Standing Strong – Outword Sits Down with Pastor Casey Tinnin

Oct 12, 2023

Standing Strong – Outword Sits Down with Pastor Casey Tinnin

words by Chris Allan and Chris Narloch
photo courtesy of Casey Tinnin
This article was originally featured in our June 22, 2023 issue. We will be printing a follow up in the October 26, 2023 issue.

Printed October 12, 2023

He doesn’t have any visible battle scars, but make no mistake, Casey Tinnin has been to hell and back courtesy of the culture wars.

“I certainly have been afraid for my safety and for my church and for my people,” says Tinnin, in one of two interviews with Outword.

Tinnin is the articulate, embattled pastor of the LGBTQ-friendly Loomis Basin Congregational Church. You may recall that he was at the center of a firestorm earlier this year after a secretly recorded and deceptively edited video of him was released by Project Veritas, a far-right activist group that spreads disinformation in an effort to discredit mainstream media organizations such as Planned Parenthood, NPR, CNN, and The Washington Post.

Project Veritas’s video attempted to portray Pastor Tinnin as a “groomer,” in line with Republican-led efforts around the country to attack the LGBTQ community, ban drag shows, and demonize trans people and anyone working to support queer youth.

“They showed up at church on Sunday. They had been to PFLAG. They said they were coming from Berkeley and trying to find a safe space for their trans child,” says Tinnin. They set up a lunch meeting with Tinnin, and in good faith he met and tried to honestly address their questions. Did he have any idea he was being recorded at the time? “Of course not!”
Tinnin first heard about the video after church, and when he realized how manipulated his comments had been in such a flagrant violation of trust, he was “sad and sick.”

“I am someone who prides myself in meeting with strangers,” he says. “Being present for the community. I don’t see my role as just pastor to the church; I see my role as pastor to the community.”

Veritas went after Tinnin because he facilitates The Landing Spot, a small, non-religious support group for LGBTQ youth and their parents in Placer County. They serve young people aged 13 – 18, as well as their parents. Parents meet in one space with a licensed therapist and the kids meet in another spot for peer support, to hang out, play games and watch movies. The group first met regularly at Loomis UCC and then expanded into the Roseville Joint Union High School District (RJUHSD).
After the controversial video was released on March 19, RJUHSD and Western Placer Unified School District severed all ties with The Landing Spot, and Pastor Tinnin received death threats and other threats of violence.

This was insult on top of injury, since RJUHSD had just directed the Landing Spot to cancel the youth group’s drag show fundraiser at Roseville High School three weeks prior, due to threats of violence resulting from drag paranoia among the religious right.

At that time, the members of The Landing Spot, who did not get the chance to perform this year, were understandably crushed. The show was to have been their third. The idea grew out of their desire to fund a summer camp as an alternative to the churches many of them had grown up in and the religious trauma that queer kids sometimes experience in that environment.

“They wanted to have that experience of going to youth camp like they would have had with their peers,” says Tinnin.

After two hugely successful drag shows to raise money for the summer retreat, their dream came true and 19 queer kids went to camp in 2022.

“The kids named it ‘Camp Fruit Loop’, and it looked like anything a normal camp is: arts and crafts, they made rainbow bracelets, they baked bread, they swam, they hiked, they watched movies,” Tinnin says.

As their drag show audiences kept growing, they knew they needed a larger facility and approached the school district.

Going through the proper channels, they secured the Patti Baker Theater at Roseville High School for a March 31 performance date.

“Within 48 hours of us releasing the tickets, we had 200 (out of 500 available) sold. That says something,” says Tinnin. Unfortunately, the religious right, and those in the current anti-drag conservative movement got wind of the planned performance, and it was canceled on February 23.

“Basically, what we were told was that due to the threats of violence against students and faculty, there was a need to cancel the show,” said Tinnin. “That’s what we were told by the district.”

A few weeks later, after the storm had begun to calm down slightly, Project Veritas released its video. At that point, all hell broke loose for Pastor Casey, who feared for his personal safety after extremely violent threats.

“The whole messaging that I am robbing parents of their children, or that I am grooming children is tragic to me because we understand that the only way for these young people to be their whole selves and to live authentically is with the support of their parents,” says a frustrated Tinnin. He confirms that every Landing Spot meeting always involves at least two adult volunteers and that “they are professional people and college-age students.” Tinnin says these volunteers have been background-checked, as with any regular school protocol.
“There were no allegations,” he says. “There was nothing that we had done wrong, and we created The Landing Spot to keep families together and to keep queer youth safe in our community.”

So, where do things stand now with this determined Placer County pastor? It turns out, Tinnin is taking a much-needed sabbatical this summer that was pre-planned before the entire ordeal involving The Landing Spot and Project Veritas.

After doing some research into his Chickasaw background, Tinnin is on a Civil Rights Pilgrimage, reading the history of ministers who have had the courage to stand up to hate. While taking this time to rejuvenate, he is still an employee at Loomis Basin UCC and will return in the fall, preaching from the pulpit on Sunday mornings.

In terms of the Landing Spot, Tinnin says: “We have doubled our participants from last summer. Camp is still happening, and we are really excited. We have more parents and teens than we have ever had at our meetings, and I think that speaks to the importance and credibility of our work.”

The group meets every third Monday of the month, and for more information, The Landing Spot can be reached directly via their Instagram account.

In terms of Project Veritas, the group seems to have moved on to viciously attacking trans folks.
As for his relationship with the various school districts, Tinnin says that he has “yet to hear from any school board member to reach out to say anything,” referring to Roseville Joint Union High School District, West Placer Unified School District, and Placer Union High School District.
Casey says that Del Oro High School in Placer UHSD did an internal investigation, and they found no wrongdoing. During their April 18, 2023 board meeting, Western Placer reportedly announced that they were also conducting an investigation, but to date no final report appears to have been released to the public in subsequent board meetings.

Meanwhile, Loomis Basin has a “Love Back Fund” to help the church offset all the extra security, safety, and legal costs they have incurred during the past few months, which can be reached at

Help Loomis Basin UCC Fight Back Against Hate

The good news is that Pastor Casey Tinnin is unbowed and unbroken in the knowledge that his mission to provide a safe space for queer youth and queer families has made a difference, and he’s looking to the future with hope.

“We have big dreams, and we want to see our program expand!” says Tinnin.
During Pride Month especially, we can all be thankful to him for that.

This resource is supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.