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A gunman, identified as 29-year-old Omar Mateen, killed 49 people and injured 53 at Pulse, a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida on Sunday, June 12. Mateen, too, was killed after police broke into the building, where he was holding 30 more people hostage for several hours, and shot him. The night is known as the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history.

LGBT Pastor Says Orlando Shooting Sheds Light On Much Larger Problem

Jon Viscott
Neil Cazares-Thomas speaking in Los Angeles, where he lived before coming to Dallas.

Neil Cazares-Thomas leads the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, which calls itself the largest LGBT congregation in the country. Just a few weeks into the job, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. Last month, there was the debate over transgender bathrooms, and last weekend – the deadly attack in Orlando.


In this Friday Conversation, Cazares-Thomas provides insight into the issues affecting the LGBT community in the week following Orlando.


Interview Highlights: Neil Cazares-Thomas...


...On how the week following the Orlando shooting:


“It’s been pretty horrendous to be really honest with you. Waking up on Sunday morning, you think you have everything prepared for worship, and then suddenly you hear 20 people and then 50 people lost their lives in a gay bar in Orlando.


Having to switch up a little bit in sermons and offer times of prayer and healing, reconciliation, helping people to process their feelings. And then of course, this whole week, marches and watching communities around the world really responding with, ‘What on Earth is really happening here in the United States of America?’”

...On the intersection between Muslim and gay North Texans in the wake of the shooting:


“The truth is we live in a culture that has been so invested in building walls between communities. What has been interesting, that in the midst of this intersection, there has been a coming-together of these communities. The LGBT community has always stood with our Islamic sisters and brothers, and they eventually stood with us this week. And it’s Ramadan for them, so it’s their most holy time.”

...On the the Supreme Court gay marriage ruling and whether it’s unintentionally made life tougher:


“I think as we win more rights, there is a backlash. We’re not the first community that has suffered that backlash. The target, at first I think, has been around ‘we can’t really say much about the LGBT community, but now let’s focus on the transgender community and see if we can build some walls between those communities. I think it really speaks to the toxic theology that exist in our culture. I think that the preachers who allow this toxic extremist — Christian extremist — language have to take some responsibility.”

...On Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s “Man reaps what he sows” tweet on Sunday:


“I have actually demanded an apology from him and an outright condemnation of what happened in Orlando, and neither of those things have happened. LGBT people are part of his constituents here in Texas, and whether he agrees theologically or not, he’s not a ‘Christian’ as the lieutenant governor. He is a servant of all. Anybody in public office that uses their faith to discriminate should not be in public office. They’re in public office to serve the people who elected them.”

...On the biggest thing he has learned over the past year:


“I learned that I love being in Dallas. I’m in the right place for the right time. This is going to be a place I’m going to make home for a long time to come and to continue to speak up and speak out against this doctrinal fundamentalism and extremism in the Christian church and in other faiths that promotes this kind of hate. It must stop.”

Neil Cazares-Thomas is the pastor at the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas. 

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.
Rick Holter was KERA's vice president of news. He oversaw news coverage on all of KERA's platforms – radio, digital and television. Under his leadership, KERA News earned more than 200 local, regional and national awards, including the station's first two national Edward R. Murrow Awards. He and the KERA News staff were also part of NPR's Ebola-coverage team that won a George Foster Peabody Award, broadcasting's highest honor.