Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Inclusive Methodist Church Barred from Easter Parade Because of “Offensive” Message

Methodist Laywomen Suzie Bell says barring her church from the Easter Parade was an act of anti-LGBT discrimination.

Methodist Laywomen Suzie Bell says barring her church from the Easter Parade was an act of anti-LGBT discrimination.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas – Controversy over the acceptance of LGBT people in Arkansas is splitting the Christian community in Eureka Springs. Organizers of the local “Celebrate Jesus” Easter parade, who initially permitted First United Methodist Church to participate in this year’s event, barred the church a week prior to Easter. Why? Because, reports Ozarksfirst.com, the Methodist Church was to carry a banner that read, “Jesus Loves All” — a message deemed “offensive” by parade officials.

Church member Suzie Bell told Ozarksfirst reporters that her church’s exclusion was because of their reconciling stance towards LGBT people. “They wanted to know what our banner was going to say, and it said “Jesus loves all. They had decided that they did not want us in the parade, and that we weren’t welcome,” Bell said. “[The negative decision] was based purely on our love and acceptance of the LGBT community.”

The “Celebrate Jesus” parade has been a community staple for three years now, according to local news outlet in Rogers, KNWA. When reporters questioned parade organizer Laura Nichols about why the Methodist Church was barred from the parade, she refused to speak with them, but issued a lengthy statement instead. The statement reads, in part:

“This day isn’t a day of pointing fingers or playing the blame game. This parade is to honor our Lord and Savior and for praising God for sending His only Son who willingly went to the cross, died and rose on the third day that when we repent of our sins and accept Him… Regardless of what has been stated in the papers. We do not have anything against the Methodist Church. After all my uncle was a Methodist minister. Nor do we have anything against the homosexual community.”  

Methodist Church member Bell isn’t buying it, and is troubled by the organizers’ lack of explanation. In rebuttal to Nichols’s statement, Bell said, “I’m sad, I’m sad that this is something that would divide Christians, It doesn’t seem right.” The United Methodist Church had recently become a Reconciling Congregation, meaning that the congregation publicly welcomes LGBT people and celebrates their sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions.

The sign the Methodist Church prepared to carry in the parade, that Jesus loves and accepts all people, was apparently a step too far in Arkansas where controversy has raged over a thinly-veiled discriminatory “Religious Objections” law passed by the GOP dominated legislature which Governor Asa Hutchinson turned back to lawmakers at the last minute because of a storm of criticism over the law’s discriminatory intent. The Governor pressured the legislature to tweak the law just enough that the could sign it, and avoid the missteps recently disabling the Indiana RFRA. Critics of the “Arkansas Fix” say that the new language doesn’t ensure that LGBT residents of the state will be protected from religious-based bigotry.

When “Jesus Loves All” becomes “offensive” to other Christians because of their politicized right wing desire to stymie any dissent on the matter of LGBT people in their community, it isn’t the United Methodist Church who has gone a step too far. As the Arkansas Blog opines in relation to the decision to tell the reconciling Methodists they are no longer wanted in the parade, “Saying ‘Jesus Loves All’ does point a finger in the current debate. Sad to say. I think if He’d visit lepers and eat with publicans and other sinners, he might even drop a cake off at the house of a couple of lesbians. He’d certainly walk in a parade with them.” 

April 6, 2015 Posted by | Arkansas, First United Methodist Church Eureka Springs, GLBTQ, Governor Asa Hutchinson, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), religious intolerance | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Our Pets are First Victims of Right-Wing Hate: Response to Arkansas Cat Murder

Pet cat killed because of hate. Picture provided by Blue Arkansas who wrote: "It is included here not for shock value, but to show just how heinous some people can be."

Russellville, Arkansas – Jake Burris, campaign manager for Democratic Congressional candidate Ken Aden, came home with his four children to find their pet cat slaughtered on the front porch.  “LIBERAL” was scrawled in magic marker on the lifeless body. In a clear example of terrorism, the innocent animal had been bashed in the head and left so that it could not be missed by Burris, who is locked in a tight campaign struggle against a right-wing Republican opponent to elect his candidate to the U.S. House of Representatives.  But instead of Burris finding the carcass of the family pet before his children, his little boy found their kitty first.  Blue Arkansas wrote movingly about this atrocity:

“This is terrorism.  There’s no other word for it.  A police report has been filed.  Jake said the kids seem to be handling it okay.  The one that discovered the cat was too young to be able to read and Jake had quickly gotten the others into the house before they saw it.  Pope County is an insanely conservative area and the Aden campaign has been shaking things up even there and it looks like another right wing sociopath with a taste for violence has come crawling out of the woodwork in response.  I asked Aden for a comment on the record:

‘“This is sickening.  To kill a child’s pet…I’m at a loss for words…I’ve seen the best and the worst of humanity, but this is something else.”’

Defenseless, innocent victims pay the price of hate ideology and violence first–our pets.  Violence against human victims is underreported, but statistics on this dimension of hate violence are non-existent. The numbers of pets slain in hate killings must be astronomical. Political liberals, progressives, LGBTQ people, women, racial/ethnic minorities have all experienced the terrible shock, anger, and raw fear Jake Burris and his family faced yesterday at the hands of irrational hate groups who send a message of terror by killing cats, dogs, birds and other family pets.

The murder of pet animals is often a prelude to anti-human violence.  Gay man Charlie Howard found his cat dead on the front steps of his apartment in Bangor, Maine with its neck broken shortly before a gang of Bangor’s youth threw him off the State Street Bridge. Friends of Charlie’s said that after he found his cat killed, he became depressed and fearful. He had every reason to be, as it turned out. Charlie drowned in Kenduskeag Stream because three boys hated him because of his sexual orientation.  The pet killing was a telegraphic message of homophobia, sent from people who warmed up to killing Charlie by taking the life of his companion.

I know the feeling that terrorized Charlie Howard and that the Jake Burris and his family face now.  In the early 1990’s, I came home from pastoral hospital visits to parishioners to find my English Bulldog Buck and my Basset Hound Beau butchered, hanging up in a tree in my Eastern NC parsonage yard.  Anonymous opponents suspected I was gay, and tried to drive me out of the church I was serving by slaughtering my pets.  In those days, I lived a single, closeted life, serving churches with the fear of discovery of my sexual orientation. My dogs were my only companions, and paid the ultimate price because cowards thought I would run.  I did not run.  I stayed at the church and fought back successfully.  But the loss is still with me.

Reuters reports that the campaign of Republican incumbent Steve Womack, Aden’s opponent in the heavily conservative 3rd District of Arkansas, has condemned the killing of Burris’s cat.  Candidate Aden and Burris said they do not believe anyone in the Womack campaign perpetrated the crime.  The Russellville Police Department is treating this incident as an animal cruelty case, and the investigation is ongoing. But the fact remains that the atmosphere of irrational hatred propounded by unreasoning prejudice is lethal.

Jake Burris told Blue Arkansas, “I’ve got a gun and I know how to use it. If I have to protect my kids I’ll do it without hesitation.”  

We have a duty to all life to find a cure for hate.  Our pets pay as terrible a price as we do because of hate violence.  Perhaps the shock of a story like this can awaken the consciences of our neighbors to work with us to create a world safe for all creatures to live without fear.    ~ Stephen V. Sprinkle, Founder and Director of the Unfinished Lives Project, Associate Prof at Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, Texas

January 23, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Arkansas, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Pet killings, Slurs and epithets, Special Comments, transphobia, U.S. House of Representatives | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Our Pets are First Victims of Right-Wing Hate: Response to Arkansas Cat Murder

Two Transgender Murders Bespeak Crisis of Violence

Marcal Camero Tye, 25, hate crime victim

Forrest City, Arkansas and Baltimore, Maryland – The brutal murders of two transgender women of color within the last month indicate the epidemic nature of transphobic and racist violence against the most vulnerable members of the LGBTQ community.  No suspects have been identified yet in the murder of Tyra Trent, 25, who was found asphyxiated in a vacant building owned by the city in Baltimore on February 19.  Ms. Trent had been reported missing days before the discovery of her body.  Marcal Camero Tye, also 25, was murdered by dragging behind a vehicle for several hundred feet in Forrest City, Arkansas on March 8. The FBI has begun an investigation into the grisly murder of Ms. Tye, since Arkansas has not statute on the books protecting transgender people. No witnesses have come forward, and no suspects are being investigated in the Tye case as of yet.  Transgender activists have filled the cyberworld with posts and articles about the two women, since regional and national media routinely ignore such stories, and the African American and LGBTQ press seem not to be much better when it comes to reporting these terrible acts of violence.  Media chronically use male pronouns when referring to these women who gave so much in order to live life as they were born to be. Statements like “a man in a dress” sensationalize and demean the victims over and over again, even following their murders–thereby re-victimizing the victims. By definition, these murders are hate crimes perpetrated against a class of human beings who have remarkable hurdles to surmount in society.  It is amazing to us at Unfinished Lives that Ms. Tye could live as a transgender woman in small town Arkansas.  Ms. Trent faced similar problems in big town life.  Local law enforcement authorities are reluctant to launch hate-crime investigations because of internalized bias against transgender persons.  In the case of Ms. Tye, Arkansas LGBTQ activists were infuriated when Francis County Sheriff Bobby May asserted that her murder was a usual homicide and that the dragging death reports of he demise were “misleading.”  The Little Rock-based Center for Artistic Revolution has issued statements of alarm and support for Ms. Tye since the initial reports of her slaying. As EDGE Boston reports: “The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs’ most recent report on anti-LGBT hate violence also indicated disproportionately high levels of anti-trans violence. Trans women-many of whom were of color-comprised half of the 22 reported anti-LGBT murders in 2009.” The situation has reached epidemic proportions across the nation.  These two savage killings underscore the need for LGBTQ and racial/ethnic minority advocates to amplify the cries of the transgender community.  The killings must stop.

March 20, 2011 Posted by | African Americans, anti-LGBT hate crime murder, Arkansas, Asphixiation, Blame the victim, Character assassination, Dragging murders, FBI, gender identity/expression, Hate Crime Statistics, Hate Crimes, Law and Order, Legislation, Maryland, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Racism, Social Justice Advocacy, Strangulation, transgender persons, transphobia, Unsolved LGBT Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Two Transgender Murders Bespeak Crisis of Violence

Courageous Mother & Pioneer Anti-Hate Crime Activist Dies

Carolyn Wagner (1953-2011), Human Rights Champion

Tulsa, Oklahoma – Pioneer activist, Carolyn Wagner, co-founder of Families United Against Hate (FUAH), passed away January 18 after a protracted battle with cancer, liver failure, and hepatitis. Widely admired for her courageous work on behalf of LGBTQ civil rights, Wagner became involved in the human rights struggle in 1996 when her son William, 16,  was brutally harassed and attacked by homophobic students while attending school in northwest Arkansas. Young William survived, but compelled by a need for justice, Carolyn and Bill Wagner waged a successful legal campaign against the Fayetteville, AR school district under Title IX.  The United States Office for Civil Rights ruled against the school district thanks to a complaint lodged by the Wagners on behalf of their son–the first time in U.S. history that Title IX was used to address anti-gay harassment and the bullying of gay and lesbian students, according to the ACLU.  Because of her experience as the parent of a gay-bashed son, Carolyn joined forces with Gabi Clayton to found FUAH so other parents in similar situations could benefit from what she had learned. In 1999, Bill Wagner with Carolyn at his side, became a plaintiff in the history case, Howard v. Child Welfare Agency Review Board, argued by the ACLU to challenge the Arkansas Department of Human Services regulation that foster children could not be housed where adult gays and lesbians reside. Wagner qualified as a plaintiff since their son William, by then an adult, sometimes came home to stay with his parents. After learning about the plight of youth, straight and gay, who were abused because of the perception that they were gay, Carolyn and Bill Wagner took in scores of children through the years as foster parents. In August 2006, the Arkansas Supreme Court struck down the ban against gay and lesbian foster parents thanks to the litigation initiated by the Wagners and others. But the victory was not without cost for Carolyn, according to a tribute by the ACLU. In the same year as the ruling that struck down discrimination against gay and lesbian foster parents, Carolyn was brutally assaulted on her own property by a man posing as a police officer, who told her he did not like “queer-loving ACLU types.” Though shaken by the beating, she continued working tirelessly for LGBTQ human rights until the end of her life.  FUAH issued this statement: “On January 18, 2011 the world lost a civil rights pioneer and strong voice for equality. Carolyn Wagner fought every day to create a world where equality would become a reality for all, no matter their sexual orientation, gender identity, race or life circumstances. Her path in life was difficult but she never wavered in her dedication and love for the many communities she advocated so powerfully for until she took her last breath. Nothing could ever stop her from fighting for her family, her friends and her community. Plenty of people tried to stop her, but never with any success. Carolyn’s heart, mind and arms were always open and we will miss her powerful embrace, we know her legacy will never die as long as we carry the spirit of her love within us, and take action with as much courage, humor, and wisdom as she did. Our thoughts and prayers are with her husband and children and the hundreds and thousands of people whose lives she touched. She will always be with us.” Carolyn is survived by her husband Bill, a her daughter, and two granddaughters. To hundreds of thousands, she was a champion of their rights, a compassionate, strong, and determined advocate for justice. But it is well to remember that Carolyn Wagner was first and foremost a wife and mother who acted to right a wrong that initially struck her own family, and then opened her eyes to the plight of countless others like her boy. As Bill Wagner said: “Carolyn will be remembered as an activist and civil rights hero to many, but for me she was simply the love of my life, my best friend and an amazing mother to our children. I will miss her beautiful smile, her raucous and infectious laugh and most of all her loving heart.”  Her memorial service was held in Tulsa on January 22 at the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center. Rest in Peace, Carolyn. We will miss you.

January 31, 2011 Posted by | ACLU, Anti-LGBT hate crime, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Bullying in schools, Carolyn Wagner, Condolences, Families United Against Hate (FUAH), funerals, gay and lesbian foster parents, gay bashing, gay men, gay teens, harassment, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, Law and Order, Legislation, Lesbian women, Mistaken as LGBT, Oklahoma, Parenting equality, Perpetrators of Hate Crime, Remembrances, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Courageous Mother & Pioneer Anti-Hate Crime Activist Dies

10 Year Old KKK Hate Preacher

Andrew Pendergraft - Bancroft USA photo

Harrison, AR – Ten-year-old Andrew Pendergraft has a picture-perfect American family, and preaches hatred against LGBT people and racial minorities.  He hates “homosexual heroes” and “race mixing.”  In the most recent edition of “Hatewatch,” the Southern Poverty Law Center highlights the story of this young, blond boy and his sisters  Charity, 19, and Shelby, 17, who are being reared by their parents in the culture of hatred for all things non-white and homosexual.  The Sun carries an extensive article with revealing photos of the boy, who recently ranted against the Disney animated film, “The Princess and the Frog.”  While Andrew opines that the African American Princess is good for all the “black kids,” the fact that the Prince is white is terrible, because that is “race mixing”: “If all other people mix up there won’t be any more white kids,” the Sun quotes him as saying, “So don’t race-mix.”  Andrew goes on to complain that the film is anti-Christian since the “good guy” is a Voodoo priest, and Voodoo is a black race blasphemy, while Christianity is the religion of white people. “Voodoo doctors worship the Devil so it’s a pretty bad movie for kids, especially white kids,” Andrew concludes. “Be white and proud. Bye.” The story of the Pendergrafts who have swallowed Klu Klux Klan doctrine hook, line, and sinker, is a warning to American society about the new shape of deadly hatred in this country: the intersection of oppressions and hatreds.  Race hatred and anti-semitism do not exist in a vacuum from homophobia and heterosexism.  In the Sun interview, Andrew’s mother Rachel proudly states that she home schooled her children because if they were to attend a public school, her kids would be taught about “heroes of the homosexual agenda, and that it is OK to race-mix.”  Mrs. Pendergraft goes on to say, “They would be taught that there is a great socialist agenda in America and they can get on that bandwagon.”  Undergirding the new face of American hatred is an old evil: support for hate ideology by a particularly intolerant version of the Christian religion.  Little Andrew loves to go to the White Christian Revival Center in Harrison where he preaches, and after he finishes shooting his latest segment on the family internet TV project, “White People TV,” he and about 30 other Klan Kids go out bowling. “It is so much fun!” Andrew enthuses.  The flaming cross is central to the whole hate project, according to Andrew’s sister, Charity, and has been misunderstood by outsiders and race-mixers: “We don’t call it cross-burning. It is meant to highlight that Jesus died for us on the cross,” she told the Sun.  The sincerity of this belief, that the Christian God only approves of white, straight people, and their paranoia about the supposed “extinction of  the White race,” make for a dangerous future when inculcated in children so young.  According to The Sun, current membership of the KKK in the United States stands at around 8,000, and is growing strongly after the election of America’s first African American “race-mixing”  President, Barack Obama.

June 10, 2010 Posted by | African Americans, Anglo Americans, Anti-Semitism, Arkansas, gay men, Heterosexism and homophobia, Klu Klux Klan, Media Issues, Neo-Nazis and White Supremacy, Racism, religious hate speech, religious intolerance, Southern Poverty Law Center, transgender persons, transphobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

   

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