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Traveling anti-queer pastor Sean Feucht announces lawsuit against Spokane

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Traveling anti-queer pastor Sean Feucht announces lawsuit against Spokane

During a recent Spokane visit, Feucht preached on a bridge, continued his anti-queer rhetoric about Pride month and prepared to drop a lawsuit against the city for their 2023 denouncement of then-Mayor Woodward.

News Story by Aaron Hedge | RANGE Media

At his worship event at Matt Shea’s charismatic church On Fire Ministries on May 31 — the day before Pride Month began — the anti-queer Christian worship pastor Sean Feucht announced he would sue the City of Spokane for $2 million over a city council resolution from eight months ago. 

Feucht claimed that by denouncing then-Mayor Nadine Woodward for appearing onstage at Feucht’s Aug. 20 concert at the Podium, the city council was attacking all Christians.

Striding across the pulpit, Feucht waved a sheaf of paper and announced, “I hold in my hand a document that will soon be filed this coming week in your city where we are taking a stand against the bigotry and hatred against Christians in the city of Spokane.”

He said he was “on assignment” from God to file the lawsuit. According to recent news reports and tax documents, Feucht appears to have become quite wealthy from donations and merchandise sales that funnel money to his nonprofit Sean Feucht Ministries. In 2020 alone, the organization brought in more than $5 million, an increase of more than tenfold from 2019.

As Nate Sanford from Inlander noted on Twitter, Feucht had filed an initial claim against the city in January, several months after the city council denounced Woodward for going on stage at Feucht’s Let Us Worship event, a stop on his concert tour that began as a COVID restriction protest on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. His May 31 announcement said that claim — a request for payment for a perceived harm — is morphing into a full-fledged lawsuit. The difference is that, once the suit is filed, courts will be involved. 

The resolution itself said the council was “formally denouncing Mayor Nadine Woodward for her actions that associated her with former Washington State Representative and alleged domestic terrorist, Matt Shea, and known anti-LGBTQ extremist Sean Feucht,” and can be read in its entirety on page 429 of this agenda. It used the word “Christian” only once, in a clause ​​referencing a letter local faith leaders sent to the city asking it to “make clear that civic leaders give no support to the ideology of Christian Nationalism or white supremacy.”

City of Spokane spokesperson Erin Hut said that, as of 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feucht had not filed the lawsuit. Spokane City Council spokesperson Lisa Gardner said the council was aware of Feucht’s announcement. Feucht did not reply to a request for comment on this story sent to the email address his website dedicates to media inquiries.

Ramping up rhetoric for Pride month 

Shea is a vehemently anti-queer pastor who once wrote a sermon outline titled the “Biblical Basis for War,” which he admitted to penning in 2018. The document says if a conquered people refuse to stop practicing “same-sex marriage,” among other demands, the victors must “kill all males.” The document was revealed when Shea was the state representative for Spokane Valley and chair of the House Republican caucus. Later, after being investigated for domestic terrorism because he offered to help extremists occupying national wildlife refuge do background research on liberal protesters, Shea was expelled from the caucus and didn’t run for re-election.

Two summers ago, Shea led a march outside a Coeur d’Alene Pride event just before 31 members of the white supremacist group Patriot Front — one of them a former member of On Fire Ministries — were arrested for plotting to riot at the same event.

Feucht also has a history of statements that are perceived as hateful by fellow Christian leaders. On June 4, 2024, he tweeted in reference to Pride month, “June is the month you discover which people, businesses, influencers, corporations & ministries have sold their soul to a demonic agenda seeking to destroy our culture and pervert our children. TAKE NOTES AND REMEMBER.”

Before announcing his lawsuit last week, Feucht made a point to criticize Pride month, saying the church would remake the 30-day celebration of 2SLGBTQIA+ Pride in the image of his particular anti-queer version of Christianity.

“God is rebranding June to be family month in America,” Feucht said. “And so that starts tomorrow. No more hiding in June. It’s takeover month for the family.”

During Feucht’s concert on Aug. 20, Shea said gay marriage was a “problem” on par with the Gray Fire that raged in Medical Lake, destroying hundreds of buildings and killing two people. Moments later, he called Woodward to the stage, laid hands on her and prayed. 

Because of this anti-queer history, Woodward’s appearance at Feucht’s concert sparked such a controversy that The Washington Post wrote about it. In September, the city council voted to denounce Woodward — an act Feucht immediately perceived as a slight against himself. But in characteristic fashion, he also recognized its money-making potential. Before the denunciation, he fired off an email to his supporters asking for donations. Such fundraising efforts have helped him earn millions in recent years.

At the same event, Feucht’s traveling entourage and worshippers from On Fire Ministries coerced a local homeless man onto the stage for a photo op with Feucht during which Feucht later falsely claimed the man became a Christian. Shea later baptized Zach Williams against his will in a horse trough on the stairs of the Podium. Feucht then used the man’s baptism to continue to raise his profile.

On Fire Ministries in recent weeks has organized or hosted a number of dominionist events with national far-right figures, from Feucht to former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who believes Christians are fighting a “Holy War” in the United States. 

Pasco Mayor and Republican state attorney general candidate Pete Serrano will represent Feucht in the lawsuit. Reached by phone, Serrano said the denouncement of Woodward was a direct attack on Feucht.

“It’s very clear that the city council took a stand against Sean,” Serrano said. “You have a municipality saying you can’t do these specific things in this way. … It’s pretty clear that it’s an attack against the individual.”

But he declined to comment on whether there was bigotry in Spokane against Christians.

Christian victimhood & a flurry of hate incidents 

Feucht’s complaint about bigotry against Christians in Spokane was remarkable. He was talking about a city that has hosted large Feucht concerts the last two years and scrambled in August to repurpose one of its most prominent concert halls, the Podium, after the initial venue, the outdoor Riverfront Pavilion, was smoked out by the Gray Fire. 

In fact, rather than bigotry against Christians, Spokane has recently seen a spate of hate incidents against queer communities. In just the past few weeks, two Pride murals were vandalized, and a teenage transgender athlete from Spokane Valley was jeered during the State 2A girls 400-meter race in Tacoma, which she won.

When The Spokesman-Review reporter Amanda Sullender tweeted her story about the athlete, hateful comments, most misgendering the athlete, flooded the thread.

The resolution denouncing Woodward passed the city council 4-3, with Council Members Jonathan Bingle, Michael Cathcart and Ryan Oelrich voting no. It drew protests from Christian activists that stretched the meeting late into the evening. In one of the more notable moments, former Spokane Valley City Council Member Caleb Collier left communion kits at the dais after speaking against the denouncement during the public comment session of the meeting.

But the resolution was aimed squarely at Woodward in her capacity as a city official, formally denouncing her because her appearance “associated her with an alleged domestic terrorist, former Representative Matt Shea, who has participated in the planning of taking arms up against the United States of America,” and with Feucht, who the resolution described as a “known anti-LGBTQ extremist.” The resolution also specifically denounced her association with the “hateful language” Shea used onstage to describe gay marriage.

While the resolution didn’t mention these incidents by name in its laundry list of offenses committed by Shea and Feucht, Shea once formed a group to “protect” straight marriage from gay marriage, and Feucht once said drag queens are “perverting the minds of children.” The resolution said Woodward’s association with these men and their rhetoric — not Christianity — was a bad look for Spokane and could make queer community members feel alienated and attacked.

Christian victims, ‘global press’

Feucht believes he deserves $2 million of Spokane public money from the episode, but he framed the lawsuit as a vindication of the Christian God. 

“What if God wants to use the church of this city as a blueprint for what it looks like to be bold and courageous and to rise up?” Feucht asked the audience at the May 31 event. “This is why we’re doing this. It’s not like I need another thing to do. This is nothing but controversy and annoying, and frankly, I don’t have time for it.”

Still, the denouncement — which took place more than eight months ago — was an urgent threat to Christians, Feucht said.

“I feel compelled to do it because they cannot continue to treat their citizens of the Christian faith — like they would never do this to Muslims or Hindus or Antifa,” Feucht said. “But it’s like open season to target Christians using your position as a city council, and there needs to be an end to this. And it needs to happen in Spokane, and it needs to ricochet across the country.”

He predicted the case would take off around the world.

“I think that it’s gonna get national press, maybe global press,” he said.

He said the city was “lawyering up, which is a good thing.”

Asked about this comment Wednesday afternoon, City of Spokane spokesperson Hut said, “I have no idea what he’s talking about.”

On stage at On Fire Ministries, Feucht continued in his description of how he would wage the lawsuit: “We’re coming with joy, and we’re gonna smile while we do it, and we’re gonna be like, ‘Hey, you should probably never do that again.’”

As is common with Feucht events, there was more to do after the headline worship session. When the praise was finished, much of the church made its way to the Kendall Yards brownfield adjacent to the Monroe Street Bridge where, according to footage live streamed to Facebook by the right-wing podcast Church and State, they declared Jesus was in charge of the bridge. The stated goal was to prevent suicide.

According to The Trevor Project, a national organization dedicated to ending suicide among 2SLGBTQIA+people, queer youth are more than four times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers, because of “how they are mistreated and stigmatized by the society.”

A 2020 report published by the Williams Institute stated that LGBQ people were 88% more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers. A staggering 40% of all transgender people reported attempting suicide at least once. (The Trevor Project maintains a number of resources for queer youth thinking about harming themselves.)

Feucht didn’t show any specific concern for queer people, who are statistically much more likely to attempt suicide, during his ministry on the bridge.

He concluded by leading the group in a chant: “From death to life; from the tomb to the womb,” as the Christians extended their hands toward the bridge repeatedly.

They said because of their prayers, no one would jump from the bridge anymore.

RANGE Media Journalist Erin Sellers contributed to this report.


This story was republished from RANGE Media, a worker-owned newsroom in Spokane. To learn more about their civic engagement work and accountability reporting, click here.

RANGE Media
RANGE Mediahttps://www.rangemedia.co/
RANGE is a media organization for people who love the Inland Northwest and want to make it better. We are building an anti-racist, equity-minded, class-focused newsroom striving to spotlight the perspectives and expertise of members of marginalized communities, from the ground up.

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