First Works Baptist Church wreaks havoc among the LGBTQ+ community in El Monte 


Amanda Mansoorbakht @cuckooroo_

Petition made by El monte citizen for the removal of the Hate group.

Janira Hernandez, Photo editor

Picture from the protest (Zulema Martinez )

These past few weeks, the First Works Baptist Church on Tyler Avenue, in El Monte has caused  tensions between the city and its citizens. This tension is due to the fact that the church, more specifically the pastor Bruce Mejia, has been using hate speech against the LGBTQ+ community and has preached sexist views toward women. Understandably, citizens are concerned that this will give the community a bad outlook on the LGBTQ+ community. Some reviews under the church’s directions say that the owner  “spreads nothing but ignorance and hate.” Another review  mentions that the “Southern Poverty Law center in AZ (Arizona) classified this independent Baptist church as a hate group.” I made sure to look into this statement and found it to be true. You can find the First Works Baptist church classified as an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group on . The website includes names of hate groups against the LGBTQ+ community and various human rights categories. I firmly believe the city should be more aware of this occurrence, seeing as the group was classified as a hate group back in 2019, which was more than a year ago. 

The FWBC has been previously removed from the city of Maywood, however, I could not find the specific reason why the church had been kicked out. On January 3rd, 2021, El Monte Mayor Jessica Ancona responded to citizen’s concerns over the intentions of this church. Ancona’s statement mentions that the church is “… practicing their freedom of religion and freedom of speech.” She goes on to say that although hate speech is not a crime, “ if a hate crime is committed, then please inform our police department.”  Near the end of her statement, she also mentions that citizens have the right to use the first amendment in this situation (the right to gather and protest), to speak out against the church. Soon after, citizens organized a protest following COVID-19 guidelines, which took place on Sunday, January 17th, in front of the church. I interviewed South El Monte High School student and attendee, Zulema Martinez, who attended the protest. 

Martinez says that since the church has been previously kicked out of cities, “prior to the petition being made and the protest, this church should have been on the city’s radar.” Many citizens have been trying to make city officials more aware but unfortunately the city continues to rule out doing anything about the situation due to the fact they consider what the church is preaching as hate speech and not a hate crime. Zulema Martinez explains that judging by how many people attended the protest, a lot of people in the community seem to really find that this church is greatly affecting citizens. As a small community here in El Monte, it’s extremely important that people speak up for those who can’t, so it’s amazing to see support towards the LGBTQ+ community. She also mentioned that she witnessed the churchgoers laughing at protesters, and waiting for more people to show up to record the protest. Martinez also made me aware that a member of the church went as far as pushing a protester, which had to be broken up by attendees and church members. I was also made aware that church members went to the extreme of mocking people by going to the home of the person who created the petition for the removal of the church. She believes that further action should be taken, since multiple citizens witnessed this assault and also fell victim to the church’s unprofessional actions. 

With that said, I’d say citizens have every right to be upset and disappointed about this happening in their city. I  believe the church should be further investigated, especially since there were many reviews under FWBC’s name about the history of the person who founded the church, Pastor Anderson. The history of this man is destructive and should not be tolerated. I urge the city to look into the church once again. Citizens are very concerned about the future of the city when it comes to the inclusion of women and the LGBTQ+ community. It is up to the leaders of the city to try to understand that the people are unhappy that the inclusion of women and the LGBTQ+ community is being threatened by the preaching of this church.