EDINBURGH (Christian Examiner) – The youth choir of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, has a menacing agenda, according to Scottish secularists who objected the choir's performance at a shopping center in Edinburgh earlier this week.
The Herald reports that the choir's visit was condemned by the Scottish Secular Society (SSS), which claimed the teenagers were on a mission to push their anti-gay, anti-abortion message on unsuspecting Scots. They also are planning to push to change laws in the Scottish realm that protect the consciences of secularists and other religious dissenters, the group said.
Megan Crawford, who claims to be a "Texan" raised in a Baptist church, is chair of the secular society. She said the group was "very concerned about megachurches who have a growing interest in coming over to Ireland, Scotland and England and pushing their extremely fundamentalist agenda. Why are they even allowed here to try to affect our laws and lives?"
For many who commented on the story, the answer to that question was obvious.
"Because we supposedly live in a tolerant society respecting the right to free speech," one person wrote. "Until this article and shouting by the SSS I'd never heard of this crowd. Knicker wetting and foaming at the mouth with faux outrage are usually counterproductive."
Most people don't appreciate these megachurches with their seemingly unlimited amounts of tax-free money coming over here and being allowed to attempt to affect our lives. ... They are extremely fundamentalist, with a view that marriage should be one male and one female, with sex only for procreation and anti-abortion rights, and with a lot of young creationists in there.
Another reader wrote, "Maybe the choir should display a 'trigger warning,' and a safe space could be set up (out of sight and earshot), with cuddly toys and Enya playing in the background for those traumatized by exposure. Banning people whose message is distasteful solves nothing."
The youth in the church choir are part of "The King's Project," the paper said, and is on a weeklong tour of Scotland and Northern England and assisting with evangelism in rural Scotland.
"But on Saturday, the 100-strong youth group were brought to Edinburgh's Waverley Mall, in Princes Street, where they sang, performed and handed out prayer cards," the paper said.
"However there was no outward sign of what the church really stands for. In Texas, Jack Graham the head of the church has backed Donald Trump's presidential election campaign and refuses to accept gay marriage laws. "The Scriptures' teaching on marriage is non-negotiable... we cannot and will not affirm the moral acceptability of homosexual behaviour," he said.
The paper then hit at Prestonwood Christian Academy, the church's private school, for its emphasis on biblical teaching and parental discussions about homosexuality. It also said the church also funds a crisis pregnancy center which has helped more than 3,000 women "choose life" for their unborn children.
A spokesman for the open air mall where the youth choir sang said there were no complaints the mall was full of people watching the young people sing. He said his views were different from the Christian choir's, but Crawford panned the performance.
"Most people don't appreciate these megachurches with their seemingly unlimited amounts of tax-free money coming over here and being allowed to attempt to affect our lives," she said.
"They are extremely fundamentalist, with a view that marriage should be one male and one female, with sex only for procreation and anti-abortion rights, and with a lot of young creationists in there."
Shona Craven, a columnist for the Herald, lamented the visit from the choir. She wrote that the church the young people represent "ticks every box on the Ugly Religious Fundamentalism checklist: homophobia and transphobia, an obsession with sexual purity, and a firm anti-choice agenda thinly disguised as concern for women's wellbeing."
She then called the group a "Trojan horse" let in to deceive innocent Scots. She asked where the people would draw the line?
"A neo-Nazi puppet show at the Gyle Shopping Centre? Magic tricks by Islamic State at Buchanan Galleries? I'm sure most Scots are far too savvy to be taken in by evangelical showmanship, but that's not really the point. As a nation we should be stating clearly: bigots are not welcome here," Craven wrote.