When the War is Won
words and photos by Chris Allan
printed October 26, 2023
It took almost three months of investigation and a 30-page document to say what Pastor Casey Tinnin already knew. “Nothing fixes things like the truth. I knew the facts. But I only know what I know.”
Tinnin is referring to the Van Dermyden Makus Investigations Law Firm report on behalf of the Western Placer Unified School District. The document cleared Tinnin of any wrongdoing concerning the Landing Spot (the LGBTQIA+ youth group meeting on campuses within the district), and the hit video created by Project Veritas.
As the report explains, “All of the criticism and commentary about Pastor Tinnin and The Landing Spot we received and read is based upon ideological differences and beliefs about the LGBTQIA+ community in general, and about a school’s role in the LGBTQIA+ community in particular, and not any personal knowledge about wrongdoing by Pastor Tinnin towards students or against parents.” (p.22)
The report then lists statistics about the prevalence of suicide among youth related to gender and sexual orientation and notes a majority consensus that schools should have trained counselors available to support these youths.
Tinnin speaks with gratitude about the findings, noting how helpful it was “to have an outside source come in and really articulate well that this work is desperately needed in the community.”
Tinnin was similarly exonerated by Placer Unified School District the previous week, and Roseville Joint Union High School District did not undergo a formal investigation.
Since the report’s release last June, Tinnin says things have calmed down considerably. The Landing Spot (parents and youth) is still meeting regularly, albeit off any school campus. A record 40 youth attended last summer’s Camp Fruit Loop.
“I feel so thankful for all the support that we’ve received,” Tinnin says, confirming that over $30,000 was donated after The Landing Spot’s drag show fundraiser was canceled. Next year they hope to extend the camp to a full week for up to 50 youth.
Tinnin spent four months on a pre-planned sabbatical before returning to the pulpit at Loomis Basin Congregational UCC in mid-August. Outword went to visit Tinnin on a Sunday morning, noting that the church still has a security presence as a precaution. We found Tinnin in the pulpit wearing a rainbow stole discussing “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” across the sanctuary from a rainbow ocean landscape painting.
He was energetic and focused, sharing humorous stories from his travels and reflecting on the patient love of his husband. He engaged the congregation with call-and-response, discussion questions and contemplative music.
The 128-year-old church is the oldest in Loomis and was strongly supportive of Tinnin throughout his ordeal. The Landing Spot started with $2,000 as a church ministry, and the organization’s mission statement speaks of eliminating “injustice, bigotry and racism,” and working toward equality for all people.
Parishioner Diana Madoshi, who led the children’s sermon, said the anti-racist statement was why she started attending the Loomis UCC. Heather Rockwell said she realized she could not stay at her old church after their family told a social worker that they would be willing to foster an LGBT child.
“We started to look for a new church and we found Loomis UCC and it’s just been a fabulous fit and so wonderful.”
A strong culture of caring appears to be what both The Landing Spot and Loomis Basin UCC have in common. We asked Tinnin how these groups help address violence toward queer people.
“We do that by being a community of support for those who are actively experiencing racism and homophobia in our community. We are literally a landing spot,” he says.
However, Tinnin is also a realist. He is well aware of the book bans and forced-outing policies that school districts are backing and knows that the journey is far from over. When asked about a song that comes to mind at this point in his life, he mentions “Glory,” from the movie Selma. Part of Tinnin’s sabbatical took him into the Deep South, looking for inspiration from the country’s great Civil Rights leaders. He says he came away realizing that, like then, we are also “up against a nation that is not ready to see or believe that this sort of hateful violence exists.”
One day when the glory comes
It will be ours; it will be ours
Oh, one day when the war is won
We will be sure, we will be sure