The controversy surrounding Volusia County Council Member Fred Lowry provided material for the opening of the council’s June 22 meeting, as speakers demanded he resign or be ousted.
Lowry, who is also senior pastor of Deltona Lakes Baptist Church, has come under criticism for preaching a sermon that included remarks that some deemed offensive, with references to conspiracy theories.
In his sermon, Lowry called the COVID-19 pandemic a fabrication and said Hollywood elites involved in sex trafficking are taking the blood of kidnapped children to make a mind-expanding, life-extending drug called “adrenochrome.” He also repeated the debunked notion that the 2020 presidential election was rigged, and referred to the president as “King Joe Babylon.”
The barrage against Lowry came during the first segment of public participation, when members of the audience are given the opportunity to address the County Council.
“When any preacher turns his pulpit into a bully pulpit, to peddle extremist and undemocratic propaganda that poisons our faith and belief in our democracy with conspiracy theories that negatively impact our community, we as your constituents, whether Republican or Democrat, should not remain silent,” Dr. L. Ronald Durham, a Deltona pastor, told the County Council.
Durham is also president of the Volusia County Democratic Black Caucus.
“When any of your council members believes that the [2020 presidential] election was stolen … this council should be enraged,” he added.
“Members of this County Council are elected to serve the interests of the citizens,” Jewel Dickson said. “We are Council Member Lowry’s constituents, and we are affected by his actions.”
Dickson wrote on her speaker-request form that she is chair of the Volusia County Democratic Party.
“His explicitly racist and political remarks were delivered in a public forum, and that makes them the public’s business,” Dickson said. “Those remarks were a violation of his oath of office. … He must resign.”
“What one says as an elected official has consequences,” Cynthia Slater, president of the East Volusia/Daytona Beach NAACP, said. “We give him a vote of no confidence. Dr. Lowry is unfit to hold the title of councilman in Volusia County.”
“We request the council to call for his immediate resignation,” Dr. Victor Gooden, of the Daytona Beach Black Clergy Alliance, said. “Comments from Dr. Lowry on May 30 will live in infamy.”
Not all of the public reaction was anti-Lowry. A DeLandite, Phyllis Stauffenberg, spoke in his defense.
“The last time I checked, we are living in the United States of America. We have the freedom of speech. I think this man, Dr. Fred Lowry — I think his First Amendment rights are in focus here,” Stauffenberg told the County Council. “He spoke an opinion. He spoke as a Christian. He spoke very, very openly. I’ve been to his church. They love him there.”
The County Council affirmed Lowry’s right to speak out.
“We are about to forget that we live in the United States of America, founded on freedom of speech,” Council Member Ben Johnson said. “For us to start taking away any freedom of speech, … we’ve got to be careful about what we do. … He was elected by the citizens of this county, and they can not re-elect him.”
Lowry sat silently through the political storm. He left the meeting early because of recent knee replacement surgery. The Beacon attempted to contact Lowry, but he did not return our calls.