Update: A second protest is scheduled at the same locationacross the street from New Life Covenant Church, 3400 W. Division St.on Sunday, March 19, at 10:30 a.m.
Now-former New Life Covenant Church parishioner Rosaly Andino, who is a lesbian, and her allies gathered across the street from the church in the Humboldt Park neighborhood March 12 to protest alleged anti-LGBTQ practices by Pastor David Marrero. The protest took place just before, during and after the 10:30 a.m. worship services.
Andino told Windy City Times ahead of the protest that she (alongside many other New Life members) was scheduled to be baptized on February 26 and had received an email confirming her participation in the ceremony. The baptismal confirmation email sent by Marrero's administrative assistant Veronica Gonzalez to Andino was also shared with this publication.
Additionally, Andino provided this publication with a screenshot of a personal Facebook message to her by Marrero that he sent on February 24 stating that she needed to contact him.
"I left him a voice message on Facebook with my cell phone number included," said Andino in an email to Windy City Times ahead of the protest. "He called back right away. The conversation began with questions about why I wanted to get baptized. He also spoke about my mom's stage four metastatic breast and bone cancer and if I wanted him to send some elders to pray for her. I immediately said yes. Once he marinated the conversation and got me comfortable, he went on to tell me the reason for the phone call which was to let me know he saw my live video sharing how excited I was to soon be baptized. He wanted to know if I was married to a woman based on what he saw in the video. I said yes, for 13 years.
"After I answered he told me for that reason he would not baptize me. My whole world flipped upside down in a matter of seconds. My heart felt so empty and confused. He then asked me to lie and tell people I would be unable to attend the ceremony due to a previous engagement, so he would not be the bad guy. I told him absolutely not. This was the last I hear from him. The phone call lasted just under 19 minutes. I believe he was attempting to break my spirit and the relationship I have created with my God which did not happen."
During the protest Andino reiterated what she said in her above email statement, and added that she has seen videos of Marrero baptizing queer women before. Andino speculated that they might have been baptized because they wear dresses and are more "conventionally feminine" than she is.
"[Pastor David] falls short of the glory of God," said Andino. "Just today, one of his [longtime] followers came out of the church and said today was his last day at that church because they talked down to him."
"This is a constant fight within religion around sexuality that has gone on for decades," said Andino's child, AJ Paramo. "I think it is disappointing that New Life Covenant is supposed to be a church that is reformed and has morals and values of accepting all people [but that is not the case]. Knowing that my mom came to this place and thought it was a safe haven and were rejected for who she chooses to love behind closed doors is upsetting and unfair. I did not expect this from New Life."
"We are not doing this just because of a baptism," said Andino's wife, Madeline Andino. "We are standing for our LGBTQ community today. When you step into a church that is considered a safe haven and to be turned away over our sexual orientation is wrong. You never know what backgrounds people have when they come to your church. There are people out here who are so broken that they could go home and [die by suicide] for something that [Pastor Marrero] did or the way he spoke to them. You should never speak down to people. You have to be careful of the words that you choose before you say something. He did not do that when he talked to my wife."
Protestors cheered and chanted "Love is love" among other slogans.
Many people in cars passing by honked their horns to show their support. One woman approached the protestors and tried to confront them with anti-LGBTQ statements but quickly crossed the street and left the area.
Prior to the protest, a number of people posted supportive messages to Andino on Facebook, including one from Elize Colon, who stated that she and her girlfriend were previously baptized at New Life by Marrero, and asked what is so different between them and Andino. Rebecca Fuentes said in her Facebook post that she also left New Life. A person named Noelani posted that she is an ex-New Life staffer and was "hurt and shunned by them" and "[Rosaly] had every right to be baptized. Your strength encourages me and I am proud you took a stand."
Marrero was not present at the church for services during the protest.
Windy City Times reached out to Marrero via email to address Andino's allegations and as of this publication date he has not responded.