A pastor and mayor in Alabama has been found dead by suicide after a news outlet shared photos of his transgender alter ego found online.
The report exposed the 49-year-old’s “secret life” as “transgender curvy girl” Brittini Blaire Summerlin.
F.L. “Bubba” Copeland, pastor at First Baptist Church of Phenix City, shot himself with a handgun two days later, following a slow pursuit by police.
It comes after the Smiths Station mayor addressed the news report with his church congregation, dubbing it an “attack.”
Following his death, First Baptist Church shared its love and support for Copeland.
A post published on the church’s Facebook on Saturday reads: “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.
"We greatly appreciate your messages, comments, and encouragement. Please continue to pray for us as we move forward in sharing God’s love to all people."
During a Facebook broadcast of its Sunday service, one congregant spoke of the “sadness and “loss” at the pastor’s passing:
“Despite what may have been implied in the media, members of this church have been steadfast in their love and concern for our pastor.
"I cannot tell you that I fully understand or can explain the scope of this tragedy. There are some things, though, that I do know are absolutely true. I know that my friend Bubba Copeland loved this church and its people.
“And I know that our testimony as Christians is not defined as much by how we act in the good times. It's how we act in the difficult times.
“And I know that the mission of this church to show God's love to all people is and will continue to be our primary purpose.”
In the report published last Wednesday, a news website shared photos of the Baptist pastor representing himself online as Brittini whilst wearing a blonde wig, makeup and women’s clothes. Copeland was also accused of creating transgender erotic fiction, sharing transgender pronography and encouraging people to undertake hormone replacement therapy.
In addressing the claims against him prior to his death, Copeland explained that he had a history of cross-dressing and that he created the online persona simply as a way to relieve stress, but had no intention of transitioning.
“Congregation, church, Facebook, I have been an object of an internet attack,” he said. He explained that the hobby was a private pursuit and apologised for any embarrassment the public exposure had caused.
A memorial service is being held for hte pastor on 8th November.