Councilmember’s comments alarm many in Lockhart￼
By Kyle Mooty
Following a January sermon on fasting, a local pastor who doubles as a member of the Lockhart City Council has found himself in hot water.
Derrick David Bryant, who is also a motivational speaker, children’s entertainer, fatherhood advocate, and member of the board of directors of The Education Foundation for Lockhart Independent School District, is hearing feedback from many of the city’s residents about a video of a sermon he posted on Facebook from his pulpit at Arise Christian Ministries in January.
The video has since been edited and the final 47:01 have been cut from the Jan. 23 sermon, which ends abruptly at 35:18. In the video, in which screen shots have been saved and shared, Bryant refers to a slide that reads the “Jewish Media Controls Your Mind,” and others that list several media outlets along with several photos of the Star of David. He also notes that people can tell if someone is Jewish by their last name. In his sermon he called “The Case Against Mainstream Media,” Bryant said, “Mainstream media has a way of twisting things. The media has been a tool that Satan has used.”
The Post-Register has learned that Bryant resigned Tuesday night from his position on the board of The Education Foundation for Lockhart ISD.
A handful of residents spoke against Bryant’s sermon at the March 1 City Council meeting, with one man speaking in support. The meeting opened at 6:35 p.m. and immediately went into executive session, which lasted until 8:05 p.m. Upon returning, Lockhart Mayor Lew White said because of Bryant’s comments and refusal to retract his statements in question, the city “hereby censures him and requests that he resign from the city this day.”
Bryant told the Post-Register this week, “What’s very upsetting are that the emails I’ve received are about 95 percent reaching. Some lost credibility repeating rumors rather than coming to the source… me.”
White told the Post-Register last week that nothing had changed regarding Bryant’s status on the City Council.
“The ball is kind of in David’s court right now,” White said. “We asked for two things; retract his statements on the Jewish business community or resign. We can’t make him resign. Ideally, he would do his research on the statements he made that were incorrect and the effect they had on the community, and he would say he won’t do it again. Several people have sent info to him regarding material to read. From what I’ve heard his comment is, ‘I haven’t had time to do it.’
“He’s been a good councilman. He’s quiet, but he’s voted for things in the community when he could.”
White did mention that a recall election for Bryant’s position was a possibility.
According to the Lockhart City Charter, 25 percent of the qualified voters from Bryant’s District 2 must sign a petition demanding his removal as city councilmember, and the petition is signed and verified, a councilmember has five days to resign. If he or she does not resign after five days, a recall election must be ordered by the City Council.
Bryant’s position is up for election in November. Candidates must file between July 23-Aug. 22.
Asked if he had any thoughts of resigning, Bryant said in his statement to the Post-Register, “I do not plan to resign from the City Council. I posted a public apology on my personal Facebook page. There have been a lot of rumors, assumptions, and untruths that have been circulating through the community about me. I have worked and labored in the Lockhart community that I love for over 20 years. I have never discriminated against any person on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, disability, age, gender, gender identity, or sexual preference. I have and will continue to treat everyone with dignity and the respect that each person deserves.”
Bryant also commented on the matter toward the end of the City Council meeting, and later on his Facebook page for Arise Christian Ministries. He said his phone number and email are each listed on the city’s website for those wishing to contact him.
“It’s not ‘evil devil-worshiping Jews on Sunday,’ and ‘hey, how are y’all doing’ on Tuesday night at City Council meetings,” said Len Gabbay, one of the citizens speaking at the March 1 City Council meeting. “It doesn’t work like that. Your Jan. 23 sermon and your apparent inability to retract your words, castigating words like evil and devil-worshipers when singling out folks who identified as Jews in the media is your choice for the folks to hear on Sunday who chose to be in your congregation. But to those of us in this city where you legislate, those beliefs are with you every day of the week.”
Gabbay noted in his letter to the City Council he and his wife, Donna Daniels, composed, “Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party used this Jewish symbol to identify these ‘wretched heathens’ for extermination. Despite the clear allusion to images of the Holocaust, Pastor Bryant again chooses to use these images to appeal to his congregation.”
Daniels followed her husband, stating, “Councilman Bryant, I’m not offended by your Jan. 23 sermon. I am concerned, concerned about the imagery and speech that you used on Jan. 23, concerned that you may not understand why it is that you must resign from this Council.”
Daniels suggested that Bryant was unaware of the recent events taking place in Austin and Colleyville, the latter involving several hostages being taken at a synagogue.
Gabbay said if Bryant truly wanted people to hear his words from the Jan. 23 sermon, he would not have edited the video.
“The proof is in the pudding, and he’s got the pudding,” Gabbay said. “I think the community deserves the truth.”
Bryant said, “Devil-worshipping is not in my vocabulary,” and added that he “never said that” when asked if he called Jews “evil.”
The letter from Gabbay and Daniels sent to the City Council called for the resignation of Bryant for his “inexcusable sermon against Jews broadcast on Jan. 23.”
Lockhart business owner Alexandra Worthington addressed the council.
“I have seen and heard parts of the sermon that Councilman Bryant recorded and circulated,” Worthington said. “The hate and bigotry of Councilman Bryant’s sermon was quite disturbing. That someone in his position would feel it OK to speak in that manner about certain segments of our society is incomprehensible to me. I have come before this council three times with proposals for certain things and each time he voted no; the first two times without explanation and the third no’s explanation made no sense to me. It makes me wonder if he voted no because of who I am, his personal judgment of me. Is he making city decisions based on personal beliefs?”
Suzanne Fulton also spoke against Bryant’s sermon.
“My family includes a rabbi and a Pentecostal preacher, and several different ethnicities, so I feel I can be objective; and I am a Christian,” Fulton said. “I first heard about Pastor Bryant when he gave workshops for fathers. I had so much respect and admiration for his active participation in the community, especially his work with youth. Because of that, when I was made aware of the sermon he preached online publicly on Jan. 23, I was devastated. How could someone like him believe in and express publicly as a representative of the Lord the Jews are evil and control the media and are controlling people’s minds? His slides identifying the so-called Jews are horrifying and probably shared from a white supremacist site. Then he also explained how to identify a Jew. Pastor Bryant has apologized for possibly offending certain people. He did not say that he rejects the anti-Semitic belief. It’s extremely disappointing and disturbing that as a spiritual and community leader he proclaimed this view. It’s not biblical, and criticism of Pastor Bryant is not persecution.”
Speaking in support of Bryant was Sam Menenses.
“There are those that are calling for Councilman Bryant’s resignation for comments deemed anti-Semitic and racist,” Menenses said. “If you believe these statements were intended to be hateful or harmful, then you don’t know Councilman Bryant. He has a heart for the people and those of every nation and creed. Councilman Bryant has made a public apology for comments that were made and has also worked with his mentors to better himself through this experience. We have all made mistakes. I have personally and now publicly called for Councilman Bryant to continue his service to this community as a councilman of the City of Lockhart.”
In one video, Bryant said there had been threats against his family, although this week he said those threats had not continued.
“Many, many people are mad at me,” Bryant said in a video posted Feb. 23 from his church. “Many people think I’m not a good person. I hope we can grow together and get past this. This has been a challenging time for me and my family. It’s been hard. I’m gonna walk out with my head held high.”
In a video Bryant posted from Feb. 21, he apologized to anyone he may have offended, adding, “I love and respect all of God‘s people, from every walk of life.”
In his Feb. 23 video, Bryant said, “For those offended, I want them to know I am sorry. For everyone else, I was talking about what I was talking about. I believe that I am a Hebrew. I believe that I am of the Hebrew faith. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are Black people. It doesn’t take away my theology whatsoever. I believe Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. People say that I hate Jews. That’s not true. It was never my intention to hurt anybody, never my intention to offend anyone. Most slides I pulled off the Internet. I don’t hate Jewish people.
“I smile because sometimes you got a smile to keep from crying. I’ve had a lot of hateful emails sent my way. There have been things said about me that I am anti-Semitic, people who said I’m homophobic, people have called me a Nazi, some have even compared me to Adolf Hitler on more than one occasion. It’s been very hurtful. For those people who have called me names in front of my face, written letters, and behind closed doors, I forgive you. These were your thoughts. I ask you as well to forgive me.”
Gabbay told Bryant while speaking to the City Council that his words were not encouragement for anyone, his congregation nor the residents of Lockhart.
“You chose to use words and imagery of hate,” Gabbay said. “We heard you offered an online apology to the few people you may have offended. I’m here to tell you that being offended is for amateurs. The people that you see here tonight are alarmed. You know and we know that we are all accountable to God. But maybe you can tell us, Councilman Bryant, are you accountable to us, to the people in this room or the people that may have watched this at home?
“So, I ask you, Councilmember Bryant, will your legacy on our City Council be one of dignity by now tendering your resignation, or will your legacy on the City Council be one of disgrace?”
Daniels added, “You have defended your sermon saying that you had done your research. Please, tell us Mr. Bryant, what are the specific sources of your research and the specific sources of the imagery you used? Understand also, we are not calling on you to step down from our City Council for your words as a pastor, we are calling on you to step down from our City Council because your words and imagery singling out Jews only instills or reinforces it in our community. Understand, the only way to acknowledge that you’re aware that the gravity of your act is to resign from our government.”
Worthington said she would “encourage (Bryant) to do some self-reflection and hopefully see what he did was harmful and quite possibly dangerous.”
Once the Council returned to session, White could not discuss minutes of the executive session, but he did read a resolution the City Council later approved.
“We did discuss the public reaction and concern over comments made by Councilman Bryant,” White said. “(Bryant) has a fine line to walk being minister to his congregation and being city councilman representative of this community, both 24-hour, seven days a week type of commitments. The City Council is in strong disagreement with comments Councilmember Bryant made. Just for people’s information, our city charter does not allow Council to remove a City Council member for his actions. He can only be removed by a recall election that originates and is distributed throughout his own district. The council felt strong enough to pass this resolution.”
The resolution reads:
“Resolution of the City Council of Lockhart addressing its position and beliefs regarding discrimination, diversity and recent events:
“Whereas, the City of Lockhart is a vibrant community populated by citizens of diverse, ethnic, racial, religious, political and social backgrounds;
“Whereas the City Council Lockhart seeks to represent the interest of all citizens of the city and is dedicated to promoting unity, understanding and acceptance;
“Whereas, the City’s elected officials are observed by the community every day they serve in office and their behaviors and comments are the continuous responsibility of each official and serve as models for proper deportment in the City of Lockhart;
Whereas, where the makeup of the City Council being comprised of Hispanic, Black, Anglo, Christian, and Jewish members reflects the diverse nature of the community;
“Whereas, it is the desire of the City Council to encourage, create, and maintain an atmosphere of respect and civility within the community and to avoid and to discourage conduct which is or may be harmful to the best interest of Lockhart;
“Whereas, each member of the City Council must be dedicated to the highest ideals and honor and integrity in all public and personal relationships in order the council member may merit the respect and confidence of the citizens of Lockhart;
“Whereas, recent events involving a member of the City Council, Derek David Bryant, related to the captain of a sermon delivered by him to the congregation of a church haven’t given rise to questions about whether he harbors anti-Semitic beliefs and has created alarm and fear within the Lockhart Community;
“Whereas, the Councilmember Bryant has met with and discussed the matter with members of the Jewish community and other citizens who expressed concern about this matter;
Whereas the members of the City Council met with Councilmember Bryant in an executive session to express their thoughts, concerns and counsel and asked for his resignation, which he declined to provide;
“Whereas, Councilmember Bryant posted an apology on the Internet regarding the comments he made that were interpreted as anti-Semitic, and has explained that his comments were not intended to be so interpreted, though he neither retracted or refuted those comments;
“Whereas, the City Council is of the opinion that even if Councilmember Bryant’s comments were not intended to convey anti-Semitic beliefs, that the questions and concerns from the public that followed are valid;
“Whereas, the City Council desires to go on record to make it plain to all persons that anti-Semitism, racism, and discrimination against any person on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, disability, age, gender, gender identity, sexual preference, or other characteristic of protected or minority persons is abhorrent to the principles of the Lockhart community;
“Now therefore be it resolved by the City Council of the City of Lockhart that the foregoing recitals are adopted and incorporated herein for all purposes. The statements made by Councilmember Bryant, which have been perceived as anti-Semitism on the part of that member, are contrary to the beliefs, goals and purposes of the members of the City Council and Lockhart Community. Anti-Semitism, racism, or discrimination against any person on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, disability, age, gender, gender identity, sexual preference, or other class of protected or minority persons is anathema to the beliefs, makeup, and the image of the City Council in Lockhart community and will not be expressed, demonstrated, or tolerated by any member of its governing body. In light of Councilmember Bryant‘s refusal to retract the statements in question and apologize, the City Council hereby censors him and requests that he resign from the City Council this day.”
In a somewhat somber tone, White further addressed the Council and the 50 or so in attendance.
“We don’t take this action lightly, but we take our responsibilities and our duties as the City Council representing our community very much to heart, and we do such action with a heavy heart, but, it is our duty to take this stand,” White said.
Before voting on the resolution, Councilmember and Mayor Pro-Tem Angie Gonzales-Sanchez thanked everyone for being in attendance and acknowledged the subject matter was very sensitive.
“As you all know, we all wear many hats,” Gonzales-Sanchez said. “As an elected official, we are publicly out there. They’re no secrets. You see what we do. You see what we don’t do. You hear what we say. As an elected official I took that responsibility very seriously.
“I understand the freedom of speech. I also understand the freedom of religion. But, I also understand compassion and respecting one another. I cannot judge individuals. I am not here to judge because I’m not perfect. However, I do know right from wrong. What I also know is that the bottom line is we have to respect each other.”
The resolution passed 6-1 with Bryant voting against it.
Following the vote and during Councilmembers’ comments, Kara McGregor added, “It’s been a difficult couple of weeks. I urge our citizens to come together in respect and unity.”
Bryant was sworn in as a member of the Lockhart City Council in November 2019 after running unopposed in District 2.
According to an article in that week’s Post-Register, Bryant said he ran for City Council to ensure residents’ voices in his district and concerns within the community were being heard.
“I always want to make sure I’m not bashing anyone but lifting them up and making sure they’re seen in the best light.