Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Gays Terrorized by Panhandle of Texas Hate Crime

Anti-gay death threat painted on the porch of a gay couple in Clarendon, Texas on October 1.

Clarendon, Texas – A gay couple have been put on notice that they are in danger by vandals in a small community an hour from Amarillo.  Two weeks after an anti-gay diatribe by a local Church of Christ pastor appeared in the community newspaper, Joshua Harrison and Jeremy Jeffers found their front porch defaced by the scrawled warning, LEAVE OR DIE FAGS. The gay couple, partnered for better than a year, say they have never been so afraid for their lives.

Pronews 7 reports that the Donley County Sheriff, Charles “Butch” Blackburn, is calling the vandalism “a hate crime.”  The Donley County Sheriffs Department is investigating who painted the ominous warning on the gay couple’s property. Harrison and Jeffers are arranging to leave Clarendon because of the threat to their lives.

In late September, Minister Chris Moore, spiritual leader of the Clarendon Church of Christ, published his provocative advertisement in the Clarendon Enterprise, condemning gays and lesbians for an “agenda” that included compromising the “values” of ordinary American citizens, and making their children “prey for pedophiles”  (full ad available for viewing here). Moore based his screed upon a “platform”  published “sometime back” by a group known as the National Coalition of Gay Organizations, a short-lived group convened in Chicago in 1972, but which has not been in existence for over 40 years. Moore apparently dredged up his “factual” claims from this old, extremist chestnut, and sought to incite anti-gay discussion in the Panhandle. Moore is surely aware that charges of pedophilia incite strong negative reactions against gay people, though they are not grounded in any truth.  Moore defends his ad in the paper, but has gone on record denouncing the vandalism and violence threatened against Jeffers and Harrison as “unChristian.”  As of October 8, readers of the Pronews 7 report of this hate crime said by a two-to-one majority that Moore’s anti-gay ad and the subsequent hate crime against the gay couple are directly connected.

Chuck Smith of Equality Texas condemned the atmosphere created in Clarendon by the Church of Christ ad:  “No Texan should ever have to live in fear of violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. While Smith affirmed Chris Moore’s freedom of speech, he went on to say, “It is a fact that when people teach or preach homophobia and anti-gay rhetoric, it can inflame people to the point of violence.”

Rev. Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, Professor of Practical Theology at Fort Worth’s Brite Divinity School and ordained Baptist minister, says that there must be zero tolerance for hate speech in the Christian community, whether the group is conservative or progressive.  “There is an undeniable link between religious leaders’ intolerant speech and acts of physical violence against LGBTQ people in this country,” he said. “Minister Moore’s hate speech ranks high on the anti-gay incitement scale, right along beside violence permitting statements by extremist ministers who favored Amendment One in North Carolina this year.” Noting that the online blog of Clarendon Church of Christ has carried anti-gay postings for better than two years, Sprinkle went on to say, “While Moore’s speech is protected under law,” Sprinkle went on to say, “Moore would be quick to deny responsibility for the fear, destruction of property, and physical harm such statements incite, but he must bear some indirect responsibility for this crime. This is unbecoming of  a Christian minister.”  Sprinkle called upon people of good conscience in all communities of faith to express their intolerance of all expressions of hate speech coming from pulpits everywhere.

Meanwhile, Harrison and Jeffers are still in fear for their lives because of irrational hatred against them, and their intimidators are still at large in the Texas Panhandle.

October 8, 2012 - Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Brite Divinity School, Clarendon Church of Christ, death threats, Equality Texas, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, hate speech, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Texas, vandalism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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