Protest after church rejects funeral photos of lesbian

LAKEWOOD - A "Dignity in Death" rally was held Tuesday afternoon for a lesbian woman whose funeral last week was moved after a Lakewood church rejected photos that were used in a memorial video.

Vanessa Collier's friends say the funeral was canceled by New Hope Ministries 15 minutes after the service was supposed to start because the church would not allow a picture to be shown of Collier proposing to her wife. The open casket and flowers were in place and about 170 people were in attendance.

According to Chaplain Gary Rolando, who would later preside over the funeral across the street at Newcomer Funeral Home, the New Hope Ministry is very community oriented. He says pastors there welcome those who are gay but ask that alternative lifestyles be censored in the church. New Hope Ministries is not commenting on the decision.

He says moments prior to the funeral service, a video that was supposed to be played during the funeral was reviewed by church officials. The church asked for the video to be edited in order to proceed. Rolando says the family refused to take the picture of Collier's proposal out of the video, and the funeral had to be moved to the mortuary across the street.

Rolando says it's a shame that Collier's friends are using her death to push an agenda. But her friends are angry. Many showed up to protest the church's decision on Tuesday afternoon.

"My prayer is the same as that of New Hope Ministry and Newcomer Mortuary: That the Collier family will be able to move forward from here in healing and peace," Rolando said.

One friend, Jose Silva who went to high school with Collier, says he "thought it was a prank" when he was told the funeral was canceled at New Hope Ministries. He says the video should have been reviewed on Thursday when it was dropped off ahead of the Saturday funeral.

"It's about understanding that there should be dignity in death and that everybody deserves the right to be celebrated in the right way," Silva said. "And that lack of oversight, and lack of personal ideals and values, should never trump being able to celebrate someone's life."

He went on to say that because the church recives public funding for it's school and rehabilitation center, that their "personal values and beliefs go out the window because that's a separation of church and state."

Collier, 33, died when her gun went off while cleaning it. She is survived by her wife and two children.

(KUSA-TV © 2015 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)


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