Anti-gay Pride Charlotte protestors bring along a convicted, registered sex offender

To the great dismay of the members and leader of the anti-gay, far-right Operation Save America — including a member once charged and convicted of sex offense — the annual Pride Charlotte celebration for LGBT and straight Charlotteans went off without a hitch. According to police estimates, a record-breaking 10,000 people attended the festival at Uptown Charlotte’s Gateway Village at Trade and Cedar Streets, making the event the largest of its kind in the Carolinas and between Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

Out in force, of course, was Operation Save America. I have to say they behaved quite nicely during most of their visit with us, excluding only a couple times they had to be spoken to by members of security or Pride Charlotte staff. One protestor, Ante Pavkovic had to be escorted off the property after he was found to be filming. Excluding media outlets that followed a strict media access agreement and process, filming is prohibited by Gateway Village property management. (If you’ll remember, Ante was one of three individuals arrested and detained after interrupting a session of the U.S. Senate during a prayer offered by a Hindu priest on July 12, 2007.)

The group’s leader, the Rev. Flip Benham, traversed the festival grounds for a couple of hours, followed closely by two of the Pride Charlotte “Partners in Peace,” a group that acts as a buffer between the potentially harmful or disruptive behaviors of protestors and festival participants.

Later, Benham took to his microphone and speaker at an opposing corner of Cedar and Trade Streets, on the lawn of the Mount Moriah Primitive Baptist Church (yes, my dear, there is a Primitive Baptist church in Uptown Charlotte). He actually called me out as I walked a vendor to the ice truck. “There’s Matt Comer, editor of Q-Notes! You need to repent! Your a bright young man; we’ll get you out of Q-Notes and into The Charlotte Observer.” he exclaimed (paraphrased).

Also in tow with Operation Save America was member Howard Scott Heldreth (pictured right, in green shirt, with Pavkovic, left, and unidentified woman on right), of Kannapolis, N.C. (Benham said his group doesn’t have “members” — they have Christians). He stood on the corner Cedar and Trade Streets preaching about the “evils” of homosexuality. I snapped a quick photo of him talking to Ante Pavkovic as I thought Heldreth looked eerily similar to an Operation Save America member who is a registered sex offender. Of course, I was right.

Heldreth was convicted in 1992, at the age of 19. He also had a record at the time, including battery.

He isn’t registered as an offender in North Carolina, as our registry only requires a listing if a person was convicted after 1996.

His Florida record is below (click to enlarge).

For the record, Heldreth converted to Christianity while he was in prison. As a fellow Christian, I know (unlike my friends with Operation Save America), that it isn’t my place to question the personal relationship between a follower and His Saviour. I know that faith in Christ is healing and I know that, despite Heldreth’s past, he can find Salvation through Christ.

While it bothers me (actually, it makes me sick) to think a convicted sex offender (who used his sexual actions to harm and injure an innocent person) is standing on a corner and preaching that my (consensual) sex is evil, I also think it is absolutely inappropriate for a sex offender to be present at an event where children are among the many participants.

I have no problem with Heldreth being my brother in Christ. I have no problem with his conversion. I have no problem with his Salvation. When we all get to Heaven, fine — he’ll be completely healed and his raping ways will be no more. But until then, he shouldn’t be proclaiming how “evil” other people are, especially when they are not guilty of forcing their sexual activity on anyone else.

To think he actually has the audacity to call gay people sick and sinful after his past? Ha. Where’s a brown paper bag, ya’ll. I need to regurgitate my dinner.

Disclosure/Disclaimer: I am a member of the Pride Charlotte Task Force and served as their 2008 media and marketing chair. Nothing in this post is representative of the official views, positions or opinions of the Pride Charlotte festival, Task Force, Lesbian and Gay Community Center of Charlotte or the Center Board of Directors.

4 Responses to “Anti-gay Pride Charlotte protestors bring along a convicted, registered sex offender”
  1. Jeff says:

    And we thought OSA was made up of “Gentle Christians”.

    Thanks for bringing this out in public, Matt!

  2. Sam says:

    Ok, thats just funny.

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