From the Courier-Journal:
Activists stage seminary sit-in
They protest Mohler’s commentary on gays
By Peter Smith
A dozen gay-rights activists were charged with criminal trespass yesterday after holding a sit-in outside the office of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President Albert Mohler to protest his recent comments about homosexuality.
[Photo Right: Protesters sang outside Southern Baptist Theological Seminary yesterday while waiting for other protesters to be arrested inside President Albert Mohler’s office. (By Michael Clevenger, The Courier-Journal)] More Photos from the Courier-Journal.
Twenty-two people initially participated in the two-hour sit-in. Ten left when they were warned that they would be arrested if they stayed.
Police arrested the other 12 protesters without incident. They were being processed at Metro Corrections early yesterday evening.
The activists are part of the group Soulforce, which calls for religious groups to accept noncelibate gays and lesbians as members and leaders. They are on a two-month bus tour holding similar protests at other religious college campuses.
The activists were protesting a recent online commentary by Mohler. While conceding the possibility that homosexuality could be caused by biological factors, Mohler welcomed the use of prenatal hormonal therapies, if developed, to counteract homosexual tendencies detected in fetuses, although he ruled out using genetic engineering.
One protester, Kyle DeVries, said that Mohler’s prominence as a leading evangelical Christian spokesman gives him “tremendous influence” and that his “calls for eugenics for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people needed to be answered. … We decided to come here and demand a rescindment of those comments and a public apology for them.”
The protesters arrived around 10 a.m. and entered Norton Hall but were barred from the office. They sat silently, cross-legged on the floor, except when seminary Vice President for Communications Lawrence Smith said he would listen to their formal statement. The group also sang a popular revival hymn, “Just As I Am,” at one point.
Smith said that Mohler was not on campus at the time of the protest and that it did not disrupt classes or any other campus activity except the operation of the president’s office, which is on the second floor of the administration building.
“They, of course, have a right to protest, but they don’t have a right to break the law, and that’s why they were arrested,” Smith said. “You have to understand they are a professional protest group. Their aim is to create disruption and in some cases be arrested.”
Soulforce has protested at past meetings of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Mohler’s online column, posted earlier this month on his Web site, ran counter to conservative evangelicals’ common assertion that homosexuality is chosen, not biological. Mohler said Christians shouldn’t be surprised if scientists find a biological cause for homosexuality because of the traditional Christian belief that human sin has infected all of nature.
“If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin,” Mohler wrote in an article posted March 2 on his blog at www.AlbertMohler.com.
Matt Comer, one of the protesters who was not arrested, said he grew up in an independent Baptist church that, like the Southern Baptist Convention, condemned homosexual behavior.
He said Mohler is “a major Baptist leader” whose words “are going to affect youth like me who grew up in Baptist churches hearing horrible things from the pulpit about gay and lesbian people.”
Mohler’s writing that he would not favor genetic engineering but only prenatal hormonal therapy didn’t make a difference to DeVries.
“What’s the difference when you eliminate somebody’s sexual orientation?” he said.
The 10 protesters who left the premises when warned of arrest went down to a public sidewalk along Lexington Road in front of the campus, where they stood in the hot sun and sang in support of those being arrested. A small group of seminary students greeted them briefly and brought them water.
Soulforce and local gay-rights protesters held a second vigil late yesterday afternoon on the public sidewalk in front of the seminary.
Reporter Peter Smith can be reached at (502) 582-4469.