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Hundreds filled the Catawba County Justice Center lawn and roadside today to protest anti-gay remarks a Maiden pastor made two weeks ago.
In a May 13 service at Providence Road Baptist Church, Pastor Charles Worley suggested locking up lesbians and gays in an electrified fence until they die.
The majority of demonstrators at today's protest said Worley's remarks were full of hate, while several at the rally voiced their own anti-gay sentiments.
Terry Cooley and his partner, Dave Dlouhy, drove 744 miles from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., to attend the protest. Cooley, who is originally from North Carolina, said Worley's comments were alarming.
"My immediate reaction was, 'Is this real?,'" Cooley said. "Is this the year 2012? Is this the United States? Why do we still have congregations, not just a preacher, who completely close off their minds to any other acceptance views of how people are and how they can live within peace of each other?"
Cooley said it's important to protest all forms of hate.
"We have to keep coming out here and go wherever we need to raise our voices and let people know that this is unacceptable and weâ€™re not going to stand for it," Cooley said.
Paul Greene, of Greensboro, said he came to the protest to speak for those who could not.
"There are a lot of people who canâ€™t speak because they are sitting silently in their churches," Greene said. "And every time they hear an amen to something thatâ€™s being preached in their churches, all it's doing is condemning them and robbing them of Godâ€™s love."
At the protest, Greene held up a sign that read, "I am a gay moral conservative Christian with family values, as God made me to be."
"I grew up suicidal and a horrible life â€” all because of listening to pastors at church," Greene said. "But I finally got to the point where I was no longer going to let the church rob me of Godâ€™s love and my relationship with him."
Authorities presented warning citations for noise-ordinance violations to at least two demonstrators who used megaphones. Sheriff Coy Reid said use of such devices is not permitted in the city of Newton.
Several demonstrators delved into heated face-to-face debates about homosexuality, but as of 12:30 p.m. the protest was mostly peaceful.
Billy Ball, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Primrose, Ga., received a noise citation from Newton Police Chief Don Brown for using a speaker system to evangelize alongside U.S. 321 Business.
Ball defended Worley's comments, drawing anger and questions from some of the "love not hate" protesters.
"Pastor Worley clearly says in his message, â€˜Iâ€™ve got a plan. This is what I would do,â€™" Ball said. "He never says thatâ€™s what God would do. Never, not one time did he say God said that. He said, â€˜this is what I would do.â€™ The larger message is I believe he springboards from the fact that they are worthy of death. Thatâ€™s in the New Testament, Romans 1:32, the words â€˜worthy of death,â€™ talking about sodomy."
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for photos from the event. And pick up the Tuesday print edition of The O-N-E for a full report on the latest developments in this story.