PLACER COUNTY, Calif. — A Loomis pastor is receiving a death threat and hateful comments after a national group turned its attention to Placer County.
Parents in the Roseville Joint Union High School District received an email from district leaders Monday night, alerting them to a video and article by Project Veritas. The group and its supporters consider Project Veritas to be an undercover journalism organization. Critics call it a far-right activist group.
ABC10 wanted to add some context to the controversy and reached out to all of the parties involved. Note: In this story, you'll read the umbrella term “Queer,” a word which – for years – was used offensively but has since been reclaimed by the LGBTQIA+ community.
Pastor Casey Tinnin leads Loomis Basin Congregational United Church of Christ and founded the Landing Spot. That’s a “non-religious support group for LGBTQIA+ youth and their parents in Placer County," according to a website for the group.
This is also the group that chose to cancel its youth drag show fundraiser several weeks ago, after community members spoke out against it. Read that story HERE.
“You know, for a lot of our kids, the Landing Spot is the only place where they feel comfortable. It’s difficult to be a Queer teenager,” said one mom whose teen attends the Landing Spot and a Roseville Joint Union High School District school.
She asked ABC10 not to use her name out of fear of retaliation. That’s because the Landing Spot – and Pastor Tinnin – are the subject of a hit piece by Project Veritas, released on Sunday.
It’s entitled, “California Reverend Says it is ‘Critical’ to Discuss Sexual Identity and Gender with Children at a Young Age; Admits Parents Would ‘Be Upset’ if They Knew ‘Their Queer Kid was Coming to Me’ ... ‘I and the Older Queer Folks are Mentoring These Young Adults’”
Some of the allegations, supporters of the Landing Spot say, amount to Pastor Tinnin creating a safe space for teens - especially whose families don't accept or like that they are Queer.
Supporters say Pastor Tinnin was recorded without his knowledge or permission and his words were taken out of context. They say he was lead to believe he was speaking with parents of trans kids who were seeking his advice. Now, as a result of this Project Veritas piece, he has received a death threat and hateful comments.
ABC10 reached out to Sacramento attorney Mark Reichel, who is not connected with this situation, to ask if how Project Veritas went about getting this video was legal.
He says no. California penal code 632 makes it clear, Reichel said, if a person has a reasonable expectation that a conversation will be private and not recorded—even in a public place like a restaurant—then recording the conversation without someone's permission is illegal.
ABC10 asked Project Veritas about this. A spokesperson told us, “We stand behind our reporting which was conducted legally.”
Since the Landing Spot works with teens in the Roseville Joint Union High School District (RJUHSD) and – up until recently – had met periodically in the schools themselves, the district emailed parents Monday night, citing the Project Veritas video and distancing itself from the Landing Spot.
“Given statements by Pastor Tinnins [sic] in the video, along with other related concerns, RJUHSD staff has contacted the Roseville Police Department and Child Protective Services to advise them of the matter so they can ensure no students have been harmed,” the statement said, in part.
ABC10 reached out to the Roseville Police Department. Spokesperson Rob Baquera said, as of late Tuesday afternoon, the department had “received no official criminal complaint from the High School District. There’s currently no active investigation related to the referenced parent communication."
ABC10 also asked if Placer County Child Welfare Services & Foster Care Services had received any communication from the district.
Placer County Health and Human Services spokesperson Katie Combs Prichard told ABC10, “By law, child welfare referrals are confidential and we are unable to confirm or deny whether a particular referral has been received.”
Supporters of the Landing Spot say they’re disappointed in how the district worded its statement.
“I find it shocking that they would take a misinformation campaign and elevate it and give it any validity,” the mom referenced earlier said. “There has been no investigation, there's been no allegation, there's been no incident that has occurred.”
She said the ones hurt most by all this negative attention are the LGBTQIA+ youth who find a safe space in the Landing Spot.
“Landing spot is not the problem. Landing Spot is a solution for our kids who are already struggling," she said. "If there are any parents who are concerned about their kids, please reach out to a knowledgeable resource. Please do not just trust what you find on the internet. There's a lot of misinformation, when we do have access to real research and real information that can keep our kids safe.”
She said she recommends the American Psychological Association’s LGBTQIA+ youth resources.
In its email to parents, the Roseville Joint Union High School District said, "We fully support the social/emotional health of all our students, including LGBTQIA+ students. Resources for LGBTQIA+ students continue to be available in our Wellness Centers, Placer County Connecting Point 211 for community-based referrals and resources, and campus Gay Straight Alliance Clubs. RJUHSD is committed to only partnering with organizations that align with student safety and privacy within an authorized, formal agreement."
ABC10 asked the district what “other related concerns” the district has about Pastor Tinnin, per its email to parents; if there are any allegations of abuse; what statements from the video are of most concern to the district; what the district would like to see Roseville Police Department & Child Protective Services do in order to help ensure student safety and assure parents; and its response to the claims that through the wording of its statement, the district served to amplify the Project Veritas piece and endanger Pastor Tinnin.
In response, district spokesperson Rob Hasty referred back to the Monday evening email to parents and said the district is going to stick with its original message.
On Tuesday, the nearby Placer Union High School District released a statement, saying – in part – that although they have never received any complaints regarding the Landing Spot being at student club meetings, starting immediately, neither the Landing Spot nor their representatives will be allowed on campuses. Read the full statement HERE.
On Wednesday, Leaders of Loomis Basin Congregational United Church of Christ released the following statements.
“The claims made by this far-right group are outlandish and would-be laughable, except we are seeing unprecedented threats of violence and anti-LGBTQ legislation across the country. These attacks are fueled by hate, and meant to dehumanize and discredit LGBTQ people. We know that we are all beloved children of God. We will continue to support LGBTQ youth and their families through our programs and ministry and we will not be intimidated by this discredited group and their disgusting tactics. We stand with our pastor, The Landing Spot, and the LGBTQ community.” - Sara Bocciardi, Church Council Co-Moderator, Loomis Basin UCC
“Unfortunately, the LGBTQ community has long been targeted by right wing groups, trying to erase queer people from our neighborhoods, schools, families, sports, bathrooms, church–everywhere. This awful video underscores the need for resources and support for the LGBTQ community, and I fully support our church’s commitment to creating that safe space. We will remain a welcoming and affirming church and continue to greet the LGBTQ community with open arms, just as Jesus would.” - Janie Johnson, member of Loomis Basin UCC for 33 years
“In the midst of a national political attack on the LGBTQ+ community, we are committed to walking in the way of Jesus. This means that we stand with the most marginalized communities including LGBTQ+ individuals, and we stand against religious extremism that would cast these beloved people out. In this moment in history we must not be silent to injustice. We understand that the arc of justice is long, and we are committed to building a safer, kinder, and more welcoming Placer County for all of God's people.” - Pastor Casey Tinnin, Loomis Basin Congregational United Church of Christ.
Loomis Basin Congregational United Church of Christ ended its press release on the issue by saying it is "exploring legal action against Project Veritas."