Sarah Silverman wants Ellen and Neil Patrick Harris to help save a queer landmark from an allegedly anti-LGBT+ church

Sarah Silverman

Sarah Silverman called on her fellow celebrities to intervene as the allegedly anti-LGBT+ Adventure Church makes plans to move into a historic queer-friendly Los Angeles theatre.

The stand-up comedian joined the growing protest on Monday (8 February) after it was announced that the popular Tower Theatre could soon be the new home of the conservative Adventure Church.

“So an anti-LGBT church called Adventure Church is trying to buy the Tower Theatre in the most LGBT+ friendly area of Fresno (the arts district, obvs),” Sarah Silverman wrote on Twitter.

“So… it’s for sale if someone wants to scoop them,” she suggested, tagging Ellen DeGeneres, Chelsea Handler and Neil Patrick Harris among others. “Or maybe a GoFundMe?”

The 700-seat Tower Theatre was built in 1939 as the city’s first suburban cinema. Now a hub for arts and culture, it reportedly carries a price tag of $6.5 million.

The building has hosted Fresno’s Reel Pride Film Festival for more than three decades and is the finishing spot for the local Pride parade, giving it a special significance for Fresno’s LGBT+ community.

But with the theatre out of action due to coronavirus, Adventure Church has been renting the building for its Sunday services since the beginning of the pandemic.

“As a member of the LGBT+ community, I know what this means to us. That was one of the first safe places for me to go,” said James Martinez, a Tower resident and member of the Fresno County Board of Education.

He was among 250 people to tune into an online meeting as scores of locals and business owners voiced their anger at the church, GV Wire reported.

“It’s always been a neighbourhood of interesting people,” said longtime resident Jennifer White. “I don’t understand why the Adventure Church wants to come here when none of the residents and businesses want them here. They are not welcome.”

Following pushback from the community, Fresno mayor Jerry Dyer proposed a long-term lease agreement with the City of Fresno to use the Fresno Memorial Auditorium under the condition the church would not buy the Tower Theatre.

But pastor Anthony Flores of Adventure Church rejected the city’s offer, stating that it does not fit the church’s needs.

Speaking at the community meeting, he insisted that the church’s anti-LGBT+ reputation was unwarranted. “I know there’s been a lot of talk out there, how we feel about the LGBTQ community,” he claimed.

“We love you. We love God and we love people. And everybody always says, well, do you affirm them and will you affirm them? We love you and you are welcome to any of the church services we have and we welcome you.”

In a 12-minute YouTube message, the pastor went on to blame the city of Fresno for the controversy and threatened legal action if services are not allowed to be held at the iconic venue.

“Unfortunately, we had to get lawyers involved now because this is way past my pay grade,” he said. “Well, it looks like we’re going to be in a lawsuit. We don’t have very many options at this point.”

The option of using a venue in a community that actually welcomes his church was presumably not agreeable to him.