To all fair-minded Citizens:
Most of us understand the reality that gay rights and equality are highly controversial in any discussion, especially where faith is concerned. I’ve had plenty of conversations regarding my Christian faith and my sexual orientation. Some have been positive, others have been a little less than positive. I know that some of you even disagree with me on gay rights. That’s fine. We can disagree agreeably, I think.
Every once in a while, we encounter someone who has nothing to offer but hate, bigotry, and a disgusting message. Such is the message of “Rev.” Fred Phelps, who is the “pastor” of Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas. Phelps and his “church” gained national attention when he picketed the funeral of Matthew Shepard, the young gay man who was beaten to death just outside of Laramie, Wyoming. Phelps produced signs that say that Matthew is “in hell” and that “God hates fags.”
He claims to be the “only person who loves these beasts,” and considers his message critical. After years of picketing the funerals of gay men and teenagers who died or were killed, he has changed his tactic. Now, he and his clan are protesting the funerals of US soldiers who were killed in combat. His new slogan is, “they turned America over to the fags, they’re coming home in body bags.”
Why is this important? They’re coming to Clarksville. That’s why. They have received a permit to gather just outside of Gate 4 on Wednesday evening, Feb. 8, at 5:00 pm.
My friends, this isn’t about gay rights anymore. This is about common decency and respect! This is about people who have the nerve to protest a memorial ceremony. That’s right, a memorial! Our soldiers have given their lives for our country, and this is the way he thanks them.
The sad irony is that those soldiers died so that he can have the right to preach his hate to us.
I call on every fair-minded person in Clarksville and Oak Grove to stand with us as we support our troops and thank them properly for their service. We will be there to support our troops, not to engage in a shouting match. They won’t change their minds. Nor will I.
But I will show my support for those who have served, and especially for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice.
I will NOT support a confrontational attitude. I will NOT support anyone who wants to attack or throw anything at our “visitors.” They have every right to be there. So do we.
So won’t you join us? No, their hateful message isn’t welcome. But at least we can provide a friendly face for those who are serving. I know some groups have publicly said that they can’t say anything either way. But we can all unite under the banner of support.
We want to have signs made that reflect this positive message:
- “Thank GOD for Soldiers”
- “God Bless America”
- “God Loves You”
- “We Thank our Troops”
If you want to help get some signs made, you can donate to Clarksville Pride, Inc. by mail at PO Box 30092, Clarksville, TN 37040, and we’ll get that message out. Clarksville Pride, Inc. is an educational organization which sponsors the Pride festival every year to celebrate diversity in Clarksville and promote equality for those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning.
Or, if you’d rather take direct action, just stop by your local sign shop and have some quick signs made up! Remember, keep it positive.
We will have a coordination meeting at Christian Community Church of Clarksville this Saturday, Feb. 4th at 5:00 PM to make plans to unify this effort.
Christian Community Church of Clarksville is located at 125 N. Riverside Drive at the corner of Main and Riverside. Directions can be obtained from our website at http://www.ccc-clarksville.com/
From all of us at Clarksville Pride and Christian Community Church of Clarksville, thanks for your support. Thanks for supporting our troops. And to all our troops, thank you for your service.
Please contact me at 931.552.9316 or by email if you’re willing to help. We’ll get our message of hope out there!
David W. Shelton,
Chairman, Clarksville Pride, Inc.