A church sign near Sarasota, Fla., has caught the ire of LGBT residents for implying in no uncertain terms that gay Boy Scout leaders are predators, reports local news station WTSP. Another message on the sign lumps "gays" in with "thieves, liars, murderers, alcoholics, [and] addicts."
The pastor of Sarasota's Congregational Church says his congregation doesn't hate anyone -- though he was "baiting for a response" with the controversial messaging, according to WTSP. The church is listed as a Presbyterian church, located on Laurel Road in Nokomis, Fla.
After a message declaring that "God loves, & Christ died for, all of us," including "thieves, liars, gays, Muslims, atheists, murderers, agnostics, alcoholics, [and] addicts," the church's sign proclaims that "Gay Scout leaders are like..." The signage then features a photo of a fox snout-to-beak with a baby chick, followed by the words "Well, you know..."
"He's trying to portray them as predators," Sarasota Pride member Jackie Keenan told the station. "This message isn't Godly, it's hateful."
Pastor K.C. McKay of Sarasota's Congregational Church told WTSP that his church's position is based in his experience -- he contends that as a former Boy Scout himself, he was molested in his youth.
"Our church loves homosexuals, we love murderers, we love adulterers; we serve people for Christ -- that's what we're about," said McKay. "We're not here to bring hate to anybody. We don't hate at all. But we do have a right to free speech in this country."
This isn't the first time McKay has taken a controversial approach to spreading his version of the Lord's message. In 2006, on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Congregational Church's billboard advertised that "Muslims can convert to Christianity here!" reports the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
In fact, McKay is listed as a "senior product manager" at Sarasota-based Signs Plus, where his bio on the company website lauds him as a "church and school sign specialist since 1989 ... [and] the pastor of a church that his father founded 32 years ago. That church has a Signs Plus church sign that is still 'as good as new.'" Signs Plus's logo and phone number can be found at the bottom of Congregational Church's billboard.
As for the sign's discussion of gay scout leaders, it appears to be a reference to the Boy Scouts of America's policy barring openly LGBT adults from involvement, even as Eagle Scouts, troop leaders, or family volunteers. In 2013, the BSA removed its long-standing ban on allowing openly gay youth to participate in the organization, but the group maintains that gay people over 18 cannot be involved. Activists wanting to see the ban removed in its entirety have been pressuring the group to reconsider -- and were cautiously optimistic last month when BSA president Robert Gates acknowledged that the current "membership standards cannot be sustained." Gates, who as Secretary of Defense oversaw the end of the U.S. Military's ban on open service by gay, lesbian, and bisexual Americans, called for a change in BSA policy "sooner rather than later."
Watch WTSP's report on the Congregational Church's signage below.