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…

My Scouting uniform, hat, merit badge sash, handbook and other items.

[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 nationalsupportcenter@scouting.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 long time coming: Pictured, dear friends gathered with me to protest the Boy Scouts' anti-gay policies in an event at the Old Hickory Council headquarters in Winston-Salem, N.C., in 2004.

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.

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.

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

I don’t think I could have imagined last fall just how challenging and, at times, frustrating returning to school would be once I actually set foot in class this January. After nearly four years of absence, I decided last fall to finish that elusive bachelor’s degree I put off when in September 2007 I was offered and accepted the position of editor at Charlotte’s QNotes.

Belk Tower. UNC Charlotte. Photo by Andy Ciordia.

Excitement and anticipation ruled the day in January and it continued throughout the semester, even as school and professional work piled on to make my life more stressful than it’s probably ever been. While I’ve enjoyed the renewed college experience (though my experience of “college life” is mighty different now that I’m a little older), I have one major, frustrating regret: I closeted myself.

Yes, me: Big queer activist since the age of 14; gay blogger and citizen journo since college; editor of an LGBT newspaper; volunteer and grassroots organizer; the “most flamboyant, outspoken queer teen Winston-Salem had ever seen,” or so I wrote in my chapter in 2008’s “CRISIS: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America.”

It wasn’t an intentional closeting by any means. LGBT subjects — save ancient Greek pederasty, and I don’t think that counts — never came up in class; had they, I’d likely have spoken out. I simply went to class, took notes, studied for exams and left campus to head back to my office or home when the day was over. But, seemingly out of no where, I was forced to face prejudice and hate I hadn’t experienced first-hand since high school, or, at least, my earliest days in college.

“That proctor guy is a faggot,” the boy sitting behind me said of the young male student assisting our professor that day.

I, along with about 200 other students, sat in an auditorium-style classroom awaiting our instructor and her assistant as they prepared to administer our exam.

“Who?” the boy’s friend asked.

“That guy. That faggot. He’s been staring at us since we sat down. He’s a fag,” I overheard behind me, each instance of the slur stressed, pointed and dripping with hate.

I froze. I did and said nothing. My heart began beating faster.

“Should I turn around and say something?” I asked myself. “What would I say? How would I say it?”

It didn’t turn out to be a very good exam day for me. I panicked — memories from high school bullying flashing back to my head. It wasn’t until later that evening, once I was home and had related the day’s events to a friend, that I came up with what I thought could have been a witty response.

“The next time you call someone a faggot, make sure the person sitting in front of you isn’t one.”

I thought about putting it on the back of a T-shirt and wearing it the next time I had the same class. But, I decided to ignore the comment.

“I don’t need a confrontation in the middle of a class full of students,” I told myself.

I was lucky enough to be working with Campus Pride last fall when they released their landmark report, “The 2010 State of Higher Education for LGBT People.” The in-depth, first-of-its-kind study documents the experiences of some 6,000 LGBT students, faculty and staff across the nation’s institutions of higher education. Though much attention is often given to anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and discrimination in K-12 schools, and campaigns like “It Gets Better” promises good days to teens who simply “stick it out” ’til college, Campus Pride’s report drove home a sobering point: anti-LGBT harassment and prejudice doesn’t magically disappear once a student crosses the stage to receive their high school diploma.

I found myself reflected in Campus Pride’s various key findings (emphasis added):

  • One quarter (23%) of LGBQ staff, faculty, and students reported experiencing harassment (defined as any conduct that has interfered with your ability to work or learn). Almost all identified sexual identity as the basis of the harassment (83%). An even greater percentage of transgender students, faculty, & staff reported experiencing harassment (39%) with 87% identifying their gender identity/expression as the basis for the harassment. The form of the harassment experiences by transgender people was more overt and blatant.
  • One-third of LGBQ (33%) and transgender (38%) students, faculty, and staff have seriously considered leaving their institution due to the challenging climate.
  • More than half of all faculty, students, & staff hide their sexual identity (43%) or gender identity (63%) to avoid intimidation.
  • More than a third of all transgender students, faculty, & staff (43%) and 13% of LGBQ respondents feared for their physical safety. This finding was more salient for LGBQ students and for LGBQ and/or Transgender People of Color.

Why didn’t I ever say anything? What was it that scared and intimidated me so much? Shouldn’t a 25-year-old, outspoken gay man like me have had the courage to enforce my own zero tolerance attitude toward anti-gay harassment?

What happened to me in class this semester reminds me of my friend Brian Murphy’s similar challenges when dealing with families, friends and other close relationships:

I do not do that which I know I should do. She says something insulting and I let it slide. He calls me Peter’s “friend” and I don’t correct him. They make jokes which aren’t really funny and I chuckle enough to not attract attention. It seems that family, friends, and closer relationships impede the cause of justice by compromising our words and actions, by elevating relationships over rightness.

Such insecurity and uncertainty, as I can attest, isn’t limited to personal relationships. In my case, complete and perfect strangers stopped me dead in my tracks.

As my first semester back at school wraps up, I’ve determined to make a new resolution. When the fall semester rolls around and I again find myself in class, I’ll not let my inner meekness get the best of me. I’ll take a chance, gulp down a shot of courage and confront the bigotry and ignorance that will (hopefully not) drift my way.

All-in-all, though, the experience served as a mighty important personal lesson. No matter how comfortable I think I might be. No matter how accepting or welcoming an environment I think surrounds me and no matter how much I’ve nearly insulated my daily work and personal life with LGBT or LGBT-friendly people and causes, I’m never truly comfortable. There’s still an awful lot of work to do — in high schools and colleges, in neighborhoods, in states and in our country and world. Silence can’t be an option.

Control freaks.

That’s exactly what anti-LGBT organizers and activists are. They honestly believe that they, and only they, can claim the role of moral arbiter of right and wrong. Their opinions. Their religion. Their interpretation of Scripture.

Have a different point of view? Too bad. Actually think all people — including gays — should be treated equally (as in, the dictionary’s definition of “equal”)? Tough luck.

Charlotte Hays of Independent Women’s Forum takes issue with the White House’s recent anti-bullying summit. She writes:

Okay, bullying is wrong. But this isn’t entirely about bullying, is it?

This is partly about promoting acceptance of alternative lifestyles. Most of us today are pretty accepting of these lifestyles, and all decent people know that it would be wrong to be unkind to anybody because of sexual orientation. Decent people don’t bully. But a kid who is a Christian is more likely to face censure in some schools. Why aren’t Christian kids on the president’s no-bullying list?

[..snip..]

My problems with the no bullying campaign are twofold: it is ideologically driven, second, this really isn’t what government should do. This is an issue for a family. Families teach children to behave decently-or they don’t. Stable families instill civility, but ideological anti-bullying campaigns instill ideology.

As if Hays’ idea of an anti-bullying program wouldn’t be any less ideological. Ha.

There was a time — and for many LGBT kids, that time is still now — when schools’ anti-bullying campaigns or policies were designed specifically to exclude them. That’s the kind of anti-bullying campaign I can see Hays supporting. Why shouldn’t Christian kids be able to torment gay kids day-in and day-out, telling them they are going to hell and excluding them from dodge ball games. After all, we all know that gay kid is condemned anyway. We might as well let the Christian kid tell him so.

On Monday, both the North Carolina House and Senate adopted resolutions honoring the Boy Scouts of America in recognition of their 101st anniversary yesterday.

Unsurprisingly, neither resolution (House, Senate) mentions the Scouts’ anti-gay and religious discrimination against youth members and adult leaders. And, unsurprisingly yet again, not a single member of the legislature had the courage or conviction to vote against the resolution.

Dear state lawmakers, do you actually care about children — all children — or just the straight and religious ones?