A Alabama Mayor and pastor has died by suicide shortly after a right-wing website published pictures of him in women’s clothing and makeup.
FL Copeland, known as Bubba, was mayor of Smiths Station and served as pastor First Baptist Church in Phoenix City. According to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, he died by suicide in front of law enforcement officers conducting a welfare check.
The conservative side 1819 News published a story about Mr. Copeland on Wednesday. The Daily Beast noted that it was previously owned by the conservative Alabama Policy Institute and edited by a former employee of Breitbart Newsa larger right-wing offshoot.
The story was published with the headline: Smiths Station Mayor and Baptist Pastor FL “Bubba” Copeland’s Secret Life as a “Transgender Curvy Girl”: “It’s a Hobby I Do to Relieve Stress.”
The story included the username for Mr. Copeland’s Instagram and Reddit accounts and reported that Mr. Copeland “appeared in a variety of outfits, some racier than others.”
The website says that Mr. Copeland used the name “Brittini Blaire Summerlin” and that he posted porn and gave advice on chemical transition.
1819 News reported that the Republican mayor confirmed he was managing the accounts, saying it was a “hobby” to “relieve stress.”
1819 News wrote that Mr. Copeland asked them not to out him, but they did it anyway. The Daily Beast notes that the mayor does not appear to have taken an anti-LGBT+ stance.
Mr. Copeland’s church responded to the story, calling it “unbiblical behavior” in a statement. The priest reportedly told parishioners that the story did not show “who or what I am,” adding that it “would not make my life change.”
“This will not affect my dedication to my family, service to my city and my church,” Mr. Copeland said before his final meeting Sermon on Wednesday.
Mr Copeland said he had been the target of an “internet attack” and “a lot of things were taken out of context”.
“Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people” have offered support, he said.
“Yes, I took photos with my wife in the privacy of our home in an attempt at humor because I know I am neither a handsome man nor a beautiful woman,” he added. “I apologize for any embarrassment caused by my personal life.”
Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones said officers attempted to stop the pastor Friday to conduct a welfare check.
“Thank you all for your prayers and your expressions of sympathy and support,” Mr. Copeland’s church wrote on Facebook after his death. “First and foremost, we ask that you keep Pastor Bubba Copeland’s family in your prayers today and in the days ahead.”
Larry DiChiara, the superintendent of Phenix City Schools, wrote on Facebook that he was a friend of Mr. Copeland.
“Please [bear] with me while I vent. I’m so angry and heartbroken right now. “I have witnessed in the last few days how a good man was publicly mocked and crucified… to the point that he simply took his own life today,” he said wrote. “I knew he was suffering so I reached out to him yesterday and offered him support and encouragement. He was grateful and admitted he had been through some “dark days” in recent days. I just want to ask you people who found it funny to publicly ridicule him: ‘Are you happy now?'”
“What crime did he commit?” he asked. “Some of you make me sick. I hope you’re really proud. To our brother, FL BubbaCopeland, may God bless your soul and forgive those who took pleasure in your suffering. You should all be ashamed of yourself!”
If you are experiencing or struggling to cope with feelings of distress and isolation, The Samaritans offers support. You can speak to someone free and confidentially on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Samaritans website for details of your nearest branch.
If you are a U.S. resident and you or someone you know needs mental health help right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Helpline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you are in another country, you can go there www.befrienders.org to find a hotline near you.