L.A. Won’t Foot Bill for Pastor’s Honor
The Los Angeles City Council decided Friday that it’s OK to name an intersection after an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, but it’s wrong to pick up the tab for the ceremony.
Behind that split decision was the city’s newest councilman, Bill Rosendahl, who took office three weeks ago.
The Westside councilman, who is gay, pressed his colleagues not to waive the fees for the official dedication of “Dr. Frederick K.C. Price Square” after he was alerted to the honoree’s views.
“I’ll vote against this today to show that homophobia will not be supported by the city of Los Angeles,” Rosendahl said. “It goes with the territory -- I’m the elected official here who is gay. I’m now the point person on these issues and it’s part of my portfolio. I accept it.”
The situation began last May when the council, without discussion, unanimously approved a motion from Councilman Bernard C. Parks to rename the intersection of 79th and Vermont streets after Price, a televangelist who presides at the 10,000-seat Faithdome in South Los Angeles.
On Friday, the council was expected to sign off on waiving the city’s $1,000 cost for the dedication ceremony, which will occur today. That motion, also by Parks, had been seconded last week by Rosendahl, who had not learned about Price’s views.
But the new councilman heard from a gay activist that Price is despised in some circles for his views on homosexuality. He announced Friday that he could not support the fee waiver.
After several council members asked Parks if he would drop the waiver request, Parks withdrew the motion.
“Theoretically, I don’t know if what we did today was legal,” said a disappointed Parks. “The fact that we withdrew a fee waiver for an event because someone disagreed with someone else’s 1st Amendment rights -- I’m sure that’s something that the city attorney will look at.”
Price could not be reached for comment Friday.
Street namings have been contentious before. In 2003, the council deadlocked over rechristening Crenshaw Boulevard as Tom Bradley Boulevard to honor the five-term mayor after neighborhood residents objected to the loss of the historic name.
The decision to honor Price was made in May in a one-page motion Parks circulated to the council with Price’s biography. It stated that his Crenshaw Christian Center ministry is broadcast to 116 television stations and 42 radio stations, as far as the West Indies, England and Nigeria.
The motion borrowed language from a biography on the church’s website. No mention was made of Price’s role in the movement to stop gay marriage from being legalized.
In an interview published in the San Francisco Chronicle in May 2004, Price was quoted as saying, “I don’t have the words to describe the importance of this issue.”
Price also was quoted as saying that he has “nothing against homosexual individuals” but that the Bible led him to believe “homosexuality is an abomination.”
On Friday, Parks defended the decision to honor Price, saying that he has been a minister for 50 years and built a congregation with 15,000 members.
“I don’t know of many pastors in the 8th District that I represent that do support gay marriage,” said Parks. “It’s not like he’s alone.” Parks said he was not aware of the statements Price had made that irked gay and lesbian activists.
Price’s comments -- unearthed on the Internet -- incensed gay activists, nine of whom attended the council meeting.
“Please do not use my dollars to honor a man who doesn’t even consider me a human,” said Jasmyne Cannick, a board member with Los Angeles Black Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Pride.
Special event fee motions that waive the cost of police and parking services are a routine part of almost every council agenda and are almost never debated.
Nonetheless, Parks said the presence of the activists unnerved some of his colleagues, who just last week passed a resolution supporting legalizing gay marriage. Parks skipped that vote.
“I was advised by several council members they were uncomfortable voting on it and was asked is there any way it can be resolved otherwise,” Parks said.
At the center of the mini-maelstrom was Rosendahl, the rookie councilman. During his campaign this year, Rosendahl downplayed his sexual orientation.
But on Friday, for the second time in the three weeks since taking office, he found himself at the forefront of a gay issue. Last week, Rosendahl helped lead the council to an 11-0 vote to support a state bill that would legalize gay marriage.
Rosendahl said he hoped to educate Price “on fundamental Christian values” and said Parks had agreed to propose a meeting between the two of them.
Rosendahl said he looked forward to telling Price about his personal history and telling him that his anti-homosexual stance “just pushes people deeper into the closet.”
“We’re all made in God’s image and likeness,” Rosendahl added. “We are all an expression of God’s greatness, and God makes no mistakes.”
Other members of the council said the episode underscored the need to better research those being honored by the council.
“A lot of us have been frustrated over the years at not having a special events policy,” said Councilman Jack Weiss. “Sometimes things go through and there’s no rhyme or reason to them.”