An Alabama pastor and mayor died by suicide Friday after a conservative blog wrote a story about him wearing women’s clothing as a “hobby.”
The conservative news blog 1819 News published the social media accounts of F.L. “Bubba” Copeland, who was the mayor of Smiths Station, Alabama, and the pastor at First Baptist Church in Phenix City, where Copeland goes by Brittini Blaire Summerlin and refers to himself as a “Transitioning Transgender Curvy Girl.” Copeland posted on Reddit as his alter ego and had a private Instagram page, according to the news blog.
During a welfare check on Friday, Copeland shot himself in front of police, according to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.
The church posted on Facebook on Saturday, thanking people for their prayers.
“Thank you all for your prayers and expressions of sympathy and support. First and foremost, we ask that you keep Pastor Bubba Copeland’s family in your prayers today, and in the days ahead,” the statement reads. “We greatly appreciate your messages, comments, and encouragement. Please continue to pray for us as we move forward in sharing God’s love too all people.”
A few days before, Copeland spoke to his congregation at First Baptist Church about the story.
“I’ve been the object of an internet attack,” Copeland said during a sermon on Wednesday that was livestreamed on Facebook. Copeland said he had taken pictures with his wife “in the privacy of our home,” and he apologized for “any embarrassment” he caused by his “private and personal life.”
Copeland reportedly confirmed he was behind the social media accounts, according to 1819 News, and said it was for “getting rid of stress” and a “hobby” and “fantasy.” He deleted the accounts after 1819 News reached out to him and asked the news blog not to make them public.
“What I do in private life has nothing to do with what I do in my holy life,” Copeland reportedly told 1819 News. “Does this have any effect on me being mayor, that I sometimes put on a dress or sometimes put on makeup? Does that have anything to do whatsoever with me being mayor or being a pastor?”
If you or someone you know needs help, call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org for mental health support. Additionally, you can find local mental health and crisis resources at dontcallthepolice.com. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention.