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.
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.
Eric Preston has re-released his video on Wake County Commission Chairman Paul Coble, which I featured earlier this week in my post, “Video: ‘King Paul’ Coble’s politics of division.”
The video is below, along with a transcript of his letter at the opening.
A couple of days ago I released the original version of this video with a quote from me at the beginning that incorrectly implied that all North Carolina Republicans agreed with GOP politicians like Wake County Commission Chairman Paul Coble.
In the last 48 hours the video received over 1,300 views, and I received many emails and comments from Republicans who wanted to make it clear that they do not associate themselves with the likes of Chairman Coble, his methods, manners or agendas.
These same respectable Republicans also told me, in no uncertain terms, that they are AGAINST the proposed North Carolina state Constitutional Amendment and will be voting as such on May 8th, 2012.
It is to these people that I extend my most humble apologies and dedicate this re-release with a more appropriate opening quote.
March 15th, 2012
“In one divisive act, not only has Paul Coble embarrassed both Republicans and Democrats, but insulted all North Carolina citizens as well.” — Eric Preston, writer, director
[Note: Video above is a March 15, 2012, re-release of the original March 13, 2012, video shared in this post.]
Filmographer Eric Preston has released a lengthy video recounting the day back in February when Republican Wake County Board of Commissioners Chairman Paul Coble brought forth a resolution in support of North Carolina’s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment.
Coble, a nephew of the late, great hater U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms (R), is also running for the Republican nomination in North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District.
Three takeaways from the video:
- Embarrassing: “King Paul” Coble’s knowledge (or lack thereof) of the law, of the harms of the amendment he supports and his inability to run an orderly public meeting is an embarrassment and disgrace to the citizens of Wake County and North Carolina.
- Arrogant: “King Paul” Coble’s treatment of his fellow commissioners and his Wake County constituents is nothing short of arrogant. His attempts to silence public comment and his fellow commissioners, his continual ignoring of citizens’ remarks and his refusal to allow a roll-call vote on the amendment speak to his Coble’s character — one that is willing to push his and only his agenda at the expense of all other people and considerations.
- Dangerous: His inability to run an orderly meeting and his refusal to allow a roll-call vote are sure signs of how “King Paul” Coble views his place in government. He is not a representative of the people. He is not a custodian of the law. He is not a public servant in representative democratic government. No. No. He is a monarch whose will must be obeyed. Such a mindset is dangerous to citizens and to the very fabric of our republic.
The Wake County Board of Commissioners will consider at their meeting today a resolution supporting North Carolina’s anti-LGBT, anti-family constitutional amendment, according to grassroots activism group Neighbors for Equality.
The resolution is being recommended by Republican Commission Chairman Paul Coble, who has billed the measure as a a statement in “support of voter participation” in the amendment referendum, to be held along with primary elections on May 8, 2012.
But the resolution does far, far more than that, resolving “that the Wake County Board of Commissioners endorses the Marriage Amendment to the North Carolina Constitution which states that the only domestic legal union that is valid or recognized in North Carolina is marriage between one man and one woman.”
If the intention couldn’t be any clearer, here’s the summary that Coble offered when placing the resolution on the agenda:
The North Carolina General Assembly voted to place an amendment to the North Carolina Constitution before the voters on May 8, 2012. The amendment recognizes that marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union recognized in this State. The amendment will ensure that judges will adjudicate based on the law and not on activism, and keep the judiciary from redefining marriage inconsistent with the North Carolina Statutes.
Coble, a Republican candidate in North Carolinas 13th Congressional District, makes his position on marriage abundantly clear on his campaign website: “He believes that marriage should be preserved for one man and one woman. He believes that freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion.” Meaning, in essence, “Screw the First Amendment; I’m forcing my religious beliefs into constitutional law and you just have to deal with it.”
Grassroots activist group Neighbors for Equality is encouraging Wake County citizens and residents to attend the 2 p.m. meeting today and share their thoughts on the amendment and the resolution. Public comments will be accepted. From Neighbors for Equality: “Sign up before the meeting. Comments from the public will be received at 2:30 p.m. for 30 minutes. A signup sheet for those who wish to speak during the public comments section of the meeting is located in the back of the Boardroom.”
The News & Observer published a report from Associated Press writer Tom Breen this morning detailing some of the legal arguments, concerns and questions being considered as North Carolina’s anti-LGBT, anti-family constitutional amendment heads to the ballot in the state’s May 8, 2012, primary elections.
E. Gregory Wallace, who teaches constitutional law at Campbell University’s Wiggins School of Law, was one of several legal commentators Breen sought for comment.
From the piece:
“It’s difficult to predict with any certainty how courts are going to predict constitutional provisions or statutes,” said E. Gregory Wallace, a constitutional law professor at Campbell University’s Wiggins School of Law.
In a decision called Ohio vs. Carswell, the state supreme court ruled that the marriage amendment didn’t invalidate domestic violence laws. The analysis by UNC researchers argues that an Ohio-like situation is possible here, but Wallace said the fact that the matter has been settled in that state makes such an outcome less like in North Carolina.
It’s up to the voters, of course, to determine whether all of the legal back-and-forth amounts to more than speculation, which Wallace argues is probably for the best on such charged topics.
“I think it’s a healthy thing that it’s going directly to the people of North Carolina,” he said. “When you talk about making fundamental change in an institution as old as marriage, that’s probably something that’s best left up to the people themselves.”
Notice that? Every time Wallace comments on the discriminatory amendment he’s either defending it or deflecting concerns over its potential harms.
Meanwhile, legal commentators at the most prestigious and mainstream law school in the state disagree with every point Wallace makes. But, can we be surprised that a Baptist-affiliated law school professor is in favor of the amendment? Of course not.
And, take into consideration Wallace’s support over a decade ago of the Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law’s “Marriage Law Project,” and his signature on a letter to the Dutch Parliament admonishing them for considering full marriage equality.
The text of the letter:
TO THE PARLIAMENT OF THE NETHERLANDS: A STATEMENT ON THE DEFINITION OF MARRIAGE FROM LAW PROFESSORS ACROSS THE WORLD
We are professors of law and jurisprudence at universities across the world. We believe that marriage is the unique union of a man and a woman, a community of life and love. Marriage so understood is built into the fabric of social life, and cannot be arbitrarily redefined by lawmakers. Male-female marriage provides incomparable benefits to society, especially for children and for those who invest their lives in raising their children. Our domestic and international laws should preserve, protect and promote the institution of marriage.
We offer no simple recipe for laws that address non-marital sexual relationships. Our countries address these questions in different ways (indeed your own country has already adopted a wide-ranging Registered Partnership Act). But we are united in the conviction that the legal definition of marriage, as the union of a man and a woman, should not be changed. Redefining marriage to include same-sex unions will introduce unprecedented moral, social and legal confusion into our communities. The casualties of this confusion will be the families and children of the future, and therefore our societies as a whole.
We would remind the Dutch Parliament that many legal scholars, including the undersigned, do support marriage as the union of a man and a woman. In that respect, we represent the beliefs and practices of the overwhelming majority of humanity. No country is an island. Your actions will have fateful consequences not only for Europe, but for every country in the world.
All my conversation on Friday and this morning regarding Charlotte City Councilmember LaWana Mayfield’s insistence that “Charlotte City Council has never taken a stance on anything that comes out of Raleigh,” has glossed over one small, but glaring undercurrent of discontent.
Any longtime North Carolinian is aware of the historic, regional divide between East and West in this state. In modern times, that divide has increasingly come to mean Charlotte v. Raleigh.
Mayfield hinted at that regional divide in her comments on Thursday evening — a sentiment that the City of Charlotte is somehow separate and distinct from “Raleigh,” which can mean either “City of Raleigh” or “State Government” / “State of North Carolina” depending on who you ask.
It’s that sentiment that James Miller, executive director of the LGBT Center of Raleigh, picked up on when he commented on my Facebook page in response to Mayfield’s comments: “This is ridiculous— just because it is ‘out of Raleigh’? PFFFFFFFFF.”
Politicians in Charlotte and state government officials in Raleigh can duke it out all they want (the actual merits of such a silly fight we’ll leave to another day), but the “Great State of Mecklenburg” complex Charlotteans have developed mustn’t need destroy any natural camaraderie we have with LGBT community leaders, activists and community members living in the state’s capital city. In fact, folks in Raleigh likely have a lot to teach Charlotte queer folk, who seem to be living in a not-so-modern world more suited to the late-1980s and early-1990s than today’s vibrant, inclusive and diverse society — an LGBT-inclusive political and social culture that has already developed in Tar Heel cities like Asheville, Boone, Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Durham, Greensboro, Winston-Salem and, yes, Raleigh.
It’s no coincidence that Raleigh has a stronger, more active LGBT community center and other LGBT community organizations than Charlotte. It’s also worth noting: the City of Raleigh and its elected officials actually held a public, on-the-record vote protecting LGB city workers… nearly a quarter-century ago.
Photo Credit: GoodNightRaleigh.com
The Christian Action League, perhaps among one of the most far-right, anti-LGBT hate groups in North Carolina, posted yesterday an extraordinary insight into their religiously-bigoted efforts to write discrimination into our state constitution and further increase the hate-filled, divisive politics that has become the brand of modern-day right-wing ideologues.
The Rev. Rocky Carpenter, pastor of Harmony Community Church in Peachland, N.C., has started up a weekly prayer effort to guide Tar Heel bigots in their quest to constitutionalize discrimination against LGBT people in North Carolina. “Harmony,” it seems, is a state of being to which queer folk don’t get access.
From the Christian Action League:
“At the first Vote FOR Marriage NC meeting I went to, Tami Fitzgerald (Vote FOR Marriage NC chairwoman) asked for a prayer leader. God quickened my heart, and after praying for a week, I called her to let her know that I was the man to lead the prayer effort,” said the Rev. Carpenter. He said his beautiful wife of 27 years, four children and two grandchildren were also among the reasons he stepped up to the plate.
“We must preserve marriage God’s way,” he added. “God is calling his elect to boldly and lovingly stand for the preservation of marriage according to his word in this great state of North Carolina!”
He said to be victorious in this battle, Christians should “pray without ceasing” and “enlist as many as possible to pray.”
For that reason he is calling on pastors and their congregations to use their e-mail and social networking sites to spread the word about the importance of defending traditional marriage and the need to call on God for his help. He said it will take pastors to lead the charge, but that all believers should be joining in prayer since James 5:16 promises that “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
The Rev. Carpenter is also designating Friday of each week as the Vote FOR Marriage NC corporate prayer day since the sixth day of the week corresponds to the sixth day of creation when, according to Gen. 1:26-28, God created man and woman.
According to the anti-gay activist group, Carpenter is asking folks to pray for three outcomes (again from Christian Action League):
- “Pray for the salvation of our gay and lesbian neighbors (Isaiah 59:1,2),” he wrote, reminding recipients of the message that homosexuals are not the enemy (Ephesians 6:12).
- He also asked for prayer for Vote FOR Marriage coalition leaders (1 Tim. 2:1,2), for workers (Matthew 9:37, 38), and for financial provision (2 Cor. 9:7).
- Most of all, he challenged marriage supporters to pray that “God would be glorified in this effort! (Rev. 4:11)”
I hereby propose an alternative to Carpenter’s prayer Fridays: On Fridays through May 8, I hope you’ll join me for “Freaky Fanatic Friday” tweets, highlighting some of the insane and horrendously bigoted comments being made by anti-gay activists in North Carolina.
- Gay “have to wear a diaper or a butt plug just to be able to contain their bowels.” Patrick L. Wooden, Upper Room Church of God in Christ, Raleigh, N.C.
- “I know of a case where in a hospital a homosexual male had a cellphone lodged in his anus and as they were operating on him the phone went off, the phone started ringing!” Patrick L. Wooden.
- Gay sex “will most certainly mean the extinction of the human race.” Patrick L. Wooden.
- Gay people are a “darkened, twisted, immense depository of depravity.” Rev. Ron Baity, Berean Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, N.C.
- Loving, committed same-sex couples are “greatest threat to marriage and morality in this country.” N.C. Family Policy Council.
- On the amendment: ”It’s also to put a big letter of shame on the behavior. We don’t want them here. We don’t want them marrying. If you’re going to do it in San Francisco, it’s your own business.” Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James.
- “The public in my opinion knows the difference between perversity and diversity.” Mecklenburg County Commissioner Bill James.
- Homosexuality is “caused by something radically wrong with the human heart!” Rev. Mark Creech, Christian Action League.
- Homosexuality is “unnatural,” “biologically destructive,” caused by “abuse or acquired taste.” N.C. Family Policy Council.
- Durham lesbian blogger Pam Spaulding needs “man [to] rock her world, in the name of the Lord.” Patrick L. Wooden.
An aerial photograph showing the construction of the new I-85 bridge over the Yadkin River at the Davidson County and Rowan County lines. Credit: N.C. DOT, via Flickr.
The Charlotte Observer published a short piece on Gov. Bev Perdue’s and state transportation official’s press conference yesterday on recently-begun highway construction projects in and around the Charlotte-metro area. In particular, the governor focused on the widening of I-85 through Cabarrus County, the construction of northern junction of I-85 and I-485 and the completion of the final 5.7-mile leg of I-485 in northeast Charlotte.
The Charlotte-metro aren’t the only current interstate projects that will benefit the growing Queen City. A bit farther up I-85 and north of the already-widened portion in Rowan County, work crews are busy building a new bridge and roadway to both replace the decrepit Yadkin River bridge and widen the interstate. Continue reading this post…