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. Do you agree with the statement “I have the right to marry the one I love”?
If so, are there any exceptions? (Polyamory? Polygamy? Consensual adult incest [opposite sex? same-sex?]? Age of consent for marriage?)
- If same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, should religious exemptions be allowed for those who do not want to participate?
If so, does that apply to churches? Businesses? Individuals?
If not, what should the penalty be (for churches, businesses, individuals)?
- 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?
If so, should they have to wait until they reach a certain age?
- If you could snap your fingers and change your sexual orientation or gender, would you?
- Is it bigoted to believe that homosexual practice is sin?
- Is it bigoted to say there is only one way to God?
- 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”?
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?
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.
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…
[Note: I know my blog has been dormant here lately. Work and school has been taking its toll. I have always deeply appreciated the kind support of my friends, fans and followers. Though I may not be posting regularly here, you can always find me at my day job and, one day, we'll see about getting InterstateQ.com kick-started again. For now, an important message below...]
As many of you have already heard, the Boy Scouts of America will be considering easing up their controversial national policy excluding gay Scouts and Scout leaders (see local North Carolina coverage, including some remarks from me, for more). The policy would allow local units to decide their own membership and leadership standards. The policy is a step forward and a huge development, no doubt, but it isn’t perfect. The policy excluding members and leaders on the basis of religious belief is not being amended and the local-based policy will result in gaps that could still leave some young gay boys and men at the mercy of hostile, anti-gay leaders, bullying and harassment (see this Associated Press article in which I contributed some comments for more on this issue). Regardless, this step toward progress is one I support. Below, my letter to the national Boy Scouts of America’s office, which is accepting input on the proposed policy change. You can provide your own input via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call the National Service Desk at 972-580-2330. A representative will take your call and ask if you are for or against the policy change (h/t Dallas Voice).
My letter to the Boy Scouts of America:
Dear fellow Scouters,
I am writing in support of the proposed national policy change that would allow local chartering organizations to determine their own membership and leadership standards for individual troops and packs. Though I believe the policy does not yet go quite far enough in addressing all issues of discrimination, rejection and exclusion, I believe this is the right step forward. I urge you to approve the proposed policy.
In 2000, I was dismissed from Scouting at the age of 14, after I came out as gay and started an anti-bullying club at my high school. I had been involved in Scouting since elementary school. Scouting was an integral part of my life. It was a support network of family and friends. At the time of my dismissal, I had recently served as my troop’s chaplain aide and was a few short community service hours and a scoutmaster review away from obtaining my Life rank. If I had not have been dismissed, I’m more than sure I would have earned my Eagle award shortly thereafter. I am saddened that opportunity was taken away from me, as my scoutmaster put, “If you choose to live that lifestyle, then you’re choosing not to be a Boy Scout.” They were harsh, scary and intimidating words for a 14-year-old to hear from a man he respected.
With this policy change, I hope that other young men like me who are in Scouting now will not be faced with the same humiliation, exclusion, derision and rejection I once was. As an organization that cares about the well-being and development of our young men into future citizens, I am sure you also do not want our young people to be treated in such ways.
In the first edition of the Boy Scouts Handbook in 1911, Scouting promised that “every American boy shall have the opportunity of becoming a good scout.” It has, as of yet, been more of an ideal, but I hope that this proposed policy change will finally begin to fulfill this promise and move the Boy Scouts of America forward in remaining true to its core American values and principles. Indeed, moving toward inclusion will ensure that Scouting truly means what it stands for when it teaches young men the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
I urge you to pass the change and continue your movement toward acceptance of all your Scouters, gay or straight.
Matt Hill Comer
Dismissed Gay Scouter, Troop 715
New Philadelphia Moravian Church
Old Hickory Council, Winston-Salem, N.C.
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.
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
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.
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.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:
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.”
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.
[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.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 Church – RSVP on Facebook
Sunday, May 27 at 10:00am at 3283 Providence Mill Rd, Maiden, NC 28650
The following was prompted, in part, by Republican Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James’ Sunday tweet in which he shared a recent message from the pastor of Charlotte’s Calvary Church. In it, the pastor said, “God’s Plan is to Vote Yes [on Amendment One].” James’ tweet and the pastor’s message was the final impetus that led to this message – this public “talking to myself” – that follows below, as these thoughts have been swirling in my mind for months.
As a person who grew up in the fundamentalist and evangelical Baptist faith, I’ve always felt a connection with those with whom I disagree on many matters of theology and doctrine, especially as it relates to sexuality. While my own faith has grown in different ways, I still identify as a Baptist and, in many ways, still proclaim that old evangelical faith of my childhood and of my ancestors. Even in the face my personal growth in faith, however, I’ve always been able to maintain some semblance of respect – some feeling of Christian brother- and sisterhood – with those who find themselves on the other side of the divide in our Christian family on homosexuality and matters of civic, social and religious equality for LGBT people.
Jeremy Hooper of GoodAsYou.org, among others, has been doing amazing work documenting the vitriol from religious right leaders in North Carolina during the debate over our proposed anti-LGBT constitutional amendment. I’ve been surfing over to his blog many times to see his latest updates. It’s important work, and the words and statements Hooper documents need to be preserved for posterity, thereby enabling future generations to learn from the painful mistakes of their elders today. But, while reading the comments and statements Hooper shares, it has become increasingly more difficult for me to reconcile – to continue living in some spirit of Christian fellowship – with people who would see me and my life ostracized, marginalized and criminalized – some, even, to the point of physical abuse and, dare they say it, death.
I once firmly believed, despite the theological and doctrinal gap between us, that some sort of reconciliation and mutual respect was possible – that even among intense debate over the meaning of Scripture and the nature of the divine, those more fundamentalist or evangelical Christians and I could still manage to live, work, speak, love and act with true Christian grace and humility.
After months of incredibly incendiary and hateful debate, I fear such a notion was mere naïveté. The hate-filled words and actions of those I consider my brothers and sisters are pushing me away from – not drawing me closer toward – our God and our spiritual family. Whatever became of, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35)?
How can I respect and love – much less expect it returned from – a person who believes it’s okay to punch a young gay boy or “crack” his “limp” wrist, as a Fayetteville, N.C., pastor told his congregation? How can I respect and love – much less expect it returned from – a person who believes that by me living life openly and honestly and expecting dignity and equality in return that I somehow have “signed America’s death warrant” and opened the doors to legalized pedophilia and bestiality? How can I respect and love – much less expect it returned from – a person who believes the government should jail or fine me for expressing my love toward another person? How can I respect and love – much less expect it returned from – a person who believes I and any future lifelong partner of mine and our family aren’t deserving of the same medical and legal benefits as my straight family members and friends and their families?
Of course, the list goes on and on.
In church yesterday, as our congregation celebrated this fifth Sunday of Easter, my pastor spoke of “doubting Thomas,” and the rightful place doubts and honest questions should have in a healthy, growing faith. It was a message, I think, I was meant to hear, for my doubts and questions have only grown since the beginning of this maddening and sickening debate in North Carolina.
How can so many of God’s children use God’s name in promoting division, prejudice, mean-spiritedness and hatred when the gospel I know speaks only of unity, fellowship, kindness and love? How can I reconcile my contempt for words of malice with Christ’s commandment to love one another as he loved us? How can I continue believing in the oneness of the body of Christ, yet be faced with the very stark reality that so many of my fellow Christians wish me cast out, placed aside and left behind?
My pastor’s message was prompted, of course, by John’s account of Thomas’ doubtful nature. But, it was the accompanying epistle reading, perhaps, that related so plainly to my own questions (emphasis added):
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:21-24, NRSV)
In thinking through my questions, I was also reminded of those old, familiar words from Ecclesiastes:
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. (3:1, NRSV)
As well as (once more, emphasis added):
Moreover I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, wickedness was there, and in the place of righteousness, wickedness was there as well. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for he has appointed a time for every matter, and for every work. (3:16-17, NRSV)
I can’t and won’t claim to have the answers I seek, but I think I’m heading in the right direction. I’ve always believed that many a well-meaning Christian have simply no real knowledge or awareness of the pain they cause in the lives of LGBT people. I’ve known too many good and kind-hearted people who fit this description – too many, dear friends and family included, who simply heed the misguided teachings and proclamations of their chosen religious leaders. These people would never intentionally hurt anyone and many have simply never had the opportunity to meet or speak with an LGBT person, much less the opportunity to learn how to love and include them unconditionally.
It isn’t my place to judge them. It isn’t my place to lash out with anger. It isn’t my place to threaten retribution. Instead, it is my place, as Christ commanded, to love and to teach, to live in kindness and charity. It’s a hard place to live in – difficult to practice love and fellowship when I know it might very well remain unrequited. Surely, it’s far more difficult than the easier path giving way to anger, frustration and bitterness. But, no one said it would be easy: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me,” Christ said (Luke 9:23, NRSV).
I am comforted knowing that history, no doubt guided by the hand of divine justice, falls squarely on the side of the oppressed:
The LORD works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed (Psalm 103:6, NRSV).
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19, NRSV).
In time, just as many did following the abominable era of slavery, the shameful mistreatment of women and the tumultuous days of Jim Crow and segregation, my fellow Christians who would seek to strip away my rights, my dignity and my humanity, will come to understand the errors of their ways. They will look back in shock; they will wonder why they said what they said, why they promoted division and hatred, why they voted to harm others. They will tell their children and grandchildren of the time when the world was a more hostile, less welcoming place. They will impart wisdom, borne from a personal experience wherein they themselves inflicted pain on others and learned lessons only that may teach. And, humanity will be better and stronger for it.
At least, that’s what I hope – even if doubt beckons me in the opposition direction.
No matter the outcome of North Carolina’s vote on Tuesday, I trust that our current struggle will not be in vain. I trust that some greater meaning and purpose is handed down in a lesson from which we can all learn better how to love one another and live in true Christian fellowship that celebrates, rather than takes insidious advantage of, our disagreements and differences.
The photograph used in this commentary is entitled “The Crucifixion of Christ,” a painting by artist Becki Jayne Harrelson, copyright © 1993. I encourage you to visit her website, peruse her other works and support her own, unique ministry.