Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Church-Led Gay Bashing in Tennessee: WWJD?

Jerry Pittman Jr. and Dustin Lee (L to R), attacked by church members in West Tennessee

Humbolt, Tennessee – In the quiet outskirts of rural Humbolt, Tennessee, a church with a Fruitland address was the scene for a violent attack on two young gay men simply for arriving at Wednesday evening services.  What Would Jesus Do (WWJD) about Church-and-Pastor instigated gay bashing?  On September 28, Jerry Pittman Jr. and his boyfriend, Dustin Lee, arrived at Grace Fellowship Church where his father, Jerry Pittman Sr., is the pastor.  Just before the gay couple got out of their car, Jerry Jr. heard his father cry, “Sic ‘em!,” as a hunter would address a pack of dogs.  Two deacons from the church, and Jerry Jr.’s uncle who is also a deacon, attacked the pair while they were still trying to get out of the parked vehicle.  WBBJ Eyewitness News interviewed Jerry Jr. soon after the church gay bashed the couple: “My uncle and two other deacons came over to the car per my dad’s request,” young Jerry said. “My uncle smashed me in the door as the other deacon knocked my boyfriend back so he couldn’t help me, punching him in his face and his chest. The other deacon came and hit me through my car window in my back.”  The men kept yelling homophobic insults and slurs at the couple even after a Gibson County Deputy Sheriff arrived on the scene.  The couple attempted to press charges with the officer, who refused to allow them to do so, implying that they were the cause of the attack themselves.  Gibson County Sheriff Chuck Arnold defended the actions of his deputy to the press, saying, “I haven’t talk to him but that would be out of character for my deputy to say unless they were causing a problem themselves.”  Media attention has caused the sheriff to temper his remarks in subsequent interviews.

Pittman and Lee did press charges the following Friday against Deacons Billy Sims and Eugene McCoy, as well as Rev. Jerry Pittman Sr. and Deacon Patrick Flatt, the younger Pittman’s uncle.  When WBBJ reporters contacted the pastor, he refused comment and demanded that the station not try to communicate with him again.

Evan Hurst of Truth Wins Out gives the latest details on this story that has shocked Christians and non-Christians alike, awakening them to the presence of virulent, anti-gay prejudice in America’s pulpits and pews.  Hurst spoke to Jerry Jr. by phone on October 5, who said, “The church acted as four people, instead of as a congregation.”  Pittman explained that he and his boyfriend had attended the church before, though they knew the condemning stance of the elder Pittman, who preached anti-gay sermons “when the couple wasn’t there.”  Lee had even been invited to sing at Grace Fellowship once when he attended services alone.  But marital trouble broke out between Pittman Sr. and Jerry Jr.’s stepmother, and, in Hurst’s words, “the floodgates opened and the church no longer felt the need to stay silent about Jerry, Jr. and his boyfriend.”   The charges and counter charges in this case are still being sorted out.  All parties are remanded to court on November 22.  Meanwhile, Jerry Pittman Jr. and Dustin Lee are left to pick up the pieces of their lives and shattered faith.  Jerry Jr. has already lost his job because of the days he has spent pursuing justice for himself and his boyfriend.

West Tennessee is a tough place to be gay or lesbian, much less transgender.  Hurst relates a “man-on-the-street” interview in Jackson, in which the reporter asked a passer-by about what he would do if his son brought a boyfriend to church with him.  The man candidly said he would shoot them.  The culture of hatred, religious intolerance of LGBTQ people, and church-sanctioned violence remains undisturbed in America’s heartland, no matter if there is a federal Matthew Shepard Act to offer some protection legally to marginalized gay people.

Would Jesus condone anti-gay violence?  If not, then why is such prejudice overtly and covertly incubated in the nation’s communities of faith, like Grace Fellowship?  While it may be simple for many Christians to dismiss the Grace Fellowship hate crime as an aberration in an embarrassing, Pentecostal byway, the silence from every other church in the surrounding area is deafening.  The Unfinished Lives Project has shown the link between religious intolerance, religious hate speech, and deadly anti-gay violence.  Nine out of ten fatal hate crimes perpetrated against LGBTQ people in the United States were sparked, by admission of the killers, by Bible or Church teaching.  If churches cannot speak out against an attack against a young gay couple simply for arriving at a church for services, what will they remain silent about next?  WWJD about Christians and Churches who gay bash or stand by silently while others do?  Read John 11:35: “Jesus wept.”

October 5, 2011 - Posted by | Anglo Americans, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, bi-phobia, Bisexual persons, Blame the victim, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, Homosexuality and the Bible, Law and Order, Lesbian women, LGBTQ, Matthew Shepard Act, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Slurs and epithets, Tennessee, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

9 Comments »

  1. [...] Church-led gay bashing in Tennessee: What would Jesus do? [...]

    Pingback by Periodical Political Post *74 « milkboys – The Boys Blog | October 10, 2011 | Reply

  2. Remember what Jesus said to the woman caught in the act of adultery by religious zealots. The law proclaimed stoning for such an offence. Jesus said basically, “fine, stone her then, but the one to cast the first stone must be without sin themselves.” The crowd melted away as they came under condemnation until only Jesus was left eith the woman. Then he said to her “neither do I condemn you….” Another interesting verse says that many will come to Him and say, “Lord Lord, we have preached in your name and done miracles” and Jesus will say to them, “get away from Me you evil doers.” There are going to be many who call themselves Christians who are going to be shocked when they are denied access to heavon. The only people Jesus had no time for, and got angry with, weren’t sinners, but the religious establishment.

    Comment by Brian | October 10, 2011 | Reply

  3. Yet we don’t turn to terrorism or assasinations to get our message out:
    We’re queer, we’re here, get used to it.

    Comment by K | October 10, 2011 | Reply

  4. Even though for 2 thousand of years the church has been trying to hide the fact that Jesus himself was a gay man and that he had a relationship with Lazarus and other young men. Why does society have such a sexphobic attitude? The church has used sexuality as a tool by making it sinful and thereby used this to persecute violently many innocent people. Present society has criminalised it for the same reasons. There is nothing wrong with consensual sexuality in whatever form this is expressed. This sort of immoral behaviour of churches and state is nothing more than FASCISTIC power over innocent people. This is not different than the NAZI behaviour of the 30s and 40s.

    Comment by Gerald Moonen | October 14, 2011 | Reply

    • EQUAL RIGHTS, YES, BUT DON’T SAY CHRIST WAS GAY, HE IS OF A MIND SET WE AS FLESHY HUMANS CAN’T BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND. NOTHING GOES ON THAT DOESN’T GET NOTICED BY SOME ONE. YEARS OF STUDY OF ALL THE MAJOR AND LESSER MASSORAHTIC TEXT, THE WELL DOCUMENTED HISTORY OF EXISTING COUNTRIES AND PARALLEL TIME LI NES DEPICT THE MAN WORTHY TO BE GOD’S SON, A NON SEXUAL, HIGHER MIND ON A MISSION. YES, MANY CHURCHES HAVE FAILED TO FEED THEIR FLOCK THE HEAVY TRUTH OF THE WORD OF GOD, MAYBE THIS IS WHY YOU ARE MISINFORMED, BUT IT’S UP TO US TO EDUCATE OURSELVES ON A DEEPER LEVEL, THOUGH THE BIBLE IS WRITTEN ON THREE LEVELS: CHILDREN,ADULTS, SCHOLARS, I T STARTED WITH HEBREW AND CHALDEE, AND THERE ARE MANY GOOD TRANSLATIONS TO ASSIST YOU IF YOU CARE ENOUGH ABOUT GOD TO LEARN MORE, IT COULD ONLY HELP YOU IN YOUR BATTLE AGAINST PREJUDICE

      Comment by SU | June 8, 2012 | Reply

  5. [...] a midweek meeting with his boyfriend, the pastor yells “Sic ‘em,” as the two are kicked and punched. (Note: This source isn’t a Christian blog, but I feel we need to be aware what is taking [...]

    Pingback by Wednesday Link List « Thinking Out Loud | October 19, 2011 | Reply

    • It is good that this story is getting out, even beyond the usual progressive sources. The blogger, Paul Wilkinson, says that “we need to be aware of what is taking place and how it is being perceived.” Good for him. He goes on to say that the source of the story, Unfinished Lives Blog, “isn’t a Christian blog.” I can assure Mr. Wilkinson that the blogger here is a Christian. And a gay one.

      Steve

      Comment by unfinishedlives | October 19, 2011 | Reply

  6. ah, the “loving and tolerant” christians strike again. WWJD.

    Comment by Bobbie Jo Justice | June 7, 2012 | Reply

  7. […] homosexuals. Long, but worth the read. Looking for a specific example? Here's just one: Church-Led Gay Bashing . Originally Posted by kingrat LOL. What's that about? Yeah. Fucking hilarious. More […]

    Pingback by Religious Abuse - Page 5 | June 9, 2013 | Reply


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