“They Really Crossed the Line”: ETSU Students Ask For Action Against Aggressive Street Preachers

The East Tennessee State University Campus was visited today by a few familiar, yet unwelcome, guests. Two preachers, Buddy Fisher and his cohort Jeremiah, who claim to be part of the Official Street Preachers and the Bible Believers Fellowship, were here in the Borchuk Plaza harassing and yelling at students. They had several signs on them, one that warned that atheists, drunks, liars, sexual perverts, and religious hypocrites, would all go to hell forever, and another sign that read, “Let the wicked forsake his way”.

Pictured: Buddy Fisher (left), Jeremiah (right)

When I asked what “religious hypocrites” were, the answer I was given was “Catholics”. “Catholics are not Christians,” Jeremiah said, “they’re apostates.”

The two identify themselves as evangelical, more Southern Baptist aligned, though Fisher said he does not go to church at this time.

The two preached for six hours straight. Most of the “preaching” consisted of screaming at any female students that walked by, and calling them “sluts” and “whores”. Fisher said women do not deserve equal rights and that all rape victims deserved to be raped. “Rape is God’s punishment for being a whore.” he told one female student, who was in tears.

Homosexuality was a popular topic as well. “Guess what homo, you won’t live to see forty!” Fisher screamed into one gay student’s face, telling him that he and all of his friends would be dead soon from AIDS, God’s punishment for homosexuality according to Fisher. Over the course of the day, the preachers claimed that being gay is a sin, that being gay is a choice, and that God hates all gay people. Nothing I haven’t heard before, but “you won’t live to see forty” sent chills down my spine.

They also handed out cards to students, that had different words listed on them. Yoga pants, homosexuality, tight jeans, apostate, abortion, and “filthy speech”, were just a few.

The response to the preachers’ message was overwhelmingly, if not entirely, negative, and a few students decided to protest with signs. Among them, two women holding signs that read “Jesus loves all” and “God loves all races, religions, and sexualities.” I spoke to one of the women, named Lennie, and asked her, “Are you Christians?” she responded, “Yes, but [the preachers] aren’t.” She turned back Fisher then, and told him, “You’re full of hatred and heresy, God loves everyone!” I came to find out that she was not only a fellow Catholic but part of the LGBTQ community as well.

Pictured: ETSU students Lennie (left) and Miranda (right)

I hurriedly scribbled my own make-shift sign on a piece of notebook paper that read “God makes all love beautiful” and we stood as proud LGBTQ Catholics to protest. While I am proud of how my ETSU peers responded to these hateful bigoted men, I’m even more proud that out of the thirty or so students who showed up to challenge them, that it was the LGBTQ Catholics that actually protested, and were the most vocal in their defiance.

During the six hours the preachers were active, several groups of high school students touring the campus passed by. I’m willing to bet that being called a whore or a homo as one passes by the library is not something that makes students want to come to ETSU. If I had been in their shoes and witnessed this on my first visit to ETSU, I never would have considered attending. I would be asking myself, is this campus safe for me? Does the ETSU administration actually care about its students? Is this an institution of higher learning, or a complete joke?

Dr. Noland, University President, came by to talk to students after the preachers had gone. Many students voiced to him that they felt the preachers had crossed the line. It’s not about religion, it’s about harassment. The preachers were not there to engage or debate, merely to insult, harass, and demean students. President Noland said it was a matter of free speech and Tennessee law that required the university to allow it. Some students felt that allowing the preachers to scream at students trying to enter the library was interfering with the education they had paid thousands of dollars for, and I wholeheartedly agree. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the ETSU administration is going to take any steps moving forward to prevent this from happening again.

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“Salty and Sweet”: TGC Tweeted about Gender Binaries and Got Everything Really Wrong

The Gospel Coalition (@TGC) is known for spreading its toxic theology on Twitter. They describe themselves as “a coalition of Christ followers from around the world, banding together to renew the contemporary church in the ancient gospel.” If only that were true. A few homophobic tweets here, some sexist virginity-obsessed tweets there, The Gospel Coalition is the complete package of bigotry and backwards world views.

They made a tweet pretty recently that I thought was even more ridiculous and hilarious than the usual nonsense they tweet, and I just haven’t been able to forget it.

We live in a world of binaries—man and woman, light and dark, land and sea, salty and sweet—that bring structure, coherence, and irresistible beauty to life.

-The Gospel Coalition (@TGC) 7/28/18

That’s quite an interesting point, given the fact that literally none of these things are binary. Bizarre evangelical logic at its finest. Trust me, I wasn’t the only person on Twitter who caught on to what a nonsensical message this is.

Between light and dark exists dusk and dawn. Sunrises and sunsets. Between land and sea exists shores, beaches, and tide pools. Do these things not represent the “irresistible beauty of life”?

The binary of salty and sweet is even more ridiculous. As if taste is a binary experience. The human palate has five basic tastes: salty, sweet, sour, savory, and bitter. My favorite candy happens to be salted caramel. So, obviously plenty of things exist outside of the “binary” of salty or sweet, or are both salty and sweet.

The Gospel Coalition made this tweet to promote their article called “The Beauty of Complementarity Goes Beyond Gender”, in which they use apologetics to elaborate on their point about binaries, about how transgender people aren’t real and homosexuality is wrong. They use more weird food analogies to explain how gender roles are biblical, and it’s certainly more apologetics than logic.

“Is food gendered? It sounds ridiculous. But what does it mean that my wife and I immediately knew that brats and fries for dinner were more appropriate to celebrate our baby boy than kale and candied beets? What does it mean that everyone in that Vancouver restaurant knew which bathroom to use, simply by the ‘meat’ or ‘bread’ signs on the door? Why is it that meat and bread—or meat and vegetables—pair so well together?”

I agree that it sounds ridiculous, and that’s because it is. First everything is binary, now everything has to be gendered. Conservatives often say trans people are “obsessed with gender”, but we’re not the ones assigning genitalia to food. Meat is male and bread is female? Do I really have to point out that human gender and sexuality is a maybe, just maybe, a little bit deeper than what this article gives it credit for? As a human being, I’d like to think my role in society, and the complex psychology behind my identity is more than can be explained by, “bread and meat taste good together, therefore homosexuality is wrong”. We are not meat and bread, or “locks and keys” as the article also says, that are “useless on their own” but perfect together, we are people.

How sad a life of imaginary binaries must be. Imagine wanting so badly to defend the transphobic binary view of gender that your whole world view becomes binary and limited. You miss all of the “irresistible beauty to life” that exists on the spectrum, all of the experiences beyond strict binaries and restricted thinking.

Kent State Shuts Down Gun Girl: “Didn’t You Get a Job?”

“Kent State Gun Girl” Kaitlin Bennett was planning an “open carry rally” on the Kent State University campus for September 29th, one that would involve a hoard of people bringing weapons like assault rifles (Kaitlin’s favorite) and other guns onto the campus. Kent State told her that this violates university policy, which led to the meltdown that was recorded and posted on her twitter (@KaitMarieox).

She recorded herself harassing university staff, who immediately shut her down. The woman heard speaking to Kaitlin in the video, Denise Evans, tells Kaitlin repeatedly, “You’re not a student here.” after Kaitlin demands a meeting and refuses to give them her email.

Kaitlin calls her “rude and unprofessional”, to which Evans responds, “I’m not being rude, I’m just stating a fact. I wonder why you’re hanging around here so much. Didn’t you get a job?” When Kaitlyn gets offended, Evans adds, “I just think it’s strange.”

Kent State has asked that Kaitlin cease and desist her advertising for this rally because it goes against university policy. The university said she did not register her event or obtain approval, which would require her to obtain a sponsorship from a student organization or university department.

It’s pretty obvious that Kent State University officials are sick of Kaitlin drawing negative attention to the university. Kaitlin was just on campus filming herself “undercover” last week asking Kent State students if they knew who she was. She dawned a goofy disguise (just a hat and glasses) and the response to her being on campus is overwhelmingly negative. In her video, students call her a “shithead” to her face, which makes me wonder why she keeps coming back to where she isn’t welcome or wanted.

Kaitlin, apparently, wants some kind of special treatment, but the message from her alumni is clear. Get a job, get a life, and stop hanging around campus all the time. You got attention for bringing an assault rifle onto a university campus, and now your 15 minutes of infamy is up.


Additional sources:

Kent Wired

A Man With a Gun on My First Day of School

This past week was my first week of classes at my university. The first week, on the first day, in the first hour of my first class, I was locked into the classroom as campus-wide sirens went off. A construction worker on campus had pulled a gun on someone else, and sent the whole university into a state of panic.

For what seemed like forever, no one had any idea what was going on. I was huddled inside with all of my professors and classmates, everyone was calling their parents, some people were crying. We had little information, which only added to the panic. What we heard was “man” and “gun” and very little else. The thought was in everyone’s minds: was there an active shooter? Are we going to be yet another university with a tragic mass shooting?

Fortunately, the situation was dissolved within the hour, and the man was arrested. One person was injured, but no one was killed. It was a terrifying and traumatic day that only serves as a reminder of the kind of world we live in.

There were all kinds of people in that room, Republicans, Democrats, people on both sides of the gun control debate, but there was no denying it, the fear in that room was palpable. Everyone, even the most hardcore right-wingers, were on their phones with their mothers and fathers, scared like they’d never been in their entire lives.

It’s easy to talk theoretically about gun control, but it’s another to sit locked in a classroom and think about the real life consequences of putting so many guns in so many hands. I, thankfully, only got a small taste of that reality, but I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be inside Sandy Hook Elementary, or Stoneman Douglas High School, or any of the ever-growing number of schools that have endured mass shootings.

I hope that anyone who advocates for things like more guns on college campuses or looser open carry laws will take the time to picture themselves locked in a classroom, listening to their mother crying, wondering if their first day at school is going to be their last.

Do Transgender People…? Answering the Most Googled Questions About Trans People

I went to the internet to find the most searched questions on Google about transgender people, so I could answer them. Most of them are very vague, very generic, so I answered them as best I could. First and foremost, before I get into the questions themselves, I have to point out that most of the questions were phrased as, “Do transgenders…?” instead of, “Do transgender people…?” Transgender is an adjective, not a noun. I am not “a transgender”, I am transgender. It may seem like a small linguistic thing, but calling us “transgenders” isn’t just grammatically incorrect, it’s also very “other”-ing and derogatory. In the spirit of that, I also did not answer any overtly offensive questions and picked the ones that seemed more or less genuine.

Do trans guys go bald?

It depends on genetics and on whether or not he chooses to take testosterone. If a trans guy goes on testosterone, then his odds of going bald increase. Testosterone will also change his hairline. Just like cis men typically go bald more often than cis women, if baldness runs in the family, then baldness becomes more likely.

Do trans people have periods?

Yes and no. Some do and some don’t. AFAB trans people who go on testosterone treatments will eventually stop having periods within 1 month to a year of being on testosterone. If they choose to have a hysterectomy, they will obviously never get a period again.

Do transgender people need hormones forever?

If a trans person stops their hormone treatments then the effects of the hormones will start to wear off (though some effects are permanent) because their body will start producing the opposite hormone again that it naturally produces. The affects of the hormones are not completely permanent so unless the person chooses to stop taking them, they will need to take them forever to keep the effects of the hormone. For example, if a transmasculine person stops taking testosterone, their body will resume estrogen production and lose some of the effects of the testosterone, e.g. loss of muscle mass gained, loss of lower vocal range, etc.

If a trans person has certain surgeries that prevent natural hormone production from resuming, then ceasing hormone replacement could be dangerous to their health and cause things like osteoporosis later in life. We all need hormones to be healthy, so yes, transgender people do need hormones forever.

Do transgender people have surgeries?

Some do and some don’t, it’s up to the individual to decide. There are many surgeries a transgender people may choose to have. Common surgeries transmasculine people include mastectomy, hysterectomy, and phalloplasty. Common surgeries for transfeminine people include breast implants, Adam’s Apple reduction, and vaginoplasty. Not all transgender people choose to have surgery, and that’s completely okay. Those people’s identities are just as valid as those who choose to have surgery.

Do transgender people get married?

Um, Duh?

Do transgender people have rights?

This question is extremely vague, but it really depends on the location. In some countries, being transgender is illegal and is punishable by the death penalty. For the U.S., it’s also a question of federal vs. state law. For a more detailed list of transgender rights state by state and on the federal level, click here: LGBT Employment Discrimination in the U.S.

Remember, every transgender person is an individual. The answer to any question might be a “yes” from one person, and a “no” from another.

Homophobic Anti-LGBTQ Rhetoric from the TN Baptist Mission Board

The Tennessee Baptist Mission Board is the parent organization of the Baptist Collegiate Ministry at ETSU. Throughout this post, keep in mind that Jonathan Chapman, the BCM minister at ETSU, is a staff member of the TN Baptist Mission Board and that the ETSU BCM is one of the TN Baptist Mission Board’s many college ministries. I already posted about the BCM minister’s homophobic comments, if you haven’t read it, I suggest you take a quick look before reading this next section. Now, let’s catalogue the even more horrible statements made by the ETSU BCM’s parent organization, the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.

The Tennessee Baptist Mission Board is fully, clearly, unwaveringly, and unmistakably, anti-gay. There are, in every way, not only non-affirming, but staunchly homophobic. On the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board website, you can find “Resources for the Protection of Biblical Marriage“, which clearly states their beliefs that homosexuality is a sin and that marriage should be between a man and a woman, period. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Here’s a screenshot of a tweet they made against gay marriage back in 2015 when it was legalized nationwide by the Supreme Court.

I find it ironic that they shared a picture of an interracial marriage, which used to be illegal just like gay marriage was. “God defines marriage” was the logic Evangelicals used to oppose the legalization of interracial marriage, just like they’re doing today to oppose the legalization of gay marriage. It’s hilarious to me that the TN Baptist Mission Board decided to share this photo as an example of what God’s definition of marriage is, given that Evangelicals have a history of changing their interpretation of the Bible in order to make it fit their political agenda. First it was interracial marriage, now it’s gay marriage.

The @tnbaptist Twitter account is full of tweets like that one in opposition to same-sex relationships.

I mean, really full of it.

On July 22, 2015, the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board posted the following in their Facebook page,

“Friends, if you want to know what apostasy looks like, read this article. Inconceivable that any professing Christian would affirm same-sex marriage, but this article points out the mainline denominations that have affirmed the SCOTUS ruling AND amended their denominational documents to allow for it. Thank God for godly leaders like our Tenn. state exec Randy C. Davis and SBC president Ronnie Floyd who stand firm on the biblical definition of marriage. Pray for repentance and a return to Scripture!”

After that, on March 5, 2016, they tweeted the link to an article by Liberty Counsel called “Alabama Supreme Court Rejects U. S. Supreme Court’s Marriage Opinion” about the state of Alabama attempting (and failing) to reject the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage. In the tweet they refer to the legalization of gay marriage as an “assault on marriage”, and seem to support Alabama’s attempt to keep gay marriage illegal. In the article, gay marriage is called a “disgrace to human nature”.

Jonathan Chapman, the BCM minister himself, retweeted an article in July 2015 called “Thinking Biblically About Same-Sex Marriage” which contains a list of homophobic articles explicitly and clearly denouncing homosexuality and gay marriage. Now, why would a minister who “doesn’t have a problem” with gay people tweet that article?

It gets worse.

Here’s another one of their tweets:

This. Is. Unbelievable. Can you believe there are now groups pushing for the legalization of incestuous marriage?…[article link]

-TNBaptist Mission Bd @tnbaptist 9/1/16

The article they linked to in that tweet was posted to their Facebook account from their website, “Baptist and Reflector”. As you could probably guess from the tweet, it’s about incest. It’s called “Slippery Slope Gets Slipperier” which is ironic because “slippery slope” is the logical fallacy they use to argue that accepting gay marriage will lead to accepting incestuous marriage. Yes, this article is entirely about how accepting gay relationships leads to acceptance of incest and how our country has become morally bankrupt because of the legalization of gay marriage.

Here are the opening paragraphs from that article:

“When the United States Supreme Court redefined the biblical definition of marriage slightly more than a year ago to allow for homosexual marriage, some Christians thought it couldn’t get any worse.

They were wrong. The slippery slope continues to get more slippery with each passing day.

Even before the first anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, the issue of transgender men and women had made national headlines. Laws were passed to allow men and women to use the restroom of their choice, regardless of natural gender.”

Can we talk about the phrase “Christians thought it couldn’t get any worse”? What a wonderfully privileged fantasy world it must be to think gay Christians don’t exist. To say “Christians thought” is implying that not only are there no gay Christians, but that all Christians think exactly the same. I guess in the brainwashed Evangelical world, they think whatever they’re told to think.

According to Reverend Rob Armstrong, the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board also “voted unanimously to support a resolution affirming that only God has the authority define marriage.”

You can read that resolution here, in full:

Anyway, there you have it. Here is what the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, the organization responsible for the ETSU Baptist Collegiate Ministry, thinks about the LGBTQ community.

Maddie, the Transgender 12-Year-Old Afraid for Her Life

Pictured here are screenshots of disturbing comments made by adults and parents about a 12-year-old girl.

Late last week, a group of parents posted violent and hateful messages on Facebook about a 12-year-old transgender girl named Maddie. The comments were posted to a Facebook group called “Achille ISD Parents Group” meant for parents with children in the Achille Independent School District. Furious over the fact that Maddie had used the girl’s bathroom on her first day of 7th grade, they made comments referring to her as a “maggot”, a “thing”, and “it”. One person suggested telling the other kids to beat or harm Maddie if she’s tries to use the bathroom. Another suggested someone should “make [Maddie] a female” by using “a good sharp knife.”

Maddie’s parents were rightfully afraid for their child’s safety, as was her school, which is why the Achille Superintendent Rick Beene shut down the school Wednesday, August 15. “She’s an awesome kid,” Brandy Rose, Maddie’s mother, said, “To see any fear in her, I can’t explain how bad that hurts me for them to hurt her.” An Oklahoma City civil rights attorney by the name of Troy Stevenson said the comments made by parents about Maddie are “horrific.” He’s now encouraging the public to stand up for Maddie, by contacting the Achille Superintendent Rick Beene and local police.

“They were actually inciting physical violence, quite possibly the murder of this twelve-year-old young person, this little girl,” he said, “They have the freedom of speech, but you don’t have the freedom to incite violence against anyone much less a twelve-year-old child.”

On Friday, August 10, an emergency protective order was filed by Maddie’s parents in Bryan County Court against Burney Crenshaw, whose name you might recognize from the Achille ISD Parents Group. Jamie Crenshaw, the woman who posted the “warning” about Maddie in the group, is his wife.

It’s disgusting to see adults attacking a child for nothing more than being who she is. Maddie is an innocent little girl who deserves to be safe at school. She deserves to be able to use the bathroom when she needs to without the threat of violence from grown adults or anyone else.

Supporters of Maddie are circulating a hashtag on Twitter, #love4maddie, hoping to show Maddie that she’s not alone. The Oklahoma City PFLAG chapter has created a way for people to send letters of love to Maddie and her family, which you can do here: tinyurl.com/love4maddie


Sources:

Think Progress

News 9

Hate Trackers

“Jilly Juice”: The Cabbage Juice That Can Cure Homosexuality

A 44-year-old Ohio woman named Jillian Epperly claims that her fermented cabbage juice can cure cancer, autism, ADHD, AIDS, type 2 diabetes, and regrow amputated limbs. If that’s not ridiculous enough, she also claims it can “cure” transgender people and homosexuality.

A few fun facts about Jillian are that she has no medical training or education and none of her claims are backed by the FDA. She’s anti-vaccine and believes that doctors purposefully keep people sick. Her claims have no basis in medical science whatsoever and she has absolutely no medical authority, no expert authority, and no authority to make these claims. And yet, she does anyway. She even appeared on The Dr.Phil Show and made these claims on national television.

Jillian says that the root of all disease is a stomach parasite called candida, and that her juice, called “the protocol” and known informally as “Jilly Juice”, is the cure-all. The ingredients? Salt, water, kale or cabbage, fermented at room temperature over a period of a few days.

According to PinkNews, Jillian has claimed that “the LGBT lifestyle is a possible mutation of the reproductive system that sends mixed signals to the brain.” and her juice might be able to help. Wow, who knew that the cure for being gay was just a little salt and some cabbage juice?

On the Frequently Asked Questions section of her website, it reads in part:

“Can this reverse homosexuality behaviors?

There are no claims this is an absolute outcome for people who fit within this context, however, once we understand the laws of nature, the laws of the Universe and the laws of the elemental composition of the human body, we can explore the possibilities what causes any type of behaviors to manifest.

If a person is using hormones to align their body to their mind, maybe the answer is the innate immune system, not the HRT or hormone replacement therapy. If a transgender male is taking exogenous testosterone to suppress female attributes, evidence suggests that the cause is a mutation in the reproductive glands from epigenetics and a rapid introduction of elements to the body throwing it off balance.  A reasonable explanation is to tap into the innate immune system using bio-available nutrients to allow the genes to express what the body was originally intended to be.”

Jillian uses a lot of big medical-sounding words that I’m sure are very impressive to all of the gullible people buying her cabbage water, but none of what she’s saying makes any sense whatsoever and none of it is even remotely true. I’m not sure where Jillian thinks she got the authority to talk about my body, but she needs to stay in her lane. Many people find Jillian’s claims outrageously offensive, as do I. She is clearly nothing more than a snake oil salesman who preys on the sick and the vulnerable.

As any real medical professional worth their salt will tell you, there is no “cure” for being LGBT because being LGBT isn’t something that needs to be cured, or should be cured. I’m proud to be gay and transgender, and no amount of fermented cabbage juice is going to ever change that.


Sources linked in red

Catholic Bishop Deletes His Twitter Account After Backlash

Thomas J. Tobin, the bishop of Providence, R.I., recently deleted his Twitter account after only five months on the platform. He said that Twitter had become an “occasion of sin for me and others”, as well as an obstacle and a distraction for him in his spiritual life. The decision to delete his account came immediately after he received some backlash over tweets he made related to victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clerics, specifically former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

One tweet read,

“Despite the egregious offenses of a few, and despite the faults and sins we all have, I’m very proud of my brother bishops and I admire and applaud the great work they do everyday for Christ and His Church,”

-Thomas J. Tobin (@bishoptjt) July 19, 2018

An additional tweet read,

“If you find a perfect church out there somewhere, by all means, join it. But remember, the moment you join it, it will cease being perfect.”

-Thomas J. Tobin (@bishoptjt) July 19, 2018

Many people felt that the tone of these tweets was defensive, and inappropriate given the current McCarrick allegations. Michael Brendan Dougherty, a Catholic commentator, wrote in an article for the National Review that, “Tobin’s tweets read as the shrug of a man who long since gave up on the idea of actually protecting the flock from the wolves, and has taken to telling the surviving sheep not to be too disheartened that their friends and children continue to be devoured by his colleagues.”

Of course, this isn’t the first time Bishop Tobin has made an offensive or insensitive tweet. In one of my previous posts, “Father James Martin Tweets His Support For #PrideMonth”, I mentioned a tweet Bishop Tobin had made attacking the LGBTQ community. That tweet read,

“Catholics should be very wary of events in the June LGBTQ month. It’s not a fun-filled, family-friendly celebration of respect. It promotes a lifestyle and agenda that, in the extreme, is morally offensive.”

So, perhaps it’s a good thing that Bishop Tobin has decided to step away from this social media platform for a while. Hopefully, with spending less time on Twitter, he’ll use this time to grow spiritually and understand how his words have hurt others.

Fr. James Martin Defends Gay Priests Amid Cardinal McCarrick Abuse Allegations

Fr. James Martin, SJ is a Jesuit priest and friend to the LGBTQ community. I recently finished reading his book, Building a Bridge, about how the Catholic Church and the LGBTQ community can coexist in mutual respect and harmony.

Recently, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was accused of sexually abusing multiple minors during his time as a priest. As a cardinal, he is currently the highest ranking Catholic official to be accused of sexual abuse. On July 28, Pope Francis accepted his resignation from the College of Cardinals and ordered him to follow a life of “prayer and penance in seclusion” until further penalties will be given in a canonical trail. Cardinal McCarrick, as it turns out, is also gay. Many, including myself, are horrified and outraged at the horrible and evil actions of Cardinal McCarrick. However, some are unjustly pointing their outrage towards the LGBTQ community, blaming homosexuality for what Cardinal McCarrick has done. This does all victims of abuse, and the LGBTQ community, a grave injustice. Father Martin took to Facebook to address this, writing in a post on July 20th,

“Dear friends: Some comments on the connection between sex abuse and homosexuality in the Catholic priesthood, in the light of the Cardinal McCarrick case, and some ill-informed and outright homophobic commentary.

Being gay (or, more broadly, LGBT) does not make a person a pedophile, an ephebophile, or any other kind of sex abuser. How do we know this?

Answer: the example of millions of emotionally healthy and psychologically mature LGBT people who have never abused anyone–and never will abuse anyone.”

As Father Martin said, being gay does not make you an abuser or a pedophile, any more than being straight does. The LGBTQ community is already demonized by many inside and outside of the church. Shifting the blame to homosexuality and away from McCarrick’s choices hurts all of the great LGBTQ people who are already struggling to be accepted.

Father Martin continued,

“Moreover, we have the example of many healthy, faithful, dedicated gay priests who live out their promises of celibacy and vows of chastity and are beloved by their parishioners. I know scores, maybe hundreds, of them. And many of you do as well.

Then why does it seem like such a high percentage of gay priests are abusers? Because healthy celibate gay priests are usually not permitted to be open about their sexuality. (There are several notable exceptions: Fred Daley in Syracuse and Gregory Greiten in Milwaukee.)

Why are most of these men not ‘out’ yet? There are many reasons: Often their bishops or religious superiors will not give them permission; they are private people; or they are afraid (of stereotyping of the kind I’m discussing).”

Thus, in the absence of any other examples, the only public examples of gay priests ends up being notorious abusers, like Cardinal McCarrick.

By analogy, imagine if the only stories permitted to be published about one ethnic or religious group were about the criminals in that group. Soon the public would, quite naturally, see them as always and everywhere criminal.

A significant number of Catholic priests are gay—and chaste, in religious orders; and celibate in the priesthood. They lead lives of healthy service in the church. To paint them all as abusive or potentially abusive is a dangerous stereotype.”

I thought this was an excellent point. Often the only time we ever hear about gay priests is when a gay priest happens to abuse someone. If gay priests aren’t accepted and allowed to be open about their sexual orientation, then no one ever gets to see all of the good many of these priests do. Many of them are too scared, they don’t want to be looked down upon or stereotyped in a negative way, which leads to a continuing cycle of only negative news stories about gay priests. The positive stories never get told. “In short,” Father Martin concluded, “to say that being gay means being an abuser is the worst kind of stereotyping and should be avoided.”

This is not to defend McCarrick in any way whatsoever. What he did was a terrible, unforgivable thing, but other gay priests, who are good and wonderful people, shouldn’t have to be punished for his actions. Blaming homosexuality is shifting the blame away from the real heart of the issue. What we should be focusing our anger on is how many other church officials knew about McCarrick and let the abuse continue. What we should be focusing our anger on is the choices he made, and the choices that were made by others to cover it up.

“Sociopath with an automatic” Sentenced to 7 Years for Bringing Weapons, Explosive Materials to LA Pride

Just hours after the massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida in 2016 that claimed 49 lives, James Howell, 22, was arrested. A self-described “sociopath with an automatic”, he was arrested on his way to LA pride for taking an assault rifle and explosive materials to the parade. Authorities believe Howell might have been a potential copycat, considering the Pulse shooting had only happened hours before and Howell had brought weapons to a pride parade.

Police found three high-powered rifles, ammunition, and a bucket of materials that could be used to create a bomb. Additionally, it was reported that he had a knife, a taser, handcuffs, and other items that could be used for violence. According to the county district attorney’s office, Howell pleaded no contest in Los Angeles to one count each of possession of a destructive device, unlawful assault weapon activity, and malicious or reckless possession of a destructive device on a public street.

This was not Howell’s first arrest. He was on probation at the time for misdemeanor intimidation and wasn’t supposed to have any weapons at all. He was also wanted in connection for the sexual abuse of a 12-year-old girl in Indiana.

Fortunately, on Wednesday, July 25th, Howell was sentenced to seven years and four months in prison on weapons charges.

How does a man on probation get a hold of not one, not two, but three rifles? We will never know what James Howell planned to do with all of these weapons once he got to LA pride, but I’m sure we can all understand just how close this potentially got to disaster. While I’m thankful he was caught in time, it’s unnerving to know that this man, who is clearly dangerous, had such an easy access to lethal weapons.


Source: ABC 7

White Women to Latinx Neighbors: “Who Are You to Us?”

Carlos Ruiz, a resident of Commerce City, Colorado posted a video on his Facebook account the night of Monday, July 9th, showing his mother and sister being attacked by two white women. He identified the two white women as the 26-year-old twins that live across the street from him and his family.

According to Ruiz’s post, his mother was at a neighbor’s house when the two women started screaming racist remarks at her from across the street. They questioned how it was possible for Mexicans to be able to afford a house in that neighborhood.

When Ruiz’s mother started to walk back to her home, Ruiz said the two women ran across the street and attacked his mother, punching her and pulling her hair. His sister came outside to help her mother, which is when the two women began attacking her as well. The two white women threatened to call the police on Ruiz’s family and said, “Who do you think they are going to believe?”, which clearly shows that they knew their white privilege would protect them when the police showed up.

When police did show up, the two twins, seemingly drunk, continued to scream insults, one of which being “old fat Mexican bitches”. Both women were arrested and charged with bias-motivated assault and trespassing. Ruiz’s family also has a restraining order against them, but Ruiz says he’s looking to move to a different neighborhood.

It’s fairly evident from Ruiz’s video, and from the bias-motivated assault charge, that the incident was racially motivated. The two girls attacked Ruiz’s family because they are Latinx.

One of the things that really stood out to me about this attack is a phrase that one of the girls said over and over to Ruiz: “Who are you to us?”

Father James Martin, a Jesuit priest, pointed out on Twitter that “Who are you to us?” is a direct quote from the Gospels. Ti ἡμῖν καὶ σοί: Ti hēmin kai soi: Who are you to us? It is word for word what the demon-possessed man yells at Jesus in the synagogue in Capernaum (Mark 1:24). “It is the angry cry of evil when confronted with good.” Father Martin said. That is all I can think of when watching these two women attack this family, I shouldn’t have to point out the irony that these are their neighbors, either. “Who are you to us?” is nothing but the angry racist cry of two terrible women when confronted with good.

ETSU Baptist Collegiate Ministry is Homophobic

July 19, 2018- I recently became aware of a video that was made by the ETSU Baptist Collegiate Ministry in corroboration with the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board. The video features homophobic and anti-LGBTQ content, and has since been deleted after being viewed almost 5,000 times.

This is a video of ETSU’s campus and its purpose is to be a promotion for the ETSU Baptist Collegiate Ministry. The video features Jonathan Chapman, the Baptist Collegiate Campus Minister, who said,

“Well, there’s definitely a real sense of urgency here. I feel like we’re kind of on the cusp of the gates of hell. We’re the last stop. College campuses are ground zero for the battle for the souls of America’s young people, and I see it every day. Challenges related to gender identity, homosexuality, pornography, drug issues, poverty, deeply broken families, hostility towards God and Christianity and it goes on and on and on.”

At the mention of gender identity and homosexuality, the film shows two members of ETSU’s Sexuality and Gender Alliance Club, one of whom is visibly queer, and wearing a prideflag pin. I have spoken to both of them (names redacted) and neither say they consented to being filmed and feel that they were specifically targeted to be shown in this film because of its anti-LGBTQ message.

The film also shows two Muslim girls in hijabs walking when Jonathan Chapman mentions “hostility towards God and Christianity”. You expect me to believe those are both coincidences? That this film just so happened to show a queer student while talking about homosexuality, and two Muslim students when talking about hostility towards Christianity? This video unfairly makes these students targets for further harassment.

My apologies for the poor video quality, this is a screen recording of the partial video made before it was taken down. Notice that it has 4.8 thousand views, and 74 shares.

Listed under ETSU’s PPP-80 Discrimination & Harassment – Complaint & Investigation Procedure, discrimination and harassment are fully defined in regards to university policy:

Discrimination – Discrimination may occur by:

Treating individuals less favorably because of their race, color, religion, creed, ethnic or national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, disability, age (as applicable), status as a covered veteran, genetic information, or any other category protected by federal or state civil rights law; or,

Having a policy or practice that has a disproportionately adverse impact on protected class members.

Harassment – based on a protected class

Harassment is conduct that is based on a person’s race, color, religion, creed, ethnic or national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, disability, age (as applicable), status as a covered veteran, genetic information, or any other category protected by federal or state civil rights law that;

Adversely affects a term or condition of an individual’s employment, education, participation in an institution’s activities or living environment;

Has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s employment or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, offensive or abusive environment of the individual; or

Is used as a basis for or a factor in decisions that tangibly affect that individual’s employment, education, participation in an institution’s activities or living environment.

The BCM is a student organization that has unfairly discriminated against and harassed LGBTQ students by making them feel unsafe with this targeted video and clear homophobic agenda.

We, the LGBTQ students and allies of East Tennessee State University, will not stand for this hateful injustice against our student community.

Besides myself and several others, one of the students featured in this video has penned a letter to the Dean of Students and the President of the University:

It was recently brought to my attention that the Baptist Collegiate Ministries on our campus have released a video containing homophobic and islamiphobic commentary in which I am a targeted subject of said commentary. As a member of ETSU’s Sexuality and Gender Alliance (S.A.G.A.) as well as an openly queer student, I am concerned with any harassment this video could bring. I did not consent to being in this promotional video for an organization that I am not affiliated with and do not agree with their exploitation of my gender identity and sexuality to promote their message. Another point of targeted harassment was showing footage of two muslim students in hijabs while talking about violence against Christianity. I have attached captioned screenshots of the mentioned instances along with an excerpt of the transcript. In the attached photos, I am the student with pink hair and in the footage I was even wearing a pendant containing the flag of my sexual orientation. This hardly seems like a coincidence. I urge you to investigate and deal with this matter accordingly. This manner of hateful commentary is not welcome on our campus as proven with the “Gorilla Man” incident during the Black Lives Matter protest.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

UPDATE July 20, 8:20pm

Since blowing the whistle on this issue, the video was taken down by BCM, who issued this statement:

To the ETSU Community,

“This morning the ETSU Baptist Collegiate Ministry became aware of comments related to a video posted on Facebook. The video was publicly posted nearly a year ago and relates to the ministry of the BCM. Unfortunately, some of the video’s content was taken out of context and misrepresents our ministry. Those familiar with the BCM’s ministry history know that we have loved and served the ETSU community, and will continue to serve students of all races, nationalities, religions, genders, sexual orientations or any other protected status.

Throughout the 11 months the video has publicly been online, we have received no negative comments until last night. We removed the video out of respect for the concerns of the individuals making comments. We sincerely apologize to those the video offended. That was not our intent.

We will continue to serve the students and the larger ETSU community as we have since 1957.”

In the statement they claim that the statements made in the video were taken out of context. The offensive statement made in the video by Minister Jonathan Chapman was the following,

“Well, there’s definitely a real sense of urgency here. I feel like we’re kind of on the cusp of the gates of hell. We’re the last stop. College campuses are ground zero for the battle for the souls of America’s young people, and I see it every day. Challenges related to gender identity, homosexuality, pornography, drug issues, poverty, deeply broken families, hostility towards God and Christianity and it goes on and on and on.”

Chapman, the BCM minister himself, retweeted an article in July 2015 called “Thinking Biblically About Same-Sex Marriage” which contains a list of homophobic articles explicitly and clearly denouncing homosexuality and gay marriage. Now, why would a minister who “doesn’t have a problem” with gay people tweet that article?

To say that the students who were offended by those words were “taking them out of context” is entirely false. To say that these students are “misrepresenting the ministry” is, in essence, painting them as liars or as people trying to slander the ministry. The purpose of calling out this horribly degrading video was not to slander or misrepresent the ministry, the ministry does a good enough job on their own at making themselves look bad, with hateful doctrine being preached like this. Many churches and religious organizations know that being anti-LGBTQ is unpopular, so they hide behind coded language like the language used in the video and in this statement.

It is worth noting that, unlike the majority of ETSU’s student organizations, including the majority of its religious organizations, the BCM does not have a non-discrimination policy in its constitution or bylaws as of July 20th, 2018. Having no policy is a policy, and tells you everything you need to know about the BCM.

Additionally, it doesn’t matter how long ago the video was posted, and the fact that it didn’t get any negative comments. That fact is meaningless. The LGBTQ students featured in the video had no knowledge they were being featured in a film containing anti-LGBTQ doctrine and the LGBTQ student body was entirely unaware of the existence of the video until very recently.

The “apology” goes on to tell the students that the BCM is sorry they were offended. The BCM pushed the blame entirely on to the LGBTQ students who called this video to the attention of others for its problematic content, and took no responsibility for its actions. This smug, self-aggrandizing non-apology from the BCM in which they shift the blame onto the LGBTQ student community has done nothing to satiate our justified outrage. Polite homophobia is still homophobia. Just because the chapel doors are not slammed shut in our faces does not mean the BCM is a welcome place for queer students. The BCM views themselves as worthy of praise for not physically barring us from their clubhouse, yet they still preach homophobic doctrine. Just because it is said with a smile doesn’t mean it is any less harmful. If the BCM continues in their self-righteous, holier-than-thou teachings about LGBTQ people, then it will never be a place where queer students can feel safe.

Georges Lemaître: The Catholic Priest Who Invented the Big Bang Theory

Today, July 17, marks what would have been Georges Lemaître’s 124th birthday. Georges Lemaître was a Belgian Catholic priest, astronomer, and physics professor at the Catholic University of Leuven. He is the man behind the “Big Bang” theory of the origin of the universe. He also discovered the existence of cosmic microwave background radiation shortly before his death in 1966, which supported his theory. He was the first to derive Hubble’s Law, and to propose that the universe is expanding, something that was later observationally confirmed by Edwin Hubble.

Lemaître received a classical education at a Jesuit secondary school, and then moved on to study civil engineering. He then joined the Belgian army and fought during World War I. After the war ended, he decided to prepare for the diocesan priesthood, instead of the Jesuits. He was ordained as a Catholic priest and continued his studies, this time in physics and mathematics. He studied at top universities, including the University of Cambridge, Harvard, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In 1933, Lemaître delivered a lecture of his theory at the California Institute of Technology, where some of the greatest scientists from around the world had gathered, including Albert Einstein. When he finished, Einstein stood up and exclaimed, “This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I ever listened.” In 1951, Pope Pius XII also expressed his support for Lemaître and the Big Bang Theory.

This information blew my mind, no pun intended. Often we hear theistic arguments against the Big Bang Theory, claiming that it’s “anti-genesis”, “anti-creationism” or “anti-Christian”. Then on the other hand, there are atheists who believe that to believe in religion you must deny science. Neither are true, as Lemaître’s life, studies, and faith have showed us. Science and faith are not opposites of each other, but two sides of the same coin. Today, the Big Bang Theory is the leading explanation and most widely accepted theory of the origin of the universe, and it was invented by a Catholic priest.

Franklin Graham on Jimmy Carter: God Kills Gay People

Former president Jimmy Carter made a comment during an interview with HuffPost in July of 2015 when he was asked about his views on gay marriage. He said, “Jesus would promote any love affair if it was honest or sincere and was not damaging to anyone else. And I don’t see that gay marriage damages anyone else.”

Breitbart News recently dug up this quote in one of their recent articles, in which they falsely reported that Carter made this comment last Sunday, and not three years ago. Breitbart is a far-right news media website known for its misogynistic, xenophobic, and racist content, as well as for publishing intentionally misleading stories, falsehoods, and incendiary conspiracy theories. After reading this article, Franklin Graham decided to comment. Franklin Graham, the son of the American evangelist Billy Graham, is an evangelical Christian pastor and president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA).

On July 10, he made this disturbing post on his Facebook page:

I have to respectfully disagree with former President Jimmy Carter on this one. He is absolutely wrong when he said Jesus would approve of gay marriage. Jesus didn’t come to promote sin, He came to save us from sin. The Bible is very clear. God destroyed the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexuality. God defines sin in His Word—it’s not up to our opinion, the latest poll, or a popular vote. What is very troubling is that some people may read what President Carter has said and believe it, whether it was this week or from a video 3 years ago that is now recirculating. God loves us and gives us the truth in His Word. He warns us of the serious consequences of sin.

“Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” (Romans 1:24-27).

Firstly, I’d like to say that there is nothing “respectful” about this “disagreement”. Polite homophobia is still homophobia. Just because something disrespectful is said calmly, it doesn’t make the content of the message any less disrespectful. “Respectfully said” or not, Graham’s message is a disgusting and hateful one.

The quote Graham takes from Romans is by the apostle Paul, who was actually writing about idolatry. Some theologians argue that this passage includes the Roman practice of pederasty (a kind of child molestation), in addition to idol-worshipping, but nowhere is homosexuality referenced. This is just a quote that Graham took out of context to fit his homophobic agenda. In the rest of the passage, Paul goes on to say that those who commit acts against the true good nature of humanity “deserve death”.

In my opinion, it’s pretty clear that this is what Graham was getting at when making this Facebook post, it’s fairly transparent to anyone with any knowledge of scripture what he was trying to say. And of course, he references the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, which many falsely believe is about God destroying these cities because of homosexuality. So, just as God supposedly killed the people of Sodom and Gomorrah because of homosexuality, it’s safe to assume Graham believes all LGBT people deserve a similar fate.

Franklin Graham is no Christian, just an opportunist using religion to advance his fortunes. He is a man using the gospel to justify his hatred and prejudice, when he should know, 1 John 4:7-8:

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Why Women Don’t Report: When Rapists Sue Their Victims Into Silence

Being the victim of a rape or sexual assault is horrifying and traumatizing enough as it is, but what happens when your rapist tries to frame himself as the victim? As utterly sickening as that scenario may be, it’s not that uncommon. In fact, many rapists use the threat of a defamation lawsuit to force their victims into silence. This is one of the reasons a rape victim might not report.

When my rapist was outed by multiple women and myself, he claimed that all of our accusations were harassment, and that we were just “jealous” of his happy life. He framed us as bitter exes, and framed himself as the victim of our lies. Sadly, the burden of proof is often on the victim, and when rapists cry to their friends for sympathy, it further perpetuates rape culture. He claims to be in the roughly 2% of false accusations, and claims that his victims are hurting “real” victims, and that he himself is hurt. He went so far as to literally label himself a “victim”.

Take the story of 24-year-old Sacramento woman Yee Xiong, for example. She reported her rape to the police, and her rapist sued her for defamation of character, stalking, and violating his right to privacy. He framed himself as the victim of her harassment after she outed him as rapist. He sued her $4,987.50, in small claims court, which meant that she couldn’t bring a lawyer to defend herself. He was forcing her to face him alone. By using these frivolous lawsuits against her, he was attempting to force her into silence and punish her for reporting her rape. He was also using the legal system to control her, to force her to face him. It gave him control over her, and that is what rape is about. Not sex, but control. And as long as Yee Xiong’s rapist keeps filing motions against her, he gets to force himself into her life.

Another example of this tactic is the story of Carrie May Lucas, who was raped by a man named Sayid. Sayid made himself the victim by filing a protection order against her, his victim, claiming he was “afraid for his safety”, all things meant to discredit her. He also tried to get Carrie’s child taken away from her by falsely claiming she was an unfit mother. He used every legal tactic he could to wear her down, to punish her for accusing him. This is what happens when women report.

My rapist’s mother has sent threatening messages to women I know, threatening to to file a lawsuit against anyone who dares to call her son a rapist. His family has money, enough money to hire lawyers who will bully his victims into staying quiet. Sadly, there is not much room in the legal system for justice for rape victims like myself. But that doesn’t mean we stay quiet, because as any lawyer will tell him, it’s only defamatory if it’s false.

The facts are, my rapist was permanently banned from the university he attended for his actions. He’s been banned from stores, and multiple political activist groups in the town where he lives. Being barred from setting foot on the campus of a public university says more about him than I ever could. It speaks volumes to how dangerous he is, and the university administration took steps to protect the student body from him. He had to be forcibly removed from a campus building by campus police officers for violating his ban on attending a campus safe space. He hid outside in the dark and waited for the meeting to be over so he could harass me and other victims. The facts are, he’s admitted in writing to raping a woman who was too intoxicated to consent. This, he claims, was consensual. There are multiple people who have come forward to accuse him, and I believe them. I believe all of them, just as I ask them to believe me.

I know that it is unlikely my rapist will see justice. I grieve for all the women who will not get to see their abuser behind bars. How many people have been scared or threatened into silence? How many threatened victims never get to see justice? How many never got to have their voices heard? I say, not one more. We will not be threatened or forced into silence by a predatory man any longer.

Is Pride a Sin?

Pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth.

No, that is not a description of my weekend plans. It’s a list of the Seven Deadly Sins, as I’m sure most people are familiar with already. Today I’d like to talk about just one of those sins: pride. The month of June has just ended, and it was LGBTQ Pride Month. I’ve seen a joke circulating around the internet, something along the lines of, “LGBTQ Pride Month is over, now let’s gets ready for LGBTQ Wrath Month.” The joke being that now that the LGBTQ community is done celebrating one sin, we’re off to celebrate another. This is only a joke, of course, but it begs the question: is pride a sin?

It depends.

There are some common misconceptions around the word “pride” and how it exists as part of the LGBTQ community and as one of the Seven Deadly Sins, but the two are not at all alike. In fact, they’re the complete opposite.

There are two antithetical meanings to the word pride, one positive and one negative.

Pride:

A corrupt sense of one’s personal value, status or accomplishments. A desire to be important or attractive to others or excessive love of the self. I.e. Vanity.

Or,

Pride:

A humble and content sense of attachment toward one’s own or another’s choices and actions, or toward a whole group and is a product of praise, independent self-reflection, and a fulfilled feeling of belonging.

The first kind of pride is the type of pride that the Bible warns us about. This type of pride, the kind that is selfish and egotistical, is considered the worst of the Seven Deadly Sins. Putting one’s own desires before the wellbeing of others, believing oneself to be superior to everyone else, to be above God, and to disregard the feelings and accomplishments of others, is the kind of pride that is considered sinful. Danté defined pride as “love of self perverted to hatred and contempt for one’s neighbour”, and as many of us know, Jesus asked of us, in Mark 12:31 “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”

The second kind of pride is the kind of pride felt by the LGBTQ community. LGBTQ pride is about feeling a fulfilled feeling of belonging. For me, it’s about accepting myself the way God made me. I am reminded of Psalm 139:13-14,

“It was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.”

One of the ways I love God is by loving the way He made me, by seeing His creation within me. Gay or straight, we are all made in the image of God, fearfully and wonderfully made. LGBTQ pride is about loving your neighbor, loving each other, and celebrating our authentic, true selves. It’s not about being superior to anyone, it’s about being equal. There is nothing sinful about loving yourself as a child of God. Being proud of hard work is also encouraged in the Bible, and living as an LGBTQ person can be extremely difficult. Many experience hardships and difficulties, like extreme violence or discrimination, because they’re part of the community. And overcoming that is something to be proud of.

LGBTQ pride was born out of the need to free ourselves from oppression and discrimination. We were, and often still are, considered inferior to those who believe they are superior to us. So, which is the greater sin, to believe you are superior to your gay neighbor, or for your neighbor to love the way God made them?

LGBTQ Pride Month is Over, Now Let’s Talk About the Protestors

The month of June is LGBTQ Pride Month, and this past month, I saw dozens of photos of my friends celebrating Pride in their respective hometowns. While I did see a lot of rainbows, a lot of drag, and a lot of glitter, I also saw a lot of protests. What I started to notice after seeing photos from Knoxville Pride, and then Chicago Pride, is that the protestors are waving the exact same signs in both cities. I started to remember that I had seen these signs in photos before, and I started to wonder, are all hateful bigots just unoriginal, or are these people all from the same group? We’ve all seen them, but who exactly are they?

They are in fact from the same group, an evangelical and fundamentalist Christian group called the Official Street Preachers, or OSP. In essence, they’re the Westboro Baptist Church of street preaching. It was a little difficult for me to find detailed information about them. Their website has no “about” page, and every single tab on their website about their doctrine, whether it be the anti-abortion, or the anti-Islam tab, all link to the exact same anti-gay article from LifeSite called “Are gays ‘born that way’? Most Americans now say yes, but science says no”. While their website may be broken, it’s easy to figure out their beliefs from reading some of their signs. One sign, for example, lists everyone (or mostly everyone) that the OSP believe are going to hell. It reads,

WARNING:

  • Homos
  • Rebellious women
  • Muslims
  • Whoremongers
  • Porno freaks
  • Ankle biters
  • Cow worshippers
  • Drunks
  • Jews who disobey Jesus
  • Liars
  • Racists: KKK, BLM, Obama
  • Sissies
  • Women MMA fighters
  • The Pope
  • Female enablers
  • M-bators (masturbators)
  • Money lover$
  • Dead healers (?)
  • Mama’s boys
  • Party animals
  • Baby killers
  • Dykes on bikes
  • Witches
  • Little monsters
  • Gamers
  • Gangster rappers
  • Cutters
  • Rock n’ Roll freaks
  • Brats
  • So called Christians
  • Emos
  • Occupational whores

It’s quite the bizarre list. If you’re having trouble interpreting half the stuff on this list, you’re not alone. By ankle biters, do they mean children? Gamers, “mama’s boys”, “little monsters”, people who like rock n’ roll music, all people who belong in Hell according to the OSP. It’s safe to assume that the repeated mention of women on their signs, rebellious women, female enablers, women MMA fighters, etc. means that they’re a very misogynist and anti-feminist group. The inclusion of “Whoremongers” and “occupational whores” also gives me that impression. They’ve been recently photographed wearing t-shirts in one of their latest pride protests in Chicago a few days ago, that read,

Women:

  • Quiet
  • Modest
  • Submissive to husbands
  • Baby making machines
  • Keepers at home (laundry, cooking, doing dishes, etc.)

Now if that isn’t the definition of misogynist bullshit, I don’t know what is.

Their preaching against LGBTQ people seems to be one of the most important issues. They go town to town protesting pride parades and festivals during June. One of their most recognizable signs is the “HOMO SEX IS SIN” sign, which one I’ve had shoved in my face enough times to remember. Another sign I’ve seen quite often is a sign that reads, “WARNING: sodomites, fags, dykes, homos, fairies, lesbos, queens, fudge packers, muff divers, perverts, hell awaits you”. One of my friends, a transgender woman, splashed water in the face of a man twice her size holding that sign at Knoxville Pride fest, after he broke off from the others to harass people at the front gate to the festival. Another sign that seems to reference transgender people, reads, “God does not make mistakes! God says you are: male or female, abomination and reprobate, there is no gay gene, DNA does not lie, sodom was destroyed for sex.”

They’re not a big fan of Catholics either, which is something that wasn’t very obvious at any of the protests at Knoxville Pridefest that I’ve witnessed, probably because they were more focused on preaching about the sin of “homo sex and sodomy”. Other than putting the Pope on the list of people going to Hell, I saw photographs on their website of signs that read, “Roman Catholicism is of the devil, it will send you to hell”, “Your priest is lying!”, and “Catholics are NOT Christians.”

As a Roman Catholic, I’m not personally offended by these signs. I’m actually glad to not be lumped in with these kinds of people. If, by their definition, Catholics are not Christians, but they themselves are, then I’m perfectly fine with existing outside the OSP’s definition of Christian. I have a similar feeling about the anti-Catholic street preaching of the Westboro Baptist Church. If hateful anti-LGBT groups like the OSP and the WBC hate my religion, then I must be doing something right. These are the groups that people say “make all Christians look bad”, but they distance themselves from Catholics, allowing me to distance myself from them. Catholics, Muslims, Jews, Pagans, atheists, basically every religion that isn’t the strict “Fire and brimstone” fundamentalist Christianity is worthy of Hell, according to them.

Other than the OSP official website, officalstreetpreachers.com, I looked up two other websites that are referenced on their signs, christianinterviews.com and peacefinally.com, which both seem to be gone or out of use. Their blogspot website is still in use, and while it has no “about” menu either, my morbid curiosity led me to scroll through it. Unsurprisingly, its mostly pictures of the group protesting, with some pretty sickening captions, like: “Many taxi drivers are Muslim and after they drop off their passengers they roll their window down and listen to us preach. I walked up to few asked them if they believe in Jesus as the Son of God, they said ‘no.’ So I asked them if they have any bombs inside their taxi and they said ‘no.’ I asked if I could look and a couple allowed me to open the doors and check the trunk. Just doing my job as a concerned American.” and, “Last year one of the sisters dressed as a Muslim as I beat her with a stick all while verses from the koran was read on allowing Muslim men to do so”.

I’m not sure why the Official Street Preachers have gained so little media attention, whereas similar anti-gay fire and brimstone evangelical groups like the Westboro Baptist Church are so widely known. Considering negative attention seems to be a driving force behind their continued sidewalk sermons, I think it’s a good thing that the mainstream media won’t give these redneck street preachers the time of day.

Jamie Wright, and the Hypocrisy of American Evangelical Missionaries

Jesus answered them, “Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.'” Mark 7:6

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.” Matthew 23:15

Jamie Wright, author of the book The Very Worst Missionary, took to Twitter last Friday to vent about the hypocrisy of American Evangelical missionaries. As a former missionary in Costa Rica, she has firsthand knowledge of the broken system of Christian Missions. This system, as she points out on her website, is “endlessly fed by good-intentions, gross entitlement, and an unchecked stream of white savior colonial bullshit.” Evangelicals often spend hoards of money flying to different countries just to “save” a few children. At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, could that money be used for something better? Are missionaries really helping? Who are these missionary trips really for?

Jamie Wright tackled these questions on Twitter last week, opening with her first tweet,

“It’s really not surprising that American Evangelicals who come home from their summer mission trips with giant spiritual boners from visiting impoverished brown people like safari game would then justify caging the same people like zoo animals should they dare cross the border.”

This tweet is directly referencing the hypocrisy of conservative Evangelical support for President Trump’s “zero tolerance” border policy, that forcibly separates children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. How can the same Evangelical Christians who justify ripping immigrant children from their parents arms also justify their cute summer mission trips to Central American countries? And how can we, as Christians, justify using so much money and so many resources to fly to impoverished countries merely to satiate our own spiritual egos?

She then follows up with a series of tweets, saying,

“When ‘serving others’ is actually a form of personal entertainment dressed up as ‘God’s work’, then the people we’re serving become little more than props for our own story. We enjoy feeding and photographing them in their own countries, and we call them ‘beautiful’ and ‘heartbreaking’ while we applaud them for finding joy despite abject poverty and unconscionable abuse. We ‘love on them’. We ‘learn from them’. And then we leave them behind to take our cool new story home where we will tell everyone how we’ve been ‘changed by them’ with a slide show that brings our friends to tears.”

These kinds of people, also called “voluntourists”, fly to different countries, spend one or two weeks there taking pictures and offering their misplaced good intentions, and then they fly home, feeling good about themselves and thinking they made a difference. However, had they just donated the money they would have spent on their trip instead of flying there themselves, they would have made a bigger, longer lasting difference. But it’s not about what will do the most good, it’s about what will make them feel all warm and fuzzy inside, what will make them feel like superior Christians.

Personally, I know of an entitled, Southern Baptist, and Bible-belt raised girl, who did a mission trip in San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala, which is a popular tourist destination. The dominant religion there is, in fact, Christianity. Though Christianity has been the dominant religion for some time, roughly half the population practices traditional Maya rituals. But do we really need American tourists who don’t speak a word of Spanish coming over to convert people in a region that is already predominantly Christian? Not really. If the majority of the country is Christian then those who are not Christian already have all of the resources they would need to convert, and have Spanish speaking pastors and churches they can attend. They don’t need a bunch of sheltered white Americans to come and “save” them. The whole mission trip was as entirely unnecessary as you would expect visiting a mostly Christian country for a mission trip would be. This girl was just a privileged holier-than-thou conservative Republican who wanted to go on vacation and also have something to brag about at Tuesday Bible study. Two birds, one hypocritical stone.

You have to wonder if it’s really enough to just show up in these countries and “let God do the rest”. Is spending billions of dollars to send a bunch of mediocre Americans (who have no understanding of the language or culture) into impoverished countries just to “save” less than a handful of children really the work God has called us to do on this Earth?

“I hate to burst your globe-trotting bubble,” as Jamie Wright said, “but the work of God was never meant to be an adventure vacation for comfortable suburbanites.”

8 Quotes From LGBT Rights Activists That Will Make You Proud to Be LGBT

Pride month isn’t just about the parades, or the parties, or the glitter, it’s an important time for us as members of the LGBTQ+ community to remind ourselves of our history. While we celebrate our progress and achievements this month, we should never forget the activists who forged the path for us. After all, without the activists of the Stonewal Riots, for example, we wouldn’t have pride parades at all. In honor of pride month, here are 8 memorable quotes from important LGBTQ rights activists throughout history that have helped make our pride this month possible.

“I was no one, nobody, from Nowheresville until I became a drag queen. That’s what made me in New York, that’s what made me in New Jersey, that’s what made me in the world.”

Marsha P. Johnson was an American gay liberation and transgender rights activist, drag queen, and Stonewall Riot instigator. The “P” in her name stands for “pay it no mind” which was her catchphrase. She established STAR House, a shelter for queer youth, and was a member of the Gay Liberation Front. Though disputed, she is often credited for throwing the first brick during the Stonewall Riots.

“If a bullet should enter my brain, let that bullet destroy every closet door.”

Harvey Milk was an LGBTQ rights activist, gay man, former San Francisco Supervisor, and the first openly gay elected official in the history of California. He was assassinated in 1978 by Dan White, a fellow city supervisor. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009.

“It is revolutionary for any trans person to choose to be seen and visible in a world that tells us we should not exist.”

Laverne Cox is an actor, transgender woman and transgender rights activist. She is most widely known for her role as Sophia Burset on the Netflix series Orange is the New Black, and she is the first openly transgender person to be nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award.

“I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community. I hope that my being real with you will help empower you to step into who you are and encourage you to share yourself with those around you.”

Janet Mock is an author, transgender woman and transgender rights activist. Her memoir, Redefining Realness, became a New York Times Bestseller.

“You do not need to carry other people’s hate with you. It is their burden to bear, not yours.”

-Jeffrey Marsh is a nonbinary trans actor, author, and activist. They are the author of the “half memoir, half self-help book” How to Be You.

“Hell hath no fury like a drag queen scorned.”

Sylvia Rivera was a drag queen, American gay liberation and transgender activist, and Stonewall Rioter. She was a good friend of Marsha P. Johnson’s.

“We will not go away with our issues of sexuality. We are coming home. It is not enough to tell us that one was a brilliant poet, scientist, educator, or rebel. Whom did he love? It makes a difference. I can’t become a whole man simply on what is fed to me: watered-down versions of Black life in America. I need the ass-splitting truth to be told, so I will have something pure to emulate, a reason to remain loyal.”

Essex Hemphill was a gay poet, performer, and activist from Chicago, Illinois. He is well known for his contributions to the Washington D.C. art scene and for discussing important issues relating to the African-American LGBTQ community.

“Everybody’s journey is individual. You don’t know with whom you’re going to fall in love. … If you fall in love with a boy, you fall in love with a boy. The fact that many Americans consider it a disease says more about them than it does about homosexuality.”

James Baldwin was a gay essayist, novelist, and poet. He used much of his work to explore his race and sexuality. His essays include The Fire Next Time (1963), No Name in the Street (1972), and The Devil Finds Work (1976).