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Communicating the conservative Christian message about homosexuality:

Evangelical Christians attack Homosexuals
Homosexuals attack Evangelical Christians
Evangelical attacks other Evangelicals
...fortunately all verbally

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Sponsored link:

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Communicating a message to sexual minorities at OutFest:

Repent America (RA) is an Evangelical Christian group, centered in Philadelphia, PA, with "a passion to serve the Lord." They are "devoted to reaching the lost, so that they may be saved and come unto the knowledge of the Truth." 1 Their web site implies that they believe that God inspired the authors of the Bible to write inerrant text, free of errors. One of their major activities is to "...declare the WORD OF GOD in front of the abortuaries and sexually perverse establishments, and at the homosexual parades and other sin celebrations and call them to repentance." The term "abortuaries" is a common conservative Christian term to refer to women's clinics that perform abortions.

A major part of their effort is to attend pro-gay meetings and attempt to communicate their interpretation of the Bible to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals and their supporters. These demonstrations are normally protected from prosecution by the freedom of speech provisions of the Bill of Rights. However, something went terribly wrong during 2004-OCT-11. The leader of Repent America, Michael Marcavage and seven to ten other Pennsylvanians 2 attended a publicly-funded event called OutFest. This is a large annual gay, bisexual and transsexual positive celebration of National Coming Out Day when sexual minorities are encouraged to leave the "closet" and go public. It is staged in Philadelphia, PA, is organized by Philly Pride Presents, and is apparently the largest celebration of this type in America. 3

For 15 years, OutFest celebrations had been conducted without incident. However, 11 demonstrators appeared at Outfest 2003 on 2003-OCT-12 carrying very inflammatory signs such as "God Abhors You" and "AIDS: Judgement or Cure." [sic] The latter sign apparently means that the high death rate from AIDS is either a specific judgment by God against homosexuals, or is an attempt by God to "cure" the gay population by exterminating them. If it is the latter, then it is an inefficient way for God to commit genocide because lesbians have a much lower HIV infection rate than either male gays or heterosexuals. Also shown was the common Evangelical saying "Adam & Eve NOT Adam & Steve," referring to the creation stories in Genesis where God is said to have created the first man and woman.

At Outfest 2004, on 2004-OCT-11, the demonstrators reappeared with bullhorns and 10 to 12 foot high signs. One featured flames, informing gays that they were all destined for eternal torture in Hell. OutFest volunteers carried pink Styrofoam panels in the shape of angels, and formed a human chain to confine the demonstrators. They backed off when the police asked them to. "Pink Angels" from the OutFest organizers then sounded whistles whenever the demonstrators attempted to speak on their bullhorns. According to Repent America (RA) the organizers blew whistles directly into the demonstrators' ears. According to the OutFest web site, a demonstrator berated a transgender woman three times using a bullhorn; she was told "your mirror lied to you this morning; you have 5 o'clock shadow." According to RA, they merely quoted the Gospel and sang religious songs.

The police allegedly gave the demonstrators a direct order to move. They refused, were arrested, and charged with a range of crimes such as disorderly conduct, failure to disperse and obstructing a highway. Michael Marcavage, who led the group, was also charged with initiating a riot and ethnic intimidation. Saying "fighting words" -- a legal term for speech which could lead to a riot -- is a crime under the Pennsylvania Crimes Code (18 Pa.C.S.A. §5501). So is  "ethnic intimidation," (18 Pa.C.S.A. §2710). The demonstrators were jailed for 21 hours and then released. 5

The Philadelphia Inquirer criticized RA for invading the festival with bullhorns and signs; they also criticized the felony charges against RA members as being "over the top." In 2004-DEC, charges against six defendants were dismissed. The charges against the remaining demonstrators were subsequently also dismissed. According to World Magazine, "Judge Pamela Dembe said that free speech extends to Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, so it also extends to RA...[She said] 'Messages may be repulsive and offensive but people are allowed to make them'." 6

RA filed a "Petition for Review" on 2005-APR-15 with the Pennsylvania government in an attempt to repeal the state Ethnic Intimidation Statute. RA states that the original legislation was written to prohibit the destruction of farm property. The legislature later augmented the bill to outlaw intimidation of people based on their "actual or perceived...ancestry, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity."  A "Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and for Preliminary Injunction" was also filed to prevent the statute from being enforced in the future. 7 Representative Tom Yewcic (D-Cambria County) has introduced H.B. 204 to repeal the text added to the hate law. The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee on 2005-FEB-02. Seventeen State Representatives support it. 8

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Response by Marvin Olasky of Word magazine:

Word magazine is an Evangelical Christian weekly periodical. Editor Marvin Olasky was critical of the Repent America (RA) communication techniques. He quoted Bill Devlin, head of the Urban Family Council as saying: "RA's tactics are 'a classic case of the messenger getting in the way of the message'." Referring to the RA confrontational methods, Olasky asked: "How does that show Christ's compassion?  I posed such questions to Mr. Marcavage. He said, 'In this nation most people are proud, self-righteous, and arrogant. They don't want to hear what the Bible says....A proud, self-righteous sinner needs the preaching of the law before the preaching of the gospel.' He argued further, with good evidence, that 'the gospel presented in many modern-day churches isn't biblical. They miss the message of repentance and shy away from mentioning hell and judgment....The Bible says Christians are a peculiar people. That's what gets reported on.' Concerning criticism of RA, he argued, 'It doesn't matter what we say. This is what we should expect from the world. They killed all the prophets'."

At his class in the course Journalism and Religion at the University of Texas Olasky asked his students for their top-of-the-head response to the question: "How do Christians act?" Some typical answers were: "Fanatical." "Cram religion down others' throats." "Trying to force others to do everything their way." "Bossing, not helping, others."

He recommends that Evangelicals abandon the use of the bull horn and mass confrontational techniques. He suggest that they love their neighbors, and approach them one at a time, quietly, while humbly communicating God's truths to them. He concludes: "We are to love God not only with all our heart, soul, and strength, but also with all our mind. That means constantly reexamining our own understanding and tactics." 6

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Criticism by Michael Peroutka to Marvin Olasky's response:

Michael Pertoutka described the confrontation at OutFest 2004 in Covenant News. He wrote: "....Michael Marcavage and some of his fellow Christians tried to peacefully preach the Gospel at a homosexual block party known as 'Outfest'." Meanwhile, the demonstrators were "...surrounded by angry homosexuals who blocked their Christian signs. Loud, shrill whistles were blown in the ears of the Christians. Vile language was screamed at the Christians."

He denied that the comment by Judge Pamela Dembe hurt Evangelical Christianity. She had grouped Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, and  RA together and said that their "Messages may be repulsive and offensive but people are allowed to make them" 6 Pertoutka saw no problem in the demonstrator's flaming sign which told the crowd that they were going to Hell. He said that this shows Christ's compassion because God says that unrepentant homosexuals are going to Hell unless they are saved. He added that: "...it always shows the compassion of Christ to tell people what God says....God is also about WRATH. God's Word tells us that God is also a jealous God, a consuming fire, a God who will by no means clear the guilty. To talk about God and leave Hell out of the picture is to preach an incomplete Gospel."

He suggests that Marvin Olasky should apologize for his negative comments about RA's intervention at OutFest 2004. He suggests that there is a place for both quiet one-on-one evangelism, and confrontational intervention. 9

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Repent America's web site is at: http://www.repentamerica.com/.
  2. Sources differ about the number of attendees from Repent America.
  3. Philly Pride Presents' web site is at: http://www.phillypride.org/
  4. "The Arrest of 11 Demonstrators at Outfest 2004," Philly Pride Presents, at: http://www.phillypride.org/ This is probably a temporary listing.
  5. Lynn Vincent, "The Philly Five: CULTURE: Prosecutors say Christian activists put forth felony 'fighting words'," World Magazine, 2005-JAN-29, at: http://www.worldmag.com/
  6. Marvin Olasky, "How to hurt evangelism. In-your-face protests may distort, not amplify, the message, World Magazine, 2005-MAR-05, at: http://www.worldmag.com
  7. "Christians challenge Pennsylvania's hate law," Repent America, 2005-APR-18, at: http://www.repentamerica.com/
  8. The text of House Bill 204, Session of 2005, is online at: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/
  9. Michael A. Peroutka, "Homosexuals Attack Christians; Marvin Olasky Attacks Christians," posted 2005-APR-28, at: http://www.covenantnews.com/

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Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-APR-28
Latest update: 2005-APR-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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