Waco real estate stars Chip and Joanna Gaines found themselves in the middle of an online controversy this week, one that was stoked by a Buzzfeed Entertainment post about the couple’s non-denominational church in Waco.
In “Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Church Is Firmly Against Same-Sex Marriage,” author Kate Aurthur explores the “Fixer Upper” stars’ relationship with Jimmy Seibert, their pastor at Waco’s Antioch Community Church. The church is a nondenominational, evangelical, mission-based megachurch, according to its website.
The Buzzfeed article asks if, like Seibert, the Gaines’ also believe that marriage “is the uniting of one man and one woman in covenant commitment for a lifetime,” as outlined in the church’s “Beliefs” section on its website. It also questions whether they believe that homosexuality is a sin, as Seibert claimed in a sermon on June 28, 2015, the Sunday after the Supreme Court of the United States legalized gay marriage. Seibert also believes in gay conversion therapy, according to the same sermon mentioned above. (The American Psychological Association declared conversion therapy “harmful” seven years ago.)
The article also mentions that “Fixer Upper” has never featured a same-sex couple on the show.
“So are the Gaineses against same-sex marriage? And would they ever feature a same-sex couple on the show, as have HGTV’s ‘House Hunters’ and ‘Property Brothers’? Emails to Brock Murphy, the public relations director at their company, Magnolia, were not returned. Nor were emails and calls to HGTV’s PR department.”
After the Tuesday publication of the piece, which does not include any firsthand quotes from Chip or Joanna Gaines, many Buzzfeed commenters derided the article as a “witch hunt.”
An opinion piece that ran in the Washington Post on Thursday defended the couple and called the Buzzfeed article “dangerous.”
“[The story] validates everything that President-elect Donald Trump’s supporters have been saying about the media: that some journalists — specifically younger ones at popular digital publications — will tell stories in certain deceitful, manipulative ways to take down conservatives. (And really, I can’t for the life of me imagine any other intention of the Gaines story.)”
The author, Delaware writer Brandon Ambrosino, also writes in the same piece about planning his wedding to his same-sex partner.
In the wake of this controversy, HGTV released a statement concerning the original Buzzfeed article. A network representative, responding to a request for comment from the Huffington Post, had this to say:
“We don’t discriminate against members of the LGBT community in any of our shows. HGTV is proud to have a crystal clear, consistent record of including people from all walks of life in its series.”
The Gaineses have not addressed their views on homosexuality since the controversy arose.
Some conservative publications have published their takes on the Buzzfeed article, and many people have shared on social media their agreement with the Washington Post opinion piece.
Maybe don't do this, Buzzfeed:https://t.co/gAqChNAUXR
— Ross Douthat (@DouthatNYT) November 30, 2016
— Sean Davis (@seanmdav) December 1, 2016
Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith has defended his website’s article on Twitter, claiming the burden of proof is on HGTV, not the Gaineses.
This is a story about a big company, HGTV, refusing to say whether they ban LGBT people from a TV show. They should just answer the question https://t.co/rxsbfV11mb
— Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen) November 30, 2016
This isn’t the first time a Christian celebrity from Texas has caused conversation with gay marriage views. Earlier this month, Austin author Jen Hatmaker had her books pulled from LifeWay shelves after she claimed in an interview with the Religion News Service that she believes an LGBT relationship can be holy.