parallels between biblical stories of child sacrifice and families deciding to move forward with gender-affirming care.
[AUDIO CLIP BEGINS]
Pastor Graber: The very first thing that comes up, it says, Tophet is a location in the valley, the sons of Hinnom, near Jerusalem where they would go and perform sacrifices to Moloch. And specifically child sacrifices, where they would pass children through the fires of Moloch, like the Bible talks about and condemns every single time. I find it very interesting that if you just type that word into Google, that’s the very first thing that pops up.
And you say, well, what does that have to do with today? Well, what do we have going on today? They were sacrificing children to Moloch back then, but what’s the big thing that’s going on today? Well, we have abortion, but also we have parents that want to take their children and basically offer them to Satan.
[AUDIO CLIP ENDS]
Taya Graham: So this type of rhetoric seems dangerously divisive, uniquely dangerous, using the infallibility of the Bible as the word of God to construct such targeted rhetoric. Can you talk about what effect the fusion of biblical stories with political hatred and conspiracy can have?
Jordan L: Yeah, absolutely. This church is unique, perhaps not among Baptist churches but among Evangelical Christians, in that they don’t accept any other doctrine but the King James Bible. They do not use international versions. They do not use the New King James version. They only accept the King James Bible as the most true representation of the word of God.
Now, of course, there’s a lot of debate that I’m sure biblical scholars can have to the efficacy of that considering it is in and of itself a translation, but they take everything literally as it’s said. However, the problem with taking biblical texts literally is that sometimes the translations are metaphors, or when it was taken over through multiple languages from English to Hebrew, the words changed meanings.
Now, I bring that up because they use a lot of those meanings to suss out meanings for other chapters, and I bring this up in my video. They will bring up a verse where God will define a reprobate, for example, and then later on a verse where God might say dogs are likened to reprobates or something. Off the top of my head, I can’t quote the exact thing. It doesn’t matter if those verses are in books that were written originally hundreds of years apart. To them, they see it as all a cohesive whole. So they can go to one point and then pick another point and then bring those together to say gay people are like dogs, for example.
This all ties into their more conspiracist leanings. The reason I feel that this twisting of scripture is important to keep in mind is because they can really use it to justify anything, and that goes towards a lot of justifying hatred against things in the modern day, especially as it comes to Jews and women and other ethnic groups. They can take something, and because another word is referenced somewhere else in the Bible that might vaguely recall things like false teachers or reprobates, they can say, okay. This is talking about how the Jews are controlling the world, or, this is talking about how false teachers are actually politicians, or any number of things.
So really, it’s hard to say … I don’t want to say that necessarily the Bible informs their bigoted worldview, because I don’t think it does. As the comment section in my own video has attested, there are plenty of people who practice plenty of different denominations of Christian faith who will absolutely rebuke these people and have pointed to an endless series of Bible verses as justification for rebuking them, but that doesn’t really matter. Again, bringing it back around, it doesn’t matter because to them, they believe their interpretation of the word of God is absolute. It doesn’t matter how necessarily questionable it is. So I think it’s less an issue of their bigotry coming from their faith and more of an issue of them using their faith to justify their bigotry.
Stephen Janis: This is really fascinating, what you’re talking about. I get the feeling. It seems that they were more comfortable with the Old Testament and skipping over the New Testament. It’s just fascinating to hear you talk about how they weaponize theology, but would they skip over the New Testament and some of the… Is that what people were pointing out in terms of criticizing their adopted theology?
Jordan L: Oh, absolutely. They do not – And this is something I’ve noted consistently – They reference, primarily of the services I’ve seen, which include the ones I’ve been to and then maybe a couple dozen more at this point, they love to reference Paul’s letters, the epistles, everything that came after Jesus’s death in the New Testament. They love to reference the Levitical laws, many of the harsher stories of the Old Testament.
But when it comes to actually preaching what I would think a lot of people envision as the ideal of Christianity, which is to preach the love and acceptance that Christ himself taught, it’s fairly rare to hear them utter anything about that. It’s fairly rare to hear them – And, again, this is across probably two dozen different sermons that I’ve read, not necessarily cherry-picked – Any of the preachers talk about God as being accepting, as being loving. Again, as many verses posted in my comments have pointed out, even in the King James version, how much Jesus refers to everybody around him as brothers and sisters, as siblings and humanity.
They pretty much seem to ignore that in favor of the more fire and brimstone rhetoric. It’s really interesting, because like I mentioned, they will take verses from the Old Testament, and during a sermon, will justify them using something that is hundreds of years later in history and was written hundreds of years later, and then just squash the two together. It’s this really strange way to view their own theology where it takes possibly thousands of years of world history and flattens it into something that they think is somehow completely relevant in every way today.
Stephen Janis: That’s fascinating.
Taya Graham: It really is. You had a conversation with the male leadership that stood out to me. They asked you if you’re going to try to get your mom and other family members saved, and you responded that they went to an ecumenical and accepting church and your undercover character had a 13-year-old cousin that wanted to use they/them pronouns. Let’s play a little clip of the audio. It’s a little hard to hear, but Jordan can break it down for us afterwards.
[AUDIO CLIP BEGINS]
Speaker: That sucks, because once the person becomes a reprobate, they’re capable of everything, because their conscience is removed and that’s how you got people like [inaudible], and because their conscience is seared with a hot iron, they’re capable to kill you, whatever, and they’re super dangerous.
[VIDEO CLIP ENDS]
Taya Graham: How did you feel in that moment, being faced with someone comparing trans and non-binary people to cannibal serial killers?
Jordan L: Well, at that point, I had already heard so many things from the pulpit, and it had become… I mentioned this as well, that they had me sit in the front row because that’s where all the single men are supposed to sit. So I was front and center for two sermons leading up to that conversation, or I think it might have actually been three. So I had heard no shortage of bizarre rhetoric, and it had really tempered my ability to keep a poker face. Many people have wondered in the comments of the video how was I able to stay calm, let alone either not laugh at things I found ridiculous or get angry at things? And I think it was just a matter of focus.
I went in. Every time I went into the church, I just took it as whatever they said I would just accept and I would be able to process later. That’s really the thing that… That was one of the stranger things I had heard said there, and I was very much left just nodding along and giving a sense of understanding, which they didn’t seem to notice anything off with.
However, that I did, as soon as I got into my car, my partner had picked me up right after that service, that was the first thing. I pulled out the recording and showed them because it felt… It was surreal to be there and to see somebody telling you, somebody who they thought were a unredeemable reprobate who deserved to be shot in the head, who deserved all these other graphic things they had depicted to me, telling me that I was capable of murder, that I was capable of wanton violence, and for no cause or reason that I would devolve into being a cannibal or something.
It was a very clear look into how reactionary their opinions of people who are different are, because they don’t make any effort to understand – And you’ll notice this if you ever watch their sermons. They don’t draw any lines between somebody who’s gay, or somebody who’s a drag queen, or somebody who’s transgender. To them, it all gets lumped in as reprobate. To them, it is all equally sinful, equally worthy of derision.
Stephen Janis: Jordan, I’m very sorry you had to go through that. Do you feel like, with the time you spent there, that you understand? What they say is so inexplicable and, obviously, it’s hard for anyone to understand, but do you feel like, having spent time with them, you understand what makes them so irrational and so clinging to these ideations of people they don’t even know? Did you feel like you understood them at all, if it was worth understanding them, but do you feel like you had any insight into what drives these people?
Jordan L: Speculating about people’s, their either mental faculties or emotional states was something I really wanted to try and stay away from for the video. I really wanted to let their words speak for themselves, let their actions speak for themselves. It’s something that a lot of people have either jokingly or seriously hypothesized in the comment section of whether these people, their mental acuity and their emotional state, whether they suffer with depression or what have you.
It’s something I still don’t quite like to engage with like that. I do want to know where they’re coming from, what led them to be so fervent in these hateful beliefs. I think there’s a quickness to judge bigots and people who perpetuate this kind of stuff as being not as smart, as being not as capable as everybody else. I think a lot of that is based in old stereotypes about rednecks or people from rural communities. I don’t necessarily think those are true.
I think, however, that these people are deeply incurious. I think they do not seek out knowledge about the world around them. They do not seek out knowledge about other people. They often don’t get their facts right before spewing about recent legislation on trans people that have been passed, about recent news happenings and developments.
So I think that is where a lot of their ignorance comes from, is not caring about the world around them, and using that ignorance to focus on groups that they can make themselves feel superior about. I think that’s almost part of it, is there is this…
I watched their annual Red Hot Preaching Conference this last weekend because they mentioned me. One of the pastors mentioned me in one of his sermons, so I ended up going through all the sermons. One commonality between all of the mainstream pastors there was that they really felt like bullies. The tactics they took were just mean when talking about people they didn’t like, for lack of a better word.
But also, they all seem to really love the spotlight. They all seem to bask in the audience laughing at their jokes no matter how violent or bigoted they were. If I had to speculate on what drives a lot of the pastors to be this way, I think it is a sense of superiority. I think it is a sense of value that they feel, and I think you can see that in the way a lot of them talk about…
I have this little mantra that I tell people, that I don’t trust anybody who my dog doesn’t trust, and I say that’s true because my dog is very friendly, very loving, and trusts almost everybody. So if my dog doesn’t like you immediately, I feel that there’s something off. But I use that to speak to a larger thing: I don’t trust anybody who actively goes out of their way to dislike animals or who animals actively avoid. I think there is something wrong with people like that. I think you can tell there have been so much rhetoric, pieces of rhetoric and sermons I’ve been pointed to by other people in my comments talking about abusing animals openly and talking about how animals are beneath them, whether they’re talking about little animals and dogs or they’re talking about likening gay people to animals.
Likewise, in the services I saw, there were a lot of verses talking about how to reprimand children and how to beat them. Pastor Shelley, again, the Texas pastor, went viral and, I believe, ended up getting kicked out of his church at that point, because he had a whole sermon about how in the Old Testament, lazy children, and talking about minors in the sermon, should be stoned to death. So this idea of exerting might and, of course, people out there who know Umberto Eco and the tenets of fascism will recognize a lot of the stylings that they use, because there is a lot of emphasis on whoever is the strongest in this church.
But to speak to what would bring the other members of the congregation there, and I feel like that was the really the saddest realization for me, because this church, I don’t know if the recordings quite put it across, but every time I went, there were at least five or six toddlers in attendance, small children hearing this violent rhetoric. It’s not like parents were covering up their ears. They wanted them to hear this. I can only imagine that’s because, like any other church, the people had come here looking for fellowship. They had come looking for a place to gather, a place where they can pursue their faith and they can pass it on to their children.
Which, again, something I don’t have any problem with in almost any other church, but whether they got suckered in or whether they too felt that sense of superiority, they came to believe all of this bigotry was true, and so they are continuing to pass it on to their children, which is incredibly hurtful.
Taya Graham: I’m glad you mentioned the other congregants, because it seems that the men were the worship leaders, the speakers, but there were women there who were complicit, if not active in the hate. And then, of course, there were children who are there hearing this hatefulness and learning it, so there were some innocent parties present. What did you think about the rest of the congregation? Can you describe the people who attended, either in demographics or in personality, anything about the other congregants?
Jordan L: Yes. It was entirely white. I would say probably lower middle class if I had to guess just talking to the other families and hearing about their jobs and some of their struggles. But other than that, the appearance – And this is another thing that was striking about this rhetoric – None of them appeared, like I had mentioned a little while ago when you have… People have these images in their heads of what bigots look like ,and that they might be rednecks in flannels with gap teeth, and that’s not true. Everyone here looked like somebody you would just pass by at the supermarket or at Starbucks without thinking a second thought, without even noticing it. They didn’t wear Trump hats. They didn’t have MAGA belt buckles. They were just regular looking people.
As for the role of women in one of the sermons, Brother Paul preached extensively about the role of women and how women are – And this is mostly in his words – Women are just worse versions of men, how many of society’s problems that we face in modern day are due to women getting the right to vote, things like that. Women, there were at least four or five women in the audience that day, and they just listened intently. I can only imagine they agreed with that.
Also, I didn’t mention it as much in my video, but there was also this air of subservience where, when I would join the potlucks or the lunches after church, the women would be the ones generally preparing the food. They would be the ones in the kitchen, maybe talking amongst themselves, taking care of children. And then they would also, for many, many of the men, they came around, they picked up their plates, they picked up their garbage. The men didn’t ask them to or anything. It was just something that I think I feel was expected, because it happened almost in unison.
Then while that was happening, the men would be just sitting around and talking. And they would pick up their food and go eat, and then it would get taken away when they were done with it. So it was this very subtle thing that I noticed, and I don’t want to necessarily say that any of them were slaves or anything, but it felt like a definite attachment to the mindset that was occurring.
Taya Graham: Were there any moments when you felt unsafe or fearful for your wellbeing while undercover? Let’s play this clip of Pastor Graber comparing the biblical story of Sodom to a Hollywood-led agenda of protecting and promoting homosexual men that puts children at risk.
[AUDIO CLIP BEGINS]
Pastor Graber: These sodomites, they raped her until she died. Now, this is the reality of what these people are like. Hollywood has been brainwashing people for decades to make it seem like they’re just normal, like there’s nothing wrong with them, they’re just like everybody else, they just have this one thing where instead of liking women, they just like men, but that’s a lie though. That picture that Hollywood has been trying to present to the general public for decades is a lie. It is simply not true.
A lot of times, these sodomites, they can put on a real friendly face, and we’ll get in later, and they like to creep in to… They’ll even like to creep into churches. But just because somebody is able to put on a nice face and to put on a show and he’s able to trick people into believing a lie about what they really are, that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Bible makes it clear what these people are like.
[AUDIO CLIP ENDS]
Taya Graham: Jordan, did you fear being exposed? Were you scared of what the possible consequences would be? Did you feel at risk at any time?
Jordan L: Well, it’s a complicated question, because I feel after that first week, I didn’t feel I’d earned any of their trust. I had been very amenable and cheerful and open to the rhetoric, or at least appeared to be to them, shaken hands. I’d even been saved – “Saved” – By one of their preachers who went through a whole speech with me on having me accept Christ.
So I had gotten somewhat into their good graces, and by the second week, they knew my name and et cetera. But it was because, every week, they do two services. They do a different service in the morning on Sunday and then an evening service. Just to keep tabs on them, I was watching the evening services as they streamed them. It was something Robert Larson said about wolves coming into the church in sheep’s clothing, and they might even talk like us and act like us. That did somewhat rankle me. It had some of my hairs on alert, but I continued doing it for another week or so.
So there were warning signs. And when Pastor Jason the following week, for the second service I wasn’t present for, said something very similar about infiltrators, I thought it was maybe too much of a coincidence, given my recent attendance and the fact that it had happened twice during the services that I did not come for. So I myself decided to… At that point, I had found so much, I had learned so much from talking to them, I didn’t think the experiment really needed to go on anymore.
But was I ever really… I don’t feel I was ever being surrounded. I don’t feel like they were ever going to take me in the back and stab me or anything. But it was a high pressure situation because, as they note on their website, they believe that, in their term, sodomites, which is their broad term for anybody who’s gay or queer, they believe sodomites should be put to death by the government. They believe that people like me deserve to die. They also mentioned that anybody who’s gay will not be allowed to attend church.
So there was, of course, that worry about what would happen, what would an interaction look like if there was a confrontation like that, but I never really saw it coming down the pipeline in person. So in a vague sense, yes, I was worried for my safety, and I did take efforts like parking a block away, having my partner come pick me up. I took efforts to keep my identity safe, keep my physical body safe, but in the moment, it felt like I was one of them.
Stephen Janis: So this church goes beyond just the congregation. It affiliates itself with the New Independent Fundamentalist Baptist movement, which has made several public statements condemning what it believes to be sodomy and the LGBTQ lifestyles. So how big is this movement beyond the congregation that you investigated?
Jordan L: Well, that’s part of the scary thing, is that, as I’ve done my video, as people have commented on it, so many people were shocked to find that it was happening in Spokane. So many people were shocked to find that it was happening in Vancouver. The New IFB churches, for years, have been scattered across places like Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, in places I think a lot of people see as more red states where it might not be as surprising, but they are growing and expanding everywhere.
Like I mentioned, they recently had their annual Red Hot Preaching Conference where all the big preachers like Jonathan Shelley and Aaron Thompson and Steven Anderson come and preach for three days. From the services I watched, they claimed more than 400 people were in attendance. From the services I watched when the camera would pull out, I don’t know if it was quite 400, but there were at least 200-plus people there, including a lot of visible small children, toddlers and the like.
So part of the scary thing about this movement is that it is growing. Even if slowly, it is growing and proliferating, because I think a lot of people assume that when any of their pastor’s screeds go viral, I think they assume that this is just a small backwater church somewhere nestled in a Georgia swamp and there’s five congregants, and that’s not the case at all. Like I said, the people who go to this church are people you would never look at twice out in public every day.
Taya Graham: That’s such an excellent point, and it’s really important that it’s highlighted.
Something you pointed out, which I thought deserved to be highlighted, was the overlap between the talking points of popular media pundits like Tucker Carlson, Matt Walsh, Michael Knowles, and the pastors of this church. Let me play this clip and then have your response.
[AUDIO CLIP BEGINS]
Danil Kutsar: So the devil now has control over the public schools, and the devil’s ready to teach our kids the sodomite agenda, to teach how boys can be girls and girls can be boys, and then the schools are now teaching kids that, hey, if you think you’re a cat, here’s some litter, you can go pee in this cat litter.
[AUDIO CLIP ENDS]
Taya Graham: So Jordan, can you talk a little bit about the similarities you saw between popular pundits and the Sure Foundation Baptist church’s talking points?
Jordan L: Absolutely, and the cat litter thing is a great touchstone for that, because the proliferation of this urban myth, which is really what it is, started in right-wing circles. And even though it was very quickly debunked, it has just continued to grow and spread where it is accepted as a fact, as a thing that happens, even though it doesn’t. And that it’s used most often as ammunition against rights for young trans kids, rights for them to be able to go into their own bathroom. It’s almost similar to the slippery slope fallacy of gay marriage, where you still hear, even in this church, first they just wanted to get married, and then they wanted to adopt kids, and then they will logically attempt to link that up to kids identifying as different genders.
They’re very similar, in a lot of ways, to mainstream conservatives. I think one of the big differences is that they, unlike a lot of mainstream conservatives, they aren’t willing to prioritize publicity or prioritize infamy over what they see as their biblical principles.
During the Red Hot Preaching Conference, for example, there were several pastors who openly condemned Andrew Tate and called him a womanizer, and, in their words, a whoremonger. They have talked… One of the pastors, Jonathan Shelley, has openly referred to, he refers to Ben Shapiro as “Ben Shapiro, the Jew” to make it clear to his audience that people like Ben Shapiro shouldn’t be trusted because he’s Jewish.
So there are certain lines that they still will not cross due to their bigotry, which is fascinating to me because Ben Shapiro runs the Daily Wire. Daily Wire has put out so many of their transphobic talking points, and I’ve heard multiple preachers use the phrase, what is a woman? which, of course, was made popular by Matt Walsh in his poorly researched documentary last year.
So they still do ascribe to a lot of conservative media. They still really toe that line, but then they are so much more radical in other ways that they won’t compromise because it might make them more popular. I think that’s part of what makes them so dangerous, because it allows them, in their eyes, a moral superiority over people like Andrew Tate, over people like Ben Shapiro.
Stephen Janis: It really seems, I’m not saying this ironically and this is not a question, but it sounds to me like they haven’t read Margaret Atwood [Graham laughs], or it just sounds like Gilead to me in so many ways that these guys would-
Taya Graham: No, I don’t think they’re cracking open Oryx and Crake or [laughs] –
Stephen Janis: Yeah, right, exactly. Wow.
Jordan L: No, and that’s something that I think they’re proud of. I didn’t get the impression from them that they completely forsake worldly entertainment or they completely don’t read any books or anything, but they are proud to focus really only on the Bible, and proud to focus all of their energy there, often at the expense of other pleasures. They’re also teetotalers. They’re completely against alcohol of any kind, for example.
Taya Graham: Thank you for that. Oh, you know what? We’ll get an Ursula K. Le Guin selection and ship it there. That might be perfect.
Stephen Janis: It creates a real quandary. What measures do you believe should be taken to address hate speech and hate groups without infringing on the First Amendment? Some people say we must be tolerant of intolerance, and others are free speech absolutists. What measures would you suggest to address this type of hate speech?
Jordan L: Well, it’s a really weird time we live in as far as hate speech and everything else are concerned, because you have to look at what constitutes hate speech and who’s saying it and the reach that they have. I think something like the recent Alex Jones case taken against him by the Sandy Hook parents is a great example of it, because despite the fact that he never openly threatened the Sandy Hook parents, he had a massive audience who went and stalked these parents and accused them of being crisis actors, that their kids didn’t really die, forcing them for years after every parent’s worst nightmare to continue reliving that. The jury found him guilty, and he needed to pay reparations for everything he had done to essentially profit off of the misery of these people.
Even though, as many people like to bring up, when it’s discovered that the most recent mass shooter was a fan of Tim Pool or was a fan of Ben Shapiro or Tucker Carlson, or they quote one of their TV shows or videos in a manifesto, they like to really distance themselves from that rhetoric. They like to say, well, I can’t be responsible for every crazy person in my audience.
And you can’t be responsible for everything, but I think there is a certain point where you reach a level of influence where you can be held responsible. There is such a thing as incitement, and inciting a riot is really little more than free speech gone awry. You are getting other people to join your cause, you are getting them on your side, and you are going and causing irreparable damage in a lot of cases.
I think the only difference between something like inciting a riot and the targeted speech that we see proliferating more and more because of Elon Musk’s new efforts on Twitter, the only difference between those two is our experience with it in the immediate and the abstract. Because you can hear somebody shot up a church, shot up a school, and they were inspired by white replacement theory, they were inspired by Lauren Southern or Tim Pool or whoever. But that’s different than seeing the video footage of somebody going and tagging and knocking over cars during a riot somewhere. I think that allows them to insulate [themselves] a little bit more because of that.
Now, do I think that hate speech as a whole should be necessarily censored? I don’t think there’s any way to do that in any society. What I think the real solution is is awareness because most people, an overwhelming majority of people coming from all backgrounds of faiths, all kinds of different beliefs, whether atheist or Catholic or Muslim or Jewish, can look at a church like this, look at what they espouse, and recognize that it is not righteous, it is not a proper religion, it does not benefit the congregation to hear that, and it’s harmful, quite frankly, to the children in attendance.
So I think the question is what do we do from there with the free speech that we have, with the free ability that we have to stand up and determine what we want to allow in our communities. Because there have been, in the past, there have been different churches in the same sects – Like I mentioned, Jonathan Shelley’s church they got evicted from because the company got so many different calls about what they were preaching after he preached that sermon about stoning children to death.
It’s less a question of what should or shouldn’t be allowed and more a question of how aware are we of what’s being said and how much effort are we willing to put in to prevent it. Because most people go about their lives not hearing and not knowing about things that are said by the far right, but that doesn’t mean that… We saw it, I think it was last year or earlier this year, when Nick Fuentes, who is an open white supremacist, a white nationalist who has been at the center of controversy for many years, sat down and had a dinner with Donald Trump, the former president of the United States, the presumptive Republican nominee for the upcoming presidential run.
And who knows what they said, but the idea that somebody like Nick Fuentes was written off by many mainstream pundits as just a kid in his basement. Meanwhile, he was gathering a loyal following of frustrated young men who saw his rhetoric as the answer to their problems in society and life, and that got him to a point where he can talk to the president, the former president and future nominee.
So it’s really an if you see something say something situation, rather than just saying, okay. What they’re saying is violent, we should shut it down, because I think more than anything, there’s strength in numbers. The ability of so many people… They’re preaching this in a small little room. They’re not on the street corners yelling it out. They know that if they did, they would get swarmed, they would be surrounded.
A great example was the pride parade I went to this last year, where there were, I believe they were Westboro Baptist, there were a couple people there with their hate signs, but they were surrounded. Not by necessarily just the marchers in the parade; they were literally surrounded by allies who were cutting them off, who were playing drums in front of them. I think that’s the kind of support something like this needs. We need people to know it when they see it, recognize it, and put in the effort to call it out.
Taya Graham: That is such a great answer, and I know in some ways, and you partially answered my last question, but I’m just going to ask it anyway. I know this is a ridiculously big question, but in light of the hate church’s views, how can society work towards promoting acceptance and understanding for LGBTQ people and their families? Or what actions do you think individuals or communities or institutions can take to counter hate speech and prevent violence against the community? Your work provided very important insights, but I’m sure you wouldn’t recommend undercover investigations to everyone. What would you suggest to people who want to be allies and who want to counter this kind of hate?
Jordan L: Yeah, I absolutely don’t recommend going and doing what I did, especially because churches like this are now, I think this church especially, is looking out for that. I’ve had a lot of allies ask me, a lot of people who go, hey, I’m a cis white dude. How can I help? I tell them the same thing: find the events in your area. Find out where there is, even if it’s just a drag night, even if it’s just a queer open mic. Find where there are events happening and go and show up and support, and help with events, and make sure that you are helping to foster a community. Because, really, it’s not just an issue that affects – And that’s part of the reason why I made the whole video, is that it’s not just an issue that affects queer people. Their hatred affects Jewish people, it affects women, it affects children.
So it behooves us to really band together no matter what religion, what race, what color you are, against this kind of intolerance. Because, living in their version of a perfect world, if they got what they wanted and the people who advocate, like Matt Walsh and Michael Knowles, for elimination of people like me from society, they do not want to see us, they do not want to hear us, and if they got what they wanted, they’re going to turn their sights to women next, or they’re going to turn their sights to minorities next.
So there really is no better time than now to take those steps, take those actions and reach out. Because while there are a lot of spaces that queer people and people of color will try to keep for themselves, whether that’s to keep out infiltrators or to continue cultivating their own culture and to have those private moments away from the rest of the world that they can feel like might not want them.
So maybe you might come across those, but I guarantee those same people also will welcome you to other events. They will welcome you to hear more about their culture. I think that understanding… I mentioned, a long time ago now, but I mentioned that one of the biggest problems I feel with this church and what leads them to their assuredness and their bigotry is how incurious they are. I feel like that is one of the worst things you can be in the modern world, because we’re not peasants who live their entire lives in a three-mile village and die at the age of 40.
Almost everybody has a supercomputer in their pocket that can give you the answers to anything you might want to know. And yet – And this is a big problem I feel with partisan politics now – Is that you’ll hear something and accept it as truth, whether it’s from a journalistic outlet, whether it’s from an influencer, or what have you. When the reality of that is, given all of our abilities, when you hear something, you should immediately be able to go look it up, and you should see what parts are true and what parts aren’t. Because most often you can, and that’s what I did with so many of these sermons. They would state a claim about Washington kidnapping kids and turning them trans, and it turns out that’s not true at all. It has no basis in reality. It’s conspiracy theory.
I feel like, as a society, everybody would be better off if you heard a politician, doesn’t matter what side of the aisle they’re on, you heard them say something, you heard them make a claim, and you immediately looked it up. Because I feel like so many of the divisions that are driven deeper in our country based on lines of racism, based on lines of homophobia and other bigotries are because people remain ignorant.
Taya Graham: Jordan, if we want to watch your video in full as well as follow your work, where should people go?
Jordan L: You can find my video on the YouTube channel Dead Domain. It will have my face on there, and then also the followup video that I recently made where Pastor Aaron Thompson calls me out in his sermon, and also calling out the explicit and considerable anti-Semitic and white nationalist rhetoric that was at the Red Hot Preaching Conference. Aside from that, you can follow me on Twitter @DomainDead.
Taya Graham: Jordan, thank you so much for your time and the simply incredible investigative work you did, and thank you to everyone who listened and stayed with us to hear Jordan’s experience. Thank you for joining us as we stand in solidarity with Jordan and countless others who refuse to let hate and violence dictate our communities. It’s time to shed some light on this darkness and spark conversations that will pave the way for a more inclusive and compassionate society. Thank you, Jordan and Stephen, and thank you for listening to The Real News Network Podcast.