Although gay rights and anti-hate groups responded with outrage when a North Carolina pastor called for gays and lesbians to be fenced in so they eventually die off, he was greeted with a standing ovation by his church members when he approached the pulpit, the Hickory Record reported.
“I appreciate all the support,” Pastor Charles Worley told the 100 or so congregants at Providence Road Baptist Church near Maiden, N.C., on Sunday, according to the Record. Several members stood and spoke out; others threw up their hands in support of their pastor.
“I’ve got a King James Bible,” Worley said, according to the Record. “I’ve been a preacher for 53 years. Do you think I’m going to bail out on this?”
Demonstrators wanted him to do just that.
More than 1,000 people gathered in front of the Justice Center in nearby Newton waving signs with messages such as "Will God judge me for loving or hating?" and "Don't Fence Me In," Reuters reported. Some people dressed in rainbow colors, and entire families chanted "Preach Love Not Hate."
The protest was in response to a sermon the 71-year-old Worley delivered on May 13, Mother’s Day, apparently in response to President Barack Obama’s public endorsement a few days earlier of same-sex marriage. Just a day before Obama’s announcement, North Carolina voters approved by a considerable margin a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and same-sex civil unions in their state.
In the sermon, an animated Worley told the congregation of his independent Baptist church:
“I figured a way out, a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers but I couldn’t get it pass the Congress – build a great big large fence, 50 or a hundred mile long. 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.
“And you know what? In a few years they will die out. You know why? They can’t reproduce. If a man ever has a young'un, praise God he will be the first.”
Worley continued, his voice rising: “I tell ya right now, somebody said, 'Who you gonna vote for?' I ain’t gonna vote for a baby killer and a homosexual lover! You said, ‘Did you mean to say that?’ You better believe I did!”
Worley’s speech went viral after the Catawba Valley Citizens Against Hate grabbed a clip from the church’s web site and posted it on YouTube, Reuters reported.
But Worley may have hindered the efforts of those who champion his cause, Jay Michaelson, author of “Gay vs. God? The Religious Case for Equality” wrote on Huffington Post. He said that Worley’s comments are “undermining the efforts of more moderate gay-bashers like the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins to disguise anti-gay bias as something other than hatred.”
Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, also condemned Pastor Worley’s statements.
“Pastor Worley's vicious and mean-spirited assault on gays and lesbians is bad enough,” Lynn said. “His pulpit command that people not vote for President Obama is a violation of federal tax law. I urge the IRS to act swiftly to investigate this matter."
A religious watchdog group has filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service, asking that it investigate the church’s tax-exempt status. Federal law prohibits non-profit groups from endorsing candidates.
David Freidman, the regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, which fights hate speech, said Worley owed the gay and lesbian community a “swift and unequivocal apology.”
Another Baptist church with a similar name was targeted by people angered by Worley’s sermon. The Providence Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., distanced itself from Worley, calling his words “hateful and violent.”
The church web site specifies that it is a “moderate” cooperative Baptist Fellowship congregation of approximately 2,000 members.
“Jesus is our model for living and His presence is our source of strength for life,” said a statement on the church’s web site. “Jesus preached a Gospel of love. So do we. Jesus preached that we love our neighbor, whether that neighbor is like us or not.”
Anthea Butler, associate professor of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, joins The Last Word to discuss the violent rhetoric coming from churches on marriage equality.
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