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Tallahassee LGBTQ advocates want city police chief gone following his speech at an evangelical event

Pictured here is a Tallahassee Police car.
Patrick Sternad
Tallahassee LGBTQ advocates want city Police Chief Lawrence Revell gone from office following his speaking at an evangelical event. It was hosted by the Billy Graham Evangelist Association. Advocates like Lakey Love say that the association has a long history of being anti-LGBTQ.

LGBTQ advocates want Tallahassee Police Chief Lawrence Revell removed from office for a speech he made at an event held by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in late September.

The association's website has an article published in June of this year stating homosexuality is a sin. Additionally, an article written in 2019 by association President and CEO Franklin Graham characterizes then Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg talking openly about coming out as immoral behavior. Graham states it reveals, 'the deepening depravity that now vexes our country.'

Tallahassee LGBTQ advocates like Lakey Love say the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has a long history of being anti-LGBTQ. They criticized Revell's choice to speak at an event held by the association.

"He was in title, stepped onto the stage, and spoke in title. So regardless of whether he was technically on the clock or not, he was speaking from the authority as police chief, representing the Tallahassee Police Department at the conference," Love said during an online press conference held by LGBTQ advocates to address Revell's speech.

During a city commission meeting, City Manager Reese Goad, who appointed Tallahassee's police chief, said that Revell was not representing the city during his speech. Goad also said Revell was not on city time but on his own time.

"He is a man of faith. We know that, and what I also know is he's got an open door. He serves our entire community, and he does it without any bias, and I think the very best connection is directly with him to hear from him and who he is as a person," Goad told commissioners.

During his speech at the event held by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Revell talked about his faith journey, getting the job as police chief, criticisms he's received, and questioned the crowd, which included other law enforcement officers, about their agenda:

"What is your agenda for presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ to your officers? Do you have an agenda? When you talk in your community, right? Because we're called as chiefs and sheriffs to speak all the time at different places, do you work Christ into those conversations intentionally?"

The audio of Revell's speech was made available online by Our Tallahassee. Jon Harris Maurer is with Equality Florida, an LGBTQ advocacy group. During a recent city commission meeting, he told commissioners that Revell is allowed to have faith but questioned his actions:

"Is a city official, particularly one in such a position of power proselytizing to city employees, including LGBTQ ones? Chief Revell suggested that spreading knowledge of Jesus as a savior is among his top goals for the department. Why should that be a priority for TPD? And how is that being put into practice?"

When City Commissioner Curtis Richardson asked Revell if he was proselytizing on the job and trying to convert anyone to Christianity, Revell said he wasn't. In addition, he said thinking being gay is wrong is a belief.

"That is not an action, and discrimination is an action, right? It's a belief. Everybody is entitled to their belief, just like I am. You know that I'm a Christian," Revell said.

Revell told commissioners he would never discriminate against anyone.

"We are examples by how we live our lives, by how we treat other people, and those examples are manifest through, like our beliefs are manifest through how we treat other people. Okay? And we should use our platform to show that we are to treat all people with respect and dignity, the same thing I said to my officers, every new officer that I hire. You know, I demand that you treat people with humanity," Revell said.

Revell said the Tallahassee Police Department has a history of hiring and promoting LGBTQ people. A City of Tallahassee spokesperson told WFSU that Revell didn't violate its ethics rules or policies on accepting gifts when he was paid to go to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association event.

Robbie Gaffney graduated from Florida State University with degrees in Digital Media Production and Creative Writing. Before working at WFSU, they recorded FSU’s basketball and baseball games for Seminole Productions as well as interned for the PBS Station in Largo, Florida. Robbie loves playing video games such as Shadow of the Colossus, Animal Crossing, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Their other hobbies include sleeping and watching anime.