UPDATE: Center will host ‘open forum’ on Dec. 4, 7 p.m. More info…

Archive: All coverage of the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte

Rent or resources? That’s the question I asked in a post about the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte last week, in which I argued the center would be much better off spending less money on occupancy expenses and more money on programming, projects and services benefiting the community.

In short, I believe the center has been setting the wrong priorities for the community dollars entrusted to their care and have been poor fiscal stewards of your money, irresponsibly spending as much as 60 percent of their total expenses over the past four years on occupancy expenses like rent and utilities.

As it turns out, the center may also be guilty of irresponsible non-profit governance and potentially illegal fundraising activities.

According to the North Carolina Secretary of State, the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte is currently operating with an expired charitable solicitation license.

The license, offers public oversight over non-profit organizations, ensuring that groups soliciting money from citizens are doing so for legitimate purposes.

Why is this important? I’ll let North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall explain it for you, as quoted on the solicitations division of her website (emphasis added):

North Carolinians are known for their generosity and willingness to help their neighbors. While there are many deserving organizations that need our support to continue their good works, we all want to ensure that our hard-earned money is going to be spent wisely when we donate to our favorite causes. A quick call to our Charitable Solicitation Licensing Section can help you educate yourself about an organization’s background before you make a donation. In short, I advise all North Carolinians to “check before you write one.”

The center faced a charitable solicitation license expiration on May 15, 2013. The center was granted an extension to Aug. 15, 2013, coinciding with the group’s extension for filing their federal Form 990, the annual tax return similar to individual returns many non-profits, including the center, are required to file with the IRS.

But, you won’t find the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte’s record on the Secretary of State’s website. That’s because the group actually filed under their legal name, “The Lesbian & Gay Community Center of Charlotte,” which they have not yet updated with the North Carolina Secretary of State’s corporations division, the charitable solicitation licensing division or with the IRS.

You can see the center’s licensing information here. Also, below, a screenshot of the license search on the Secretary of State’s website (click to enlarge):

What does all this mean? Simply, the center is not complying with state laws and regulations that allow you — the donor — oversight and accountability on how the organization solicits and spends the money you give it. (As a side note, such lack of oversight isn’t new for the center, which has consistently refused to make its board meetings open to the public, refused to provide copies of their bylaws to me and others and fails to post their annual tax return to their website, where donors and potential donors can easily find them.)

What’s more, their solicitation license was expired by the time the group held their first annual fundraising dinner, the Autumn Jubilee, in October. Holding such a charitable fundraising dinner is one of the criteria that explicitly requires an organization to register for a solicitation license with the state (barring any potential exemptions, which, I do not believe the center has).

Perhaps you are one of those folks who disagree with me when I say the center is not abiding by the spirit of their mission and purpose. Perhaps you believe the center is doing a fine job with the money you donate to them. But, even if you disagree with my assessment of their activities, I think we can all agree their activities — whatever they may be — should be done legally and with the proper, responsible oversight given to state agencies, donors, volunteers and community members.


P.S. — I’ve spent the last week discussing in detail, both on my blog and on Facebook with other community members, about my vision for the center and its need to provide more programs and projects for the community. Currently, they provide no substantive programming. The programming they do have — game nights and their Beach Blanket-, Wizard of Oz and other similarly-themed bingo nights — aren’t even enough to get my community-loving, way-too-involved and philanthropic gay roommate to turn off his Golden Girls reruns, get off his couch and to support the center or attend events there.

So, imagine my surprise when looking at the center’s original charitable solicitation license application and I noticed line numbers 5 and 6:

5. Describe the purpose for which you are organized: Public Charity — providing programs and services in support of the Charlotte LGBT community

6. Describe the purpose for which contributions will be used: To provide programs and services primarily in support of the Charlotte LGBT community.

That application was received by the Secretary of State in October 2012. A year later (and 12 years after their initial founding) and the best the center has come up with are game nights and bingo nights. I’m not knocking social events like game nights — many people might need an inclusive social outlet and kudos for the center for providing such an opportunity. But, I think most would agree that playing games and shouting “Bingo!” once per month aren’t the types of substantive programming that will inspire, connect with, unite or invigorate community involvement and increased donor activity.


P.P.S. — I’ve said multiple times that I’m not seeking to destroy the center. I want to save it. If I didn’t care, I’d simply sit back, like others are, and wait for the organization to fold. But, after years of having my feedback and constructive criticism rejected by center board chairs and directors, I’ve turned to my personal blog and Facebook to air these grievances publicly. I want the center to succeed, so I’m not reporting their potentially illegal fundraising activities to the Secretary of State. However, if you should feel so moved, you can click here to access the complaint form.

UPDATE: Center will host ‘open forum’ on Dec. 4, 7 p.m. More info…

Archive: All coverage of the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte

UPDATE: Center will host ‘open forum’ on Dec. 4, 7 p.m. More info…

Archive: All coverage of the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte

Taking a cue from the Dos Equis man: I don’t post often, but when I do, I post important stuff.

And, this is one of those things I feel strongly about: Money donated to community organizations belong to the community and should be used to benefit and build the community.

Is paying rent part of that? The answer to that depends, I guess, but it looks like one LGBT community center — this one in Cincinnati — has decided its money can be best used in ways other than lease payments.

The Gay People’s Chronicle reports that the Gay and Lesbian Center of Cincinnati has decided to shutter its physical location. And, according to the organization’s statement (at last check, still on their front page), the decision was made to “evolve with the times” and “adapt to the current situation.”

I don’t know all the details from Cincy’s center, but taking a look at their most recently-available Form 990, it seems like they might have had the ability to continue operating their physical location. In 2010, they paid only about $10,000 the entire year for occupancy fees. Their total budget was about $26,000, with an additional $94,606 in the bank.

From the looks of their announcement, it seems like their board thought the money being spent on rent and utilities was better spent on providing grants to fund actual programs and projects, but that’s just a guess. Whether that’s why the made the decision, I don’t know, but the effect is the same as if they had; the organization will use the money to fund grants to support other community organizations and projects. Their first grant for 2014 totals $5,000 — half of what they spent in 2010 for occupancy expenses — and will be given to Cincinnati Pride.

At the day job, I’ve been working on getting together all the forms and data we’ll need to compile our annual non-profits report. We take a look at local and regional community groups’ revenue and expenses and publish the information so community members and donors can benefit from some easy-to-access transparency.

The news of Cincy’s center naturally made me wonder: What do North Carolina’s LGBT centers spend on occupancy fees? How much of their occupancy expense eats into their total expense? Do they have significant cash on hand, like the Cincy center? Is the money they spend building community?

[Before we go too deep into it, read this first: It's great that Charlotte has its own LGBT community center. I've long supported the center and its work. But, I do dream of more. These opinions aren't made in an effort to poke fun at or demean the work of the volunteers at the center. It's constructive criticism, food for thought and suggestions on making an already-good thing just that much better. None of these thoughts and ideas is new and most of it has already been suggested by a variety of community members and community leaders, though, I admit, not so publicly.]

First, the data, for comparison purposes:

Organization Occupancy ’10 Occupancy ’11 Occupancy ’12 Cash-on-hand ’12
LGBT Community Center of Charlotte $38,298
(59% total expenses)
$43,509
(60% total expenses)
$41,580
(49% total expenses)
$43,730
LGBT Center of Raleigh $4,085
(13% of total expenses)
$16,541
(18% total expenses)
$21,596*
(15% total expenses)
$39,573*

(*-For fiscal year July 2011-June 2012)

 So, are lease payments and utilities the best use of an organization’s funds?

Earlier I said, “It depends.” Here’s why…

The LGBT Center of Raleigh has kept their occupancy expenses quite low compared to the rest of their expenses. That, in return, has allowed the organization to hire a full-time executive director, James Miller.

Another Charlotte organization, Time Out Youth, has done the same. It has traditionally kept its occupancy expenses low. Their most recent Form 990 documenting their full 2011-2012 fiscal year notes the organization spent just $6,000 on occupancy expenses, or just 3% of their total expenses. Keeping that expense as low as it is enables the organization to pay for their five staff people, who, in turn, provide the organization’s capacity for creating, implementing and overseeing daily projects, programs and activities. They’ve done all that while managing to save quite a bit in reserve funds. In this, Time Out Youth outperforms both the Charlotte and Raleigh centers; at the end of 2012, Time Out Youth had nearly $185,000 cash-on-hand.

Clearly, an organization can spend money on a physical location and offer unique, original programming and activities. It’s a question of priorities; how much money is being spent on one versus another?

The LGBT Community Center of Charlotte is regularly spending more than or close to half of its expenses on occupancy, leaving little money for a full-time staffer who can devote time, like Miller and Time Out Youth’s staff, to grant writing, program creation, project implementation and more.

Need proof? Just compare the three organizations’ calendars:

Time Out Youth (click to see list of daily activities)

LGBT Community Center of Charlotte (click to enlarge)

LGBT Center of Raleigh (click to enlarge)

To be fair, the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte does host more programs than are currently listed on their calendar. The group’s original programming consists of a game night and monthly gay bingo events and a not-so-well attended annual Stonewall Celebration. Additionally, its GayCharlotte Film Series has several events throughout the year. But, in large measure, the center’s regular programs aren’t original to the center or its staff. HIV testing is organized and implemented by the Mecklenburg County Health Department. Loafers is a pre-existing and independent organization for lesbian women. PRISM was started primarily by Time Out Youth and is organized primarily by the older young adults who attend it. Carolina Transgender Society is also an independent group. And, there are several other examples.

It’s just a personal opinion, but it seems to me that the best use of organizational money is, indeed, spent on programming and projects, either directly or through the expense of full-time staffers and executive directors who can commit the necessary daily work and time to overseeing them.

The LGBT Center of Raleigh and Time Out Youth have figured out the right balance. And, they’ve been rewarded with increasing community support and loyalty. Over the past couple of years, Time Out Youth has been able to expand the number of its staff and is now in the process of moving to a larger location. It is regularly the beneficiary of a number of fundraisers; just this weekend alone two separate events were held raising money for the organization. The LGBT Center of Raleigh this month will facilitate a conversation on expanding its presence into nearby Durham and was recently the recipient of a bequest worth about $132,000 — money that’s been set aside in an endowed, restricted fund. Like Time Out Youth, the Raleigh center will soon be moving to a larger location.

The LGBT Center of Raleigh and Time Out Youth have proven their fiscal responsibility and sustainability, two traits I wouldn’t feel comfortable ascribing to an organization with little original programming that has seen half or more of its money landing in the pockets of a landlord or the telephone and power companies — money that isn’t going toward future investment or renewable programming that builds awareness, education and community loyalty.

But, if you think I’m just complaining, no. Criticism can only be constructive when one offers a solution. So, here goes:

  • The LGBT Community Center of Charlotte spent $23,315 in employee salary expenses in 2012. The center could find a cheaper, smaller location and pay half as much in occupancy expenses and put a saved $20,000 toward hiring a full-time executive director. That would put salary expenses at about the same level as the LGBT Center of Raleigh, which, according to their annual report, spent about $45,000 on payroll expenses.
  • The Charlotte center’s new, full-time executive director could be given the appropriate independence and authority, not to mention the trust of the board, to brainstorm, plan, raise funds for and implement original programming and projects.
  • New programs and projects would focus on expanding awareness of the LGBT community in Charlotte, educating both the LGBT and straight ally communities on LGBT issues and bringing attention to topics and issues that aren’t being addressed at all or not being addressed well or in a bold enough fashion…
  • Projects like: Education on transgender people and issues; broad and bold awareness, prevention and education campaigns addressing the rising HIV infection rate; awareness and prevention campaigns on drug and alcohol abuse within the LGBT community; education, support and social events for Charlotte’s LGBT Latino and immigrant community; and conversation series events, forums or discussions bridging the racial, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic divides within Charlotte’s LGBT community.

Those steps, I believe, would set the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte on a course toward greater visibility, greater sustainability, greater loyalty and greater relevance in Charlotte. The center’s new annual fundraiser, its Autumn Jubilee, debuted in October and was attended by 70-some people. It was well-planned and raised some money for the group, a sign, I believe, that the community does still support the center and wants it to succeed. I’m rooting for the center’s success, but it’s clear it needs a new direction, energy and momentum.

Update: Lease rates and commercial real estate

(Nov. 8, 2013, 8:10 a.m.) — Since this post was first published I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback. Primarily, folks have said it isn’t fair to compare the the Charlotte and Raleigh centers’ occupancy expenses; they say Charlotte commercial property is so much more expensive.

Current market trends, according to property database Loopnet.com (Charlotte and Raleigh), don’t support that kind of assertion.

City Office rental(1) Industrial rental(1) Retail rental(1) Purchase avg(2)
Charlotte $17.89 $6.44 $16.92 $99.86
Raleigh $17.63 $7.50 $15.53 $115.02

Notes: (1) Average per square foot rental asking price per year as of September 2013. Figures from city averages. (2) Average of office, industrial and retail property asking sale prices per square foot as of September 2013; base figures from metro-area averages; city averages were not available for Raleigh.

Charlotte and Raleigh lease rates don’t differ too incredibly much. Charlotte certainly isn’t double Raleigh, but the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte is spending close to double on occupancy expenses, as reported on their 2012 Form 990. That difference doesn’t come from higher lease rates; the difference lies in how much space is actually being leased:

Organization Occupancy ‘12 Total sq. ft.
LGBT Community Center of Charlotte $41,580 4,568 (1)
LGBT Center of Raleigh $21,596 1,690 (2)

Notes: (1) As self-reported in a press release from the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte. (2) As recorded by the Wake County tax office. 

UPDATE: Center will host ‘open forum’ on Dec. 4, 7 p.m. More info…

Archive: All coverage of the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte

A counter-protester holds a sign near anti-gay protesters at Charlotte Pride, Aug. 24, 2013, Uptown Charlotte. Photo Credit: Matthew Cummings/StillOut Photography Club.

Three weeks ago, Dr. Michael Brown, a leading anti-LGBT activist and religious leader in Charlotte brought 40 of his ministry schools’ students and other friends to Charlotte Pride, the city’s annual LGBT Pride festival and parade, on whose board of directors I sit. While at the event, Brown’s students and others circulated the festival area, speaking to attendees and asking attendees to complete a survey entitled, “Are You Open Minded?”

I took offense to Brown’s outreach efforts this year, calling his tactics dishonest, underhanded and deceitful. I even appeared on Brown’s radio show on Sept. 3 to discuss my disagreements with his survey and tactics. I discuss more about that experience in my latest editorial in the current issue of QNotes, hitting newsstands and online today. In the editorial, I call Brown’s outreach efforts this year a “spectacular failure.” You can read more about why in the editorial.

Here, though, I’ll run through and answer the several questions Dr. Brown’s students posed to Charlotte Pride attendees. Brown and I had meant to answer a few of these questions together on his radio show. Unfortunately, we ran out of time. Here though, I hope I’ll be able to offer a more balanced view and some more informed answers and insight I thought was missing from Brown’s Aug. 26 radio discussion of the survey results.

First, all the questions (src):

  1. 1. Do you agree with the statement “I have the right to marry the one I love”?
    Yes No
    If so, are there any exceptions? (Polyamory? Polygamy? Consensual adult incest [opposite sex? same-sex?]? Age of consent for marriage?)
    Yes No
  2. If same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, should religious exemptions be allowed for those who do not want to participate?
    Yes No
    If so, does that apply to churches? Businesses? Individuals?
    If not, what should the penalty be (for churches, businesses, individuals)?
  3. If someone is not happy with their gender, should they be allowed to pursue a change of gender?
    Yes No
    If they are not happy with their sexual orientation, should they be allowed to pursue a change of their sexual orientation?
    Yes No
    If so, should they have to wait until they reach a certain age?
  4. If you could snap your fingers and change your sexual orientation or gender, would you?
    Yes No
  5. Is it bigoted to believe that homosexual practice is sin?
    Yes No
  6. Is it bigoted to say there is only one way to God?
    Yes No
  7. How would you characterize yourself?
    Male Female Other
    Gay Straight Bi Trans Other

And my answers:

Do you agree with the statement “I have the right to marry the one I love”?

Yes.

If so, are there any exceptions? (Polyamory? Polygamy? Consensual adult incest [opposite sex? same-sex?]? Age of consent for marriage?) 

Yes. All people should be able to marry the person they love, but there are common-sense restrictions, mostly protecting possible victims from abuse. Such is the case with age of consent laws and laws forbidding incest. Family law, however, should also recognize that not all families are the same; families with multiple unmarried parenting partners deserve the same or similar protections for their and their children’s well-being that couples receive. Such families may, indeed, be polyamorous, but many others are commonplace, including single parents who depend upon relatives or friends for co-parenting. Marriage alone should not be the gateway through which we determine who is entitled to the legal and social means to protect their families and the interests of their children.

If same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, should religious exemptions be allowed for those who do not want to participate?

A simple “yes”-or-”no” option to this question is misleading and doesn’t provide for a full context needed for an answer. Brown’s survey provided follow-up questions where this context can be explored. See below.

 If so, does that apply to churches? Businesses? Individuals?

CHURCHES: Religious exemptions regarding marriage and any other religious sacrament or rite are already woven into the fabric of U.S. law. This nation, unlike others (as is the case in England), has no established church body entangled with government, and, as such, no government agency or official can force a minister or person of faith to conduct any marriage. Any pastor or officiant has the right to refuse to perform, conduct or participate in a marriage ceremony. In fact, many pastors require couples to meet certain criteria (e.g., faith requirements, church membership, couples/pastoral counseling, etc.) before they will agree to perform the ceremony.

BUSINESSES: For the most part, statutory and case law on business discrimination is largely settled. Federal and state laws prohibit discrimination in public accommodations. Specifically, the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides all people the “full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, without discrimination or segregation on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin.” Elsewhere, the act states that all people are “entitled to be free, at any establishment or place, from discrimination or segregation of any kind on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin…” In many states, these laws have been extended beyond public accommodations (hotels, restaurants, movie theaters, etc.) to apply to all businesses operating in the public and to protect other characteristics like sexual orientation or gender identity. In one particular New Mexico case, a photographer lost a lawsuit after she refused to photograph a same-sex couple’s wedding. Salon’s Mark Joseph Stern writes: “Legally, this ruling was correct; the photographer offered her skills solely as a business service, not as a form of personal expression. It’s the equivalent of a taxi refusing to pick up a gay couple, or a restaurant refusing to serve a gay family.” Courts have ruled that constitutional interests of fair treatment and equal access outweighs an individual right to discrimination. The reasons for such laws are clear: (1) Arbitrary discrimination, or discrimination for the sake of discrimination alone, does not represent a legitimate business interest, and (2) Government has a legitimate interest in proscribing arbitrary discrimination in the offering of goods and services, primarily in protection of free commerce and trade and the protection of individuals who may be adversely affected by mass discrimination. Can you imagine what the U.S. would look like today if private businesses had been able to continue refusing services to people of color? The same “religious liberty” arguments being used by opponents of LGBT equality today are eerily similar to many arguments used by racist business owners in the past. As the racist arguments of times past sound ridiculously hateful, silly and arbitrary today, so, too, will arguments in favor of anti-LGBT discrimination sound as equally hateful, silly and arbitrary in the years and decades to come.

[As an aside: Brown has asked if laws prohibiting discrimination by businesses would apply to a gay business owner who is asked to provide a service for an organization espousing beliefs with which she disagrees. The simple answer is yes. However, all business owners are free to refuse service for a variety of reasons which are not unlawful or arbitrary. Among those circumstances, one stands out: Businesses are free to refuse service when a customer may harass or intimidate employees or other customers. So, should a gay owner of a T-shirt business refuse service to a church which seeks to have T-shirts printed with the text of John 3:16? Most likely, no. But, should the gay owner be allowed to refuse service when the Scripture in question is calling for their death, such as Leviticus 20:13? Most definitely, yes.]

[Second aside: Many of the most recent cases regarding anti-gay business discrimination centers around marriage equality. Businesses have included wedding photographers, flower shops and bakeries. Each have claimed their religious belief that same-sex marriage is sinful prevents them from providing the service. I find such arguments from "Christian" business owners hypocritical unless they can also prove they have queried each and every past customer on their sexual practices and beliefs; for example, has the business owner provided a cake, photography or flowers for a couple who are not virgins and who have had sex before marriage, or have they provided services for a couple which intends to engage in an open, non-monogamous relationship after marrying? The only difference between these scenarios and the gay couple's scenario is that the business owner is aware of the gay couple's sexual orientation; the business owner may not have been aware of another couple's actions, which they may believe to be "sin," but they have still, even unwittingly, participated in a "celebration" of it. You might say that one can't "unwittingly" or unintentionally be a hypocrite, and I'd agree. But, the fact that a business owner holds on to such cherished beliefs -- so cherished that it prevents them from providing services to an entire class of people -- and, yet, does nothing to see that such beliefs are not applied equally and fairly to all of their customers, is, without a doubt, hypocritical.]

INDIVIDUALS: Individuals are free to associate with whomever they wish. No law can force an individual to visit a particular retail establishment, stay at a particular hotel or eat at a particular restaurant. Similarly, no law can force an individual to join an organization. Constitutional rights to freedom of association and expression apply. This particular “individual harm” argument is a red herring.

If not, what should the penalty be (for churches, businesses, individuals)?

CHURCHES: Exemptions for religious institutions are already represented in most law. Next.

BUSINESSES: Most public accommodations and commercial non-discrimination laws and ordinances apply civil penalties to unlawful discriminatory practices. Civil penalties should be fair and equitable, as a faithful reliance on justice requires; it’s cliche, but it’s true: “The punishment should fit the crime.”

INDIVIDUALS: No issue here. Individuals are free to associate with whomever they wish. Next.

If someone is not happy with their gender, should they be allowed to pursue a change of gender? If they are not happy with their sexual orientation, should they be allowed to pursue a change of their sexual orientation?

Again, simple “yes”-or-”no” option for this pair of questions doesn’t give it full justice. But, simply and quickly, yes. See more below.

GENDER: Yes. The experiences of transgender and other gender-variant people are well-established medical, scientific and psychological phenomena. Book closed.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION: Yes, which, at first glance, may seem radical to some in the LGBT community. Though I do not personally believe sexual orientation is changeable (and most all legitimate medical, scientific and psychological literature agrees), I see no valid, legal reason to prohibit an individual from seeking to live life the way they see fit. It’s a complicated answer, I recognize. It also includes a great many questions on the veracity of claims made by “ex-gay” “therapists,” the efficacy of such “therapies” and the many ethical questions involved, especially among the many “ex-gay” therapists and groups which have been found to engage in unorthodox and potentially harmful therapeutic techniques, have failed to fully inform their clients of the body of medical and psychological research, literature and expectations on the topic, practice personal, religious intimidation and, at times, have been found to engage in sexual exploitation and abuse (here’s a good example).

If so, should they have to wait until they reach a certain age?

Again, “yes”-or-”no” won’t cut it. See below.

GENDER: Call me a radical if you wish, but I happen to believe that children are far smarter and have far more insight into their own personhood than adults often give them credit. This recent story about a young boy who personally enjoys more feminine clothing, toys and other items is a perfect example of a young person who knows his gender as he perceives it now but who is allowed by his parents to exhibit a perfectly healthy and, what should be, perfectly normal affinity for items not traditionally interpreted as “masculine.” Parents of children with gender-identity issues should consult with their physicians and with psychologists to determine the best course of action for their young people. I, for one, am not a medical expert, and, so, I won’t pretend to be. But, I’d imagine it’d be most healthy that gender affirmation surgery be considered in a young person’s later adolescent years, following puberty.

SEXUAL ORIENTATION: As “ex-gay” “therapies” have been shown repeatedly to be potentially harmful and abusive to young people, and as the medical, scientific and psychological literature is clear that sexual orientation is a mostly-immutable characteristic, such “therapies” should not be open to minors. No parent should be allowed to forcefully change their child’s sexual orientation; these are decisions for an individual to make. I support laws that prohibit the use of “ex-gay” and “reparative” “therapies” on minors.

If you could snap your fingers and change your sexual orientation or gender, would you?

Absolutely not. I am who I am today because of the unique life experiences I have encountered, many of which would not have been without my identifying as gay. There was a time when I might have answered yes, especially when I was younger and subjected to near-daily and sometimes brutal verbal and physical harassment. It’s shameful that our culture bullies young people into hating who they are.

Is it bigoted to believe that homosexual practice is sin?

Very simply, yes.

Is it bigoted to say there is only one way to God?

Bigoted? Depends, I guess, on how you apply it. I believe I have chosen a path — the one, true path for me — that leads me to reconciliation with God. It should come as no surprise to any rational person that another’s journey toward and understanding of God may differ wildly from mine or any other person’s. Is that bigoted? No, I don’t think so. But, if you’re one who thinks you can speak for God and eternally condemn, carte blanche, an entire group of people simply because you personally disagree with them, yeah, that’s a little bit bigoted. If you use such a condemnatory personal belief to legislate against entire groups of people, well, yeah, that’s extremely bigoted, and nothing short of theocracy.

How would you characterize yourself?

Gay. Male.

Update (Feb. 4, 2013, 1:10 p.m.): Be sure to head over to QNotes to read the editorial, “Critics of Boy Scout policy should follow Scouters’ lead,” published this morning.

Boy Scouts Memorial, Washington, D.C. Inscription: This memorial was authorized by the Congress of the United States and directed in recognition of the fiftieth anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America in grateful tribute to the men and women whose generosity devotion and leadership have brought Scouting to the nation's youth and to honor all members of the Boy Scouts of America who in days of peace and times of peril have their duty to God and their country. Photo: Elvert Barnes, via Flickr. Licensed CC.

There was much controversy this past week as news broke that the national board of the Boy Scouts of America would be considering ending their national anti-gay membership and leadership policy.

“This would mean there would no longer be any national policy regarding sexual orientation, and the chartered organizations that oversee and deliver Scouting would accept membership and select leaders consistent with each organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs,” Scouts spokesperson Deron Smith said in a statement. “BSA members and parents would be able to choose a local unit that best meets the needs of their families.”

Smith also promised that the Scouts’ national leaders would “not, under any circumstances, dictate a position to units, members, or parents” and that the national body “would not require any chartered organization to act in ways inconsistent with that organization’s mission, principles, or religious beliefs.”

The news of this week is stunning, reversing decades of exclusion of gay men and boys from participation in the nation’s preeminent organization for training and equipping young men with the tools, principles and values necessary for becoming good citizens.

There’s no firm deadline determined for making the decision, but it could come down as soon as this coming week’s national executive board meeting. And, in the meantime, LGBT and progressive leaders are speaking out with a variety of talking points, some helpful and others I believe ignore the reality of this small bit of forward movement, the chink in the armor of the Scouts’ long-standing discriminatory practices that will inevitably give way to extraordinary progress.  Continue reading this post…

A party by a straight nightclub in Charlotte billed as a “Repeal Amendment One Party” by promoters was met this week with raised eyebrows by some members of the city’s LGBT community.

A flyer posted on Facebook promoting the 'Repeal Amendment One Party' with its original name of 'aMENdment.' Click to enlarge.

The event, originally called “aMENdment” and renamed “Repeal Amendment One Party,” was posted on Facebook on May 30 and will be held at Butter NC, a nightclub that attracts primarily straight clientele, on Thursday, June 7. Butter NC is located at Uptown’s NC Music Factory, the same complex that currently houses the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte.

Some community members say they are concerned that the club’s initial promotion of the event included no mention of efforts to benefit the LGBT community or continued efforts to ensure equality following the passage of Amendment One, the state constitutional amendment approved on May 8 by 61 percent of North Carolina voters. Effective on Jan. 1, 2013, the amendment will ban all recognition of same-sex marriages and civil unions and could threaten already-existing domestic partner benefits for both same-sex and opposite-sex couples.

The event posting, written by Ryan Jones, originally read: “Come out to Butter Charlotte in the NC Music Factory to show your support of the repeal of Amendment One. $3 Domestics, $4 Shots, $5 Well Vodka, & $100 Vodka Bottles. Performances by Natasha De La Mer and special guests. DJ Edward Shouse. Come out and see why Butter Charlotte is the number one spot to party in the QC. : D It’s going to be a crazy night! Message me if you’re interested in a bottle!”

[Update, 8:18 p.m., June 1, 2012: The Facebook event page has been updated to note that "a portion of the proceeds will be donated to a local LGBT group."]

Bobby Kerschner, a 24-year-old gay Charlottean, was invited to the party and asked on the Facebook event page’s wall: “How is this party going to be benefiting the cause? Are they donating proceeds to [the Human Rights Campaign] or a similar organization?”

I expanded on the question, posting: “Happy to see Butter supporting the community, if they truly are. Would be nice to know if funds (portion of door, perhaps) will be donated to groups like Equality NC or if such groups will be invited to speak from the stage or be present with materials to engage and educate party-goers.”

Other Facebook users publicly posted similar sentiments. Additionally, I have heard concerns from acquaintances, as well.

Kerschner told me via phone that he immediately questioned the event upon seeing it.

“At first I was just trying to find out who started the event because it didn’t look like it was a very official-looking event,” Kerschner said. “I wasn’t sure if this was real or actually started by the club. If it was started by Butter, I was thinking this is a great party for repealing the amendment, but what exactly is the party and who is doing it? It didn’t say anything about proceeds going to this cause or that organization or something like having people sign petitions. It just said ‘Repeal Amendment One’ and here are our drink specials. It made no sense at all.”

Kerschner said he was afraid the nightclub might be “exploiting” LGBT community members’ anger over the amendment.

“My biggest concern is that they are exploiting the emotions of the people of Charlotte — exploiting people’s rage about the issue,” Kerschner said. “It’s like having a Halloween party and putting up a Christmas tree. If you’re having a repeal party, what makes it a repeal party? Having a Bud Light doesn’t make it a Repeal Amendment One party.”

I attempted to reach out to Jones via private message and a public posting on his Facebook profile. A phone number was not available. My messages were not returned.

Butter NC promoter and marketer James Nguyen told me via phone that he was working to ensure that the event in some way benefited LGBT community causes. He said the club, which is owned by the New York City-based nightlife duo Richie Akiva and Scott Sartiano, originally intended to have a free cover that night but will now instead charge $10 at the door, with half of that money going toward an LGBT organization. Nguyen said a friend will be suggesting an organization to receive the funds and they are considering Equality North Carolina, the statewide LGBT advocacy and education organization based in Raleigh and which took a lead role in the campaign against Amendment One.

Nguyen said he and some friends had been talking about holding the event for some time. The plan from the beginning, he said, included some sort of support for an LGBT community organization or cause. Nguyen said a friend was also working on securing the presence of an LGBT community organization at the party and said they were talking to the Human Rights Campaign and the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte.

Nguyen said Butter NC’s record of support for the LGBT community should not be questioned.

“1OAK and Butter in New York City,” Nyugen said, referring to Akiva’s and Sartiano’s Big Apple establishments, “are really big supporters of the gay community. I have a lot of gay friends that come in [Butter NC] and they always have a good time.”

A review of North Carolina State Board of Elections financial disclosures from the Coalition to Protect North Carolina Families, the referendum committee which led amendment opposition, showed no recorded contributions in the name of Butter NC, Akiva or Sartiano. According to state law, political committees are required to report the names, addresses and occupational information of contributors giving more than $50.

Butter NC has hosted few, if any, LGBT-oriented nightlife events. JustTwirl, a Charlotte LGBT party promotion company, hosted a “Sweet Tea Twirl” at the nightclub during Memorial Day Weekend. Nguyen said the club hopes to start a weekly or biweekly gay event. In the past, club owner Sartiano has stressed Butter NC’s focus on attracting a heteronormative and heterosexist clientele, telling Charlotte’s Creative Loafing in 2010 that patrons should “arrive with an even guy-to-girl ratio.”

Very grateful to have had the opportunity to travel from Charlotte up to Newton, N.C., for the protest of Providence Baptist Church (Maiden, N.C.) Pastor Charles Worley and to also report from the scene for QNotes

Over 1,000 gather in Newton to protest anti-gay preacher’s comments
Peaceful protest draws raucous counter protesters

Protesters and anti-LGBT counter protesters engaged in heated debate at Sunday’s event. Photo Credit: QNotes/Matt Comer.

Newton, N.C. — Over 1,000 people gathered in this small town about an hour outside Charlotte on Sunday to protest what they called messages of hate by Maiden, N.C. Pastor Charles Worley, whose comments at Providence Road Baptist Church during a sermon on May 13 made headlines last week.

Worley said he had “figured a way out – a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers.”

“Build a great big, large fence — 50 or a 100 miles long — and put all the lesbians in there,” Worley told his congregants. “Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals — and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out. Feed ‘em. And you know in a few years, they’ll die out. You know why? They can’t reproduce.”

Comments from a 1978 sermon by Worley also raised eyebrows. Posted by the church, the old sermon included comments from Worley that “Forty years ago they would’ve hung [homosexuals], bless God, from a white oak tree!”

Organizers had told media they were expecting 2,000-5,000 protesters, which prompted them to move from their original protest location at Worley’s church to the Catawba County Government and Justice Center. Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid told qnotes that he estimated attendance at anywhere from 1,400-1,600. He said every spot in the government center parking lot had at one time been filled. The lot holds 675 cars, Reid said, noting that many vehicles had come with at least two passengers.

Read the rest of the story and view photos and video at goqnotes.com…

Yet another update on the Maiden, N.C., Providence Road Baptist Church, whose pastor, Charles “Concentration Camp” Worley, has come under scrutiny for his proposal to send LGBT people to Nazi-like concentration camps and his 1978 sermon blessing the hanging of gays.

A mutual friend on Facebook posted a screenshot of a review of the church he found on the church’s overview on Google. The review reads almost too outlandish to believe.

It it legit? Is it a satire? My first impression was the latter, but I’m concerned it could be real for several reasons.

I’ll explain. First, the review (my emphasis added):

TheRodofGod – today – 5 stars
I started attending this church a few months ago and believe me when I say it is absolutely a blessing. It is so nice to be among like minded individuals who praise the time honored traditions of racial and sexual purity. Pastor Worley speaks an abundance of truth and realizes the need for a final solution to our country’s troubled present. He preaches the truth that modern day Zionist media refuses to acknowledge. Providence isn’t some bobble-head ditto chamber either, we all agree that the good days are behind us and only torment await if we continue to travel the road we’re one. I will continue to pray for days when the racially impure do the menial tasks us deserving and god-chosen southerners are breaking our backs at. The dandies should stop choosing sin and the ladies would be much happier if they could just embrace their dependence on the masculine men in society.

Crazy, right? When I first read it, I thought so too. “There’s no way,” I told myself, “that anyone believes this.” And, the username — “TheRodofGod” — just has to be a joke. Plus, the user has only one activity on Google’s network — this one comment — according to the public profile.

Yet, stopping to consider the source, a church whose pastor has preached murder of LGBT people for at least 40 years, and one might be cautious before ignoring these new comments outright. 

Continue reading this post…

Pastor Charles 'Concentration Camp' Worley wants to 'get rid of all the lesbians and queers.'

This update on Maiden, N.C., Providence Road Baptist Church Pastor Charles “Concentration Camp” Worley from GoodAsYou.org’s Jeremy Hooper, who found an old sermon archived at SermonAudio from Worley given on April 30, 1978, two years after he started preaching at the church.

Listen to the clip below:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

I’m God’s preacher. I just believe the book. We’re living in a day when, you know what, it saddens my heart to think that homosexuals can go around, bless God, and get the applause of a lot people, lesbians and all the rest of it. Bless God! Forty years ago they would’ve hung [homosexuals], bless God, from a white oak tree! Wouldn’t they?! Amen!

Hooper notes: “The truly remarkable thing? Of all of his old sermons, *this* is one that someone at his church felt worthy of posting to the Internet for posterity’s sake.”

See earlier posts:
Amendment One’s saving grace: Exposing religious violence against LGBT people
Matt on CBS Radio: No place for pastor’s words in civilized society

Today’s CBS News report on Maiden, N.C., Pastor Charles Worley, as broadcast at 1 p.m. as broadcast at CBS Radio online and syndicated nationally.

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See earlier post: “Amendment One’s saving grace: Exposing religious violence against LGBT people”

[Update (May 22, 2012, 2:03 p.m.): Hear the CBS News radio report with Matt's remarks on Pastor Charles Worley's comments.]

Just two weeks ago, voters in North Carolina approved 61 to 39 percent a discriminatory, anti-LGBT state constitutional amendment banning marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples and threatening domestic partner protections for all couples.

The primary election came on the heels of a months-long campaign — proponents and opponents airing their positions on TV, radio, in newspaper ads, at community events and at doorsteps and on sidewalks across the state. The campaign was a torturous one, with dangerous, anti-LGBT rhetoric swirling around the state and stoking the fires of hate and bigotry.

Pastor Charles 'Concentration Camp' Worley wants to 'get rid of all the lesbians and queers.'

And, though the LGBT community and its allies lost their campaign at the ballot box, the campaigns on Amendment One might very well provide some bit of silver lining: Now, more than ever, the pure bigotry and hate of those who would seek to discriminate against LGBT people has been exposed.

First, it was Pleasant Garden Baptist Church Pastor Michael “Nuclear Holocaust” Barrett, who claimed in a sermon claimed that legalized marriage for same-sex couples will be like a “nuclear holocaust.”

Then, it was Fayetteville, N.C. Pastor Sean “Crack a Wrist” Harris, who in a sermon encouraged fathers to crack the “limp wrists” of their gay sons and “give ‘em a good punch.”

Now, yet another Baptist pastor has been found speaking violence from the pulpit. In Maiden, N.C., Providence Road Baptist Church Pastor Charles Worley said he had “figured a way out – a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers.”

Build a great big, large fence — 50 or a 100 miles long — and put all the lesbians in there. Fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals — and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out. Feed ‘em. And you know in a few years, they’ll die out. You know why? They can’t reproduce.

The campaign over Amendment One — in which LGBT people were demonized, scapegoated and, ultimately, ostracized and legally cast aside — has emboldened those who would seek to use the holy name of God to perpetrate violence against us. And, because of those campaigns, such rhetoric is being exposed to the light, and that light will burn it out.

Religiously-motivated violence against LGBT people is nothing new. Desiring for the mass murder of all LGBT people, as shocking as it might sound to many even in our own community, is an old wish — one, as evidenced by Worley, that still exists today. I’ve known such a desire exists for a long time. As a child, my hometown pastor preached violence against LGBT people regularly. “Put all the queers on a ship,” he’d say, “Pluck a hole into the side of it and send it out to sea.” He used similar metaphors as Worley, wishing to pen in all “the queers” in two states until “they die out.” (See: “An awkward ‘homecoming’” and “An awkward ‘homecoming’ – Part Two”)

Dr. Michael Brown, one of Charlotte’s most radical anti-LGBT activists and known associate of those who encourage mass murder, has also similar violent metaphors, using inflammatory rhetoric that suggests a life-or-death struggle and conflict over gay and lesbian issues and people and calling his movement a “battle” and “holy war.” He once told me he abhorred such real violence and “would be the first” to step up to defend me or any person subject to violence. (See full special report, “On the edge: Religious militancy in the Queen City”)

Dr. Brown — and all those others who feign sympathy with LGBT people — here is your chance. Now is your time to stand up, cast aside your bigotry and hate and come to the aid of those people who are clearly under attack.

Charles Worley’s comments are shocking and terrifying. Calling for violence against and mass murder of minorities is inexcusable. My heart aches for any of the LGBT young people in Worley’s congregation forced to listen to this message of hate and violence. Physical, emotional, verbal and spiritual violence against any person has no place in civilized society. History has taught us that there can be a very thin line between religiously-inspired violent rhetoric and real calls to physical violence. This pastor and others propose sending LGBT people to Nazi-like concentration camps and doing real physical violence to us.

Worley owes no less than an immediate and forthright retraction of his comments and an apology to the LGBT community, and he should take steps to meet with LGBT community members to better understand and respect our human dignity.

Those who would continue to demean and threaten LGBT people should take a long, hard look at what they really believe, cast aside their hate and stand with LGBT people in our fight for the right to simply be, to be safe from harm and fear, to be recognized as full and equal members of society and law.

As for us LGBT folks, now is our time to stand up for ourselves. We’ve done it for months on end. Many of us have done it for our whole lives. But we cannot give up now. Now, more than ever, we must not let our momentum for change fade away. In nonviolence of thought, word and deed, we must stand up. We must seek equality. We must seek understanding, respect and reconciliation. We must work toward a greater world where all people — LGBT people and, yes, even folks like anti-gay pastors — are treated with equality and dignity, a world where no person is threatened with violence or death. A world where all God’s children can live in healthy, loving homes, families, churches, schools and communities.

This is our calling. This is our moment in time. This is our moral obligation. Will you stand up?

Protest: Providence Road Baptist ChurchRSVP on Facebook
Sunday, May 27 at 10:00am at 3283 Providence Mill Rd, Maiden, NC 28650