SACRAMENTO, Calif. Gay rights supporters, dressed in pink and black, stormed a Lansing, Mich., church during its services Nov. 9 throwing condoms, pulling the fire alarm and yelling such things as “It’s okay to be gay” and “Jesus was a homo.”
One media account said two lesbians then went to the pulpit at Mount Hope Church where they began making out in front of the congregants, which included children.
Police were called and the demonstration, sponsored by a group called Bash Back, ceased. The group is described as pro-homosexual and pro-anarchist. The group’s blog promoted its actions saying it was “targeting a well known anti-queer, anti-choice, radical right-wing establishment.”
The trouble began when nearly three dozen people protested outside the church, drawing the congregation’s security guards out to monitor the situation. About a dozen protesters then slipped into the church, according to a gay newspaper, which was invited along for the demonstration. A group that hid under a pew in the balcony, unfurled an objectionable banner.
Church officials were said they were surprised by the protest.
“The leadership of Mount Hope Church does not attempt to identify the church as anti-homosexual, anti-choice, or right wing,” David Williams, the church’s spokesman, said in a news release. “The church does take the Bible at face value and believes what the Bible says to be the truth. According to the Bible, Mount Hope Church believes homosexuality to be a sin, just as fornication, stealing, drunkenness, and lying are sins. No sin greater than the next. Mount Hope Church strives to follow Jesus’ example of loving the sinner but not the sin while helping people change their lives for God’s glory and their improved quality of life.”
The incident is one of dozens reported in California and across the country in the aftermath of the passage of Proposition 8, which has prompted passionate protests nationwide. In California, cases of violence were reported even before the election. Post-election, the Mormon church has been a major target because its members donated millions to the cause.
Catholics, including the Knights of Columbus, have also been targeted for their support.
“The falsehood of the tolerance doctrine has been shown to be a farce,” said Ron Prentice, chairman of the Yes on 8 campaign.
The Anti-Defamation League, responding to the escalating incidents, issued a statement Nov. 10 condemning “criminal activity.”
“Although we strongly opposed Proposition 8, its passage does not justify the defacement and destruction of property,” the statement read. “We urge Californians to channel their frustration and disappointment in productive and responsible ways to work towards full equality for all Americans.
“To place anyone in fear of threat to their houses of worship or their personal security because they have expressed deeply held religious views is contrary to everything this nation represents. Our Constitution's First Amendment protects freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of religion for all of us.”
The Protect Marriage coalition held a news conference denouncing the widespread attacks such as workplace intimidation and vandalism but said it would not counter the protests, opting instead to let the issue work its way out in the courts.
“Amidst all this lawlessness, harassment, trampling of civil rights and now domestic terrorism, one thing stands out: the deafening silence of our elected officials,” said Frank Schubert, co-campaign manager for Proposition 8. “Not a single elected leader has spoken out against what is happening. Where is Governor Arnold Schwarzenenegger while churches are being attacked? And where is Senator Dianne Feinstein while people are losing their jobs and grandmothers are being bullied by an angry mob?”
The following are some of the examples of the violence, vandalism and personal attacks that have been reported against Proposition 8 supporters.
• A Bash Back chapter in Olympia, Wash., bragged that they targeted a Mormon church where they glued their door locks and sprawled anarchist messages in spray paint “over their boring veneer.”
“The Mormon church (just like most churches) is a cesspool of filth,” the group wrote in a statement flaunting its attack. “It is a breeding ground for oppression of all sorts and needs to be confronted, attacked, subverted and destroyed.”
The message went on to warn, “Dissolve completely or be destroyed.”
• Mormon temples in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, as well as the Knights of Columbus headquarters in New Haven, Conn., were sent suspicious looking white powder, reminiscent of the 2001 anthrax attacks and scares.
• At least eight Mormon buildings in Salt Lake have been vandalized with spray-painted epithets criticizing the church's support of Proposition 8.
• A group of young Christians with the Justice House of Prayer meeting on a sidewalk for their weekly prayer session in San Francisco’s Castro districthad to be escorted out of the area by police, some in riot gear, as an angry mob turned on them shouting, “Shame on You,” blowing whistles and screaming profanities.
• Marjorie Christoffersen, daughter of the owners of the Los Angeles restaurant El Coyote, left town after hundreds of protesters targeted her parent’s eatery because she made a personal $100 contribution to the Yes on 8 fund. Police in riot gear were called to restore order. Gay rights activists also began a campaign to post negative restaurant reviews online. The restaurant employs several gays and lesbians who said they were taken aback by the protests.
• A Palm Springs news crew captured an unruly protest group ripping an oversized cross from a woman’s hands and then stomping on it. A reporter trying to interview the woman, Phyllis Burgess, about the incident had to move the woman to safety as the crowd encircled them while shouting.
• Numerous blog sites reported that gay African-American men were the subject of racial slurs while trying to join the crowd in an anti-Proposition 8 protest. The men were targeted because exit polls showed a large amount of African-Americans supported Proposition 8. In one case a black man was warned to stay out of West Hollywood “if they knew what was best for them.”
• The artistic director of a Sacramento theater was forced to resign his post after donors, ticket holders and others protested outside the theater because the man, Scott Eckern, a 25-year employee of the venue donated $1,000 in his personal money to the Yes on 8 campaign. In a separate case reported at press time, the director for the Los Angeles Film Festival resigned under pressure from gay activists for donating $1,500 to Yes on 8. Richard Raddon, who tried unsuccessfully to resign several days earlier but was blocked by his supportive festival board, resubmitted his resignation when the berating calls and e-mails failed to cease.
• Vandals converted a Yes on 8 sign into a swastika at a church in Riverside.
• A Carlsbad man was arrested Nov. 3 for punching two elderly neighbors in the face after they confronted him about trespassing on their property to place a No on 8 sign in front of their Yes on 8 sign.
• On election morning, a Carlsbad jogger was also attacked and bitten by a dog when he tried to stop two men from stealing a Yes on 8 sign. Several weeks ago police in that same city arrested at least two people for stealing Yes on 8 signs.
• In Fresno, a prominent pastor, who had campaigned publicly for Proposition 8, received credible death threats that also targeted the mayor, another traditional marriage supporter. The threats were deemed credible enough for the police department to assign officers to protect the men. The church was also targeted for vandalism.
• In Modesto, a Protect Marriage volunteer received 16 stitches under his eye after a man tried to steal his Yes on 8 signs outside a local church where he was waiting to distribute them after Mass.
• A week before the election, a San Jose couple, who posted a Yes on 8 sign in their front lawn, discovered that someone spray-painted “No on 8” on their car, their garage and the garage of their neighbor.
• Also in San Jose, vandals painted the back window of an SUV with the words “Bigot Live Here,” with an arrow pointing to a house boasting a Yes on 8 sign.
• In other areas of the state, cars were keyed, signs defaced and a block was thrown through the window of an elderly couple who displayed a Yes on 8 sign in their yard.