A group of concerned citizens in Texas have taken their community's safety into their own hands by protesting outside a homophobic church that moved into their town.
The Stedfast Baptist Church has a history of making threatening yet Constitutionally-protected statements that advocate violence against the LGBTQ+ community. But residents of Watauga, the church’s latest home after being evicted out of other towns, are taking a stand by protesting every time the church holds a service.
“We’re normal people,” Mandi Skinner, with partner Lynette Sharp, tells the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in a video interview. “We just live our lives every day. It just so happens that I love her and she loves me and neither of us owns a penis.”
The pair are among the residents who gather to protest outside the strip mall where the Stedfast Baptist Church holds its services twice on Sundays and once every Wednesday evening.
One preacher from the church, Dillon Awes, previously declared the Bible’s solution to what he called the “sodomite deception” is that queer people “should be lined up against the wall and shot in the back of the head.”
“He’s calling for people like us to be shot,” Skinner continued. “There’s no way for us not to feel, think, and believe it’s just a matter of time before someone from that congregation decides to take up arms and do his bidding.”
Awes made the inflammatory and threatening statements in a past sermon entitled, Why We Won’t Shut Up. In the videotaped sermon, Awes said gay men were predatory pedophiles who have either committed sex crimes against a child or just haven’t had the opportunity to do so yet, leading him to the conclusion that “We need to put these people to death through the proper channels of the government.”
At an Arlington City Council meeting last May, another preacher at the church, Jonathan Shelley, used his own interpretation of the bible to issue his own call for LGBTQ+ to be executed.
“God’s already ruled that murder, adultery, witchcraft, rape, bestiality, and homosexuality are crimes worthy of capital punishment,” Shelley said.
Stedfast Baptist Church’s website advocates the death penalty for homosexuality, it also says “Christians should not take the law into their own hands.” Other things the church lists as sins include abortion, birth control, in vitro fertilization, feminism, and ecumenicalism, but does not clarify if these alleged sins are also worthy of capital punishment.
In addition to his inflammatory sermons, Awes has produced a video called the Sodomite Deception which purports to center on the alleged dangers of the LGBTQ+ community but appears little more than a series of shrill anti-gay epithets and threats.
“Why aren’t all these Baptists standing up and saying these freaks should go back to hell, should go back to the closet, put a bullet in your head?” Awes angrily asks in the trailer of the movie. “Why aren’t they saying it?”
“No homos will ever be allowed on this church as long as I’m the pastor here!” Steven Anderson of the Faithful Word Baptist Church hysterically shrieks in the film. “Never!”
“We’ve reviewed this – multiple cases, multiple sermons – and it fits within the Constitution of free speech,” Watauga Police Chief Robert Parker told the Star-Telegram, explaining why church leaders have not been arrested.
While the sermons may fall under protected speech in the courtroom, Skinner says the community should not take these threats lightly.
“They’re so close to our home, there’s no way we can’t be afraid of that,” Skinner warned.