SBC, June 13 & 14, 2006
When Soulforce decided to concentrate on the
Dobson action coming up in July, I knew that I had to make some kind of
show for Soulforce to let the SBC know that we are not going away. I
figured that I could stand outside at least one of the parking entrances
with my STOP SPIRITUAL VIOLENCE signs and wearing my Soulforce, SBC
T-shirt (Southern Baptist Teachings Kill God's Gay Children on the back
and Stop Spiritual Violence on the front).
When I learned about Jimmy Creech's new Faith in America ad campaign
(www.faithinamerica.com), I emailed Jimmy about running one of the ads in
the Greensboro News & Record while the SBC was in town. Jimmy agreed.
We arranged for the full page ad to appear in the June 13 edition. To
408). I then learned that the local Guilford Greene Foundation was
running "Straight Ally" ads in the News & Record during the month of June
and their "Faith Ally" ad was scheduled to run on the 13th as well. To
would be hitting the SBC with both barrels. I also learned that Phelps
was coming to protest the unveiling of the 20 ft. statue of Billy Graham.
Soulforce had prepared booklets comparing Phelp's rhetoric to that of
the SBC for an earlier SBC action. I had about 80 left and they would be
so perfect if I could get them into the hands of the SBC messengers.
I arrived Tuesday morning about 7 am and parked in the Colliseum parking
lot with all the other messengers. I proceeded to one of the rear
entrances of the Colliseum to try and distribute copies of the Faith in
America ad in the morning paper. I lasted less than 10 minutes before
being kicked out. I was dressed in plain cloths with no gay or Soulforce
identifying paraphenalia. I was told that I could be anywhere on the
sidewalk outside the parking lot. Went back to my car and retrieved my
STOP SPIRITUAL VIOLENCE sign and put on my Soulforce SBC T-shirt along
with a rainbow stole and rainbow hat. I proceeded to the busiest
entrance to the parking lot. I lasted less than 10 minutes before a
policeman came up and told me that I had to move to the "designated"
protest area in the front of the Colliseum, an area least visible to the
arriving SBC messengers and just below where Phelps was given to protest.
I stood vigil there all by myself until 9am with plenty of visibility
to motorists on there way to work but only a few Southern Baptists.
At 9 I walked back to my car in the Colliseum parking lot in full view of
arriving messengers. I was able to come and go with my parking ticket so
I went home for a couple hours and came back about 11:30. I parked in
the far corner of the lot so I would have to walk past all the SBC
messengers in full Soulforce regalia on my way to the "designated"
protest area. Two members of PETA (one dressed like Jesus) were with me
for the noon vigil. No problem, they have been at all our Soulforce SBC
actions and they are very sympathetic. "Jesus" was getting all the
attention but it was nice to have the company. We were interviewed by
the News & Record and by the local WFMY (CBS) station. For the News &
1/60614002. Gene said that WFMY did the PETA segment and not my
interview. I was glad. Of all the questions the reporter had to ask, he
asked me about what the Bible says about homosexuality and would not let
go of it. I should have just refused to debate the Bible and made him
move on or I should have just handed him the Faith in America ad:
Religion and scripture have been abused throughout history to justify
discrimination and all kinds of atrocities. Religious teachings should
never be used to deny equal rights to anyone. End of discussion!
About 1:30 I paraded through the parking lot back to my car and home for
a few hours. Phelps was scheduled to appear at 5:45pm. I did not want
to be confused with him so I went back to the Colliseum in my SBC costume
just to monitor the situation--not to vigil. I did have one of
Jeaneane's rainbow hearts on my shirt and a rainbow wristband. When I
arrived at 5pm there was no one in the "designated" protest area or in
the area Phelps had been assigned. About 5:20 the Phelps clan arrived
and quickly set-up (about 20 and mostly kids from about 5 up). They
stayed exactly one hour and stuck to there regular routine. There were
no counter-demonstrators to speak of. This is a good thing--best to
ignore them and why I did not counter-protest. They got plenty of media
attention but that was about it. I managed to distribute about a dozen
of the Soulforce booklets comparing the SBC language to Phelps. I doubt
that many of the SBC actually got the connection. I did get a really
good interview with a local radio station and was able to point out the
connection. I told her all about Soulforce and why I was there.
I heard rain about 3am this morning and so I knew it was not going to be
a good morning for vigiling--the effects of tropical storm Alberto. I
arrived at the "designated" protest area at 7:30 in full Soulforce attire
and my large rainbow umbrella. It was miserable--what Soulforce calls
redemptive suffering. I was soaked and had to go to the bathroom
something terrible but held out until 9:15 before leaving. There seemed
to be much less traffic this morning than Tuesday morning. Guess a lot
of people called in sick because of the rain. Phelps was scheduled to
appear again at noon but I did not think they would show. When I got
there at 12:10, they were all set up. It was still raining cats and dogs
and they were soaked. Of course, there were no counter-protesters.
There was a guy with a mike interviewing the Phelps and I assume that he
was with a radio station since there was no camera. He talked to them
for the whole hour they were there--poor guy was soaked too. I stood and
watched from a nearby bus shelter. The rain did let up about 1and it is
clearing now so they may get more attention at their final vigil at 5pm.
It is tonight that they unveil the statue of Billy Graham.
Clear as a bell at 5pm and the Phelps arrived on time. I went to my spot
in the bus shelter and observed until they left at 6pm. There were no
visible counter-protesters and no media. One van made several passes
waving an American flag. One car went by with anti-Phelp signs in their
window. I did not notice until the Phelps clan had left but the police
had set up a large counter-demonstration area inside the parking lot
where I had been vigiling. One lonely man was there pressing an
anti-Phelps sign against the fence so passing cars could read it.
Apparently they were expecting a large counter-protest that never
materialized. Just as well. I made my way inside the Colliseum and
managed to sneak some of the Soulforce booklets comparing the SBC to
Phelps on one of their literature tables--a Soulforce calling card, so to
speak. Next year the SBC is in San Antonio. From what I understand, the
San Antonio convention center should be more amenable to protests. I'm
not Southern Baptist but it is my understanding that Frank Page, the new
SBC President, is the least offensive of the 3 voted on. Some
consolation, I suppose.
PS Rick, I wish that I had been aware that you were so close by and interested in doing something with Soulforce for the SBC. Unfortunately, I belong to so many lists and do not monitor the Soulforce Forum. Hope to meet you in Colorado Springs.
Silly Goose! I wanted to come too! Oh well see you in CO Springs!
“Deus nobis cerevisiam dedit quia nos felices esse vult” -Benjamin Franklin