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Lebanon Pastor set to face church trial for officiating marriage of gay son
Reported by Jesse Knutson (JKnutson@sbgtv.com)
Pastor Frank Schaefer presided over the wedding of his son and another man back in 2007 in Massachusetts, and now 6 years later, hes facing trial for breaking one of the United Methodists laws.
The case has gained national attention, with the LGBT community rallying behind Pastor Frank Schaefer of Lebanon.
According to the pastor, paragraph 27-01 of the book of discipline, basically says it is not allowed for United Methodist ministers to marry homosexuals or perform a union service for them.
Pastor Frank Schaefer says he plans on entering the courtroom Monday morning with a not guilty plea, hoping his defense will hold strong.
What I did was based on my conscious, even though it is against the church rules, and well see what happens, says Schaefer.
Church trials are not a common occurrence, but they proceed just like any trial youd see on TV.
It just reads like an episode from law and order. Therell be a judge, therell be a prosecution, therell be a defense," he says.
And a jury of his peers. And with lawyers in the courtroom to help the proceedings along, the trial is expected to last two to three days.
Witnesses will be called, just like in a civil lawsuit. Evidence will be submitted, and the case will be argued by both the prosecution and the defense," says Schaefer.
In the end, it will be up to his peers to decide whether Pastor Schaefer broke the rules.
Were talking about the love of a father for his son and Im hoping that the jury will really hear that message. I did this for my own son in a state where gay marriage was illegal at the time. Im hoping that people will see that I wasnt trying to be rebellious, but that I followed my heart and the love for my son, and just performed this family event, far away from the church.
Pastor Schaefer says the best-case scenario is that he would be acquitted of the charges and worst case, he would be found guilty and stripped of his credentials allowing him to preside over his church.
Im nervous about the trial, but the outpouring of support from around the country has been so awesome and I really take strength from that, and as I stand in the courtroom, I know that I wont just be representing myself, but I will be representing thousands of people in this country that want to see a change, he says.
The trial is set to begin tomorrow at 8:30 at Camp Innabah in Spring City, Chester County. There will be seating for the public available on a first come, first serve basis.