A full-page antigay ad in the Colorado Springs newspaper The Gazette has raised some hackles in the city.
Pastor James Hagan of the Friendship Assembly of God Church placed the ad in the April 19 edition of the paper. It calls on Americans to "stand up and speak out against the Homosexual Agenda" and refers to "recent events in Indiana, Utah, and Arizona" without going into detail; it may refer to the quashing of attempts to enact discriminatory "religious freedom" laws in Indiana, where the law was amended, and Arizona, where a bill was vetoed. For Utah, it could refer to marriage equality or nondiscrimination legislation.
It also refers to a Swedish minister named Oke Green, who received a jail sentence for preaching against homosexuality. The minister, whose name is actually Ake Green, did receive a 30-day suspended sentence in 2003 after being convicted under Sweden's strict hate-speech law, but his conviction was overturned on appeal in 2005.
Local civil rights activist Carolyn Cathey told local TV station KXRM the ad was hurtful. "It felt like deja vu. 1992 with Amendment 2 all over again," she said, referring to a ballot measure that barred Colorado cities from enacting or enforcing LGBT-inclusive antidiscrimination laws; it was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1996. "The hate, the unkindness, the disregard for rights."
A letter to the editor in Thursday's Gazette, signed by Pat Hill, corrected Hagan's information on Ake Green and said Hagan was spreading "lies and hate." Hill added, "Instead of trying to create hate for homosexuals, why not learn more about them. ... Speak with them, befriend them, love them as Jesus would have."
A letter from Liz Wilcox, published April 21, stated, "There is no 'homosexual agenda' beyond simple human rights. The right to love, the right to marry the person who is loved, the right to be protected from discrimination due to sexual orientation, the right to food and housing, the right to be safe, among others."
Hagan, interviewed by KXRM, said he doesn't care what people think of his ad and has no desire for gay people to come to his church. "If homosexuals say they never come to my church, good, because for every homosexual who comes into my church stealthfully, and some of them do, they may corrupt a dozen of my teenagers and I would rather have one of them not come then have a dozen of my teenagers corrupted," he said.
He also asserted that being gay is a choice. When a reporter for the station asked when Hagan decided to be heterosexual, he responded, "I was born normal."
While Colorado Springs has a reputation for conservatism -- one of its state legislative districts elected antigay preacher Gordon Klingenschmitt as its representative last year -- Cathey and local Unitarian minister Nori Rost, who is a lesbian, said the city is actually open and accepting, and that Hagan's views are not widely shared. They and others planned to take out an ad to counter Hagan's.
Watch the KXRM report below.