Three years ago, 49 people were murdered in Pulse nightclub. This weekend the Revival Baptist Church in the Orlando suburb of Clermont, Florida, is capitalizing on the city’s grief to promote its homophobic agenda in its Make America Straight Again conference.
Patrick Boyle, the pastor hosting the event, said the conference was planned to coincide with Orlando’s pride week. Thankfully, he seems to have been misinformed because that does not take place until October. However, it’s even more reprehensible to have it on the Pulse anniversary.
The six pastors leading the conference are all-stars of LGBTQ+ hatred and many have publicly praised the 2016 massacre, with Roger Jimenez going as far as saying “the tragedy is more of them didn’t die” and Steven Anderson, who has been banned from 31 countries for his anti-LGBTQ+ doctrine, calling for the death of all homosexuals.
I don’t want to be writing about these repugnant men. I wish we could do what Zapulla suggested in his Tuesday column and starve them of the attention they crave.
But these people are dangerous.
One pastor, Tommy McMurtry, told his congregation to pray “if they do any protests, that it gets violent” because he said, Florida’s stand your ground law means they’re “allowed to fight back.”
Pride month started with a protest. Fifty years ago patrons of a New York City gay bar were fed up with systematic discrimination and fought back with riots in the streets. Our community is vibrant and strong and refuses to accept oppression. Although the organizers have not yet released the conference’s location, a Facebook event for a protest already has 175 people marked as interested or going. If you wish to protest, please bear in mind the organizers are hoping for an excuse to be violent. Make America Straight Again is not a call for mass-scale conversion therapy: Boyle quotes Ecclesiastes 1:15 saying “What is crooked cannot be straightened” in the conference's promotional video. They want us dead.
Is your safety worth standing up to these bigots? Definitely not for their sake, they aren’t going to change their minds. But unchecked vitriolic hatred can be perilous, especially when these men have thousands in their collective captive audiences each week soaking in their messages.
I won't tell anyone whether or not to show up in this space. I think it’s incredibly brave to demonstrate resistance and love in the face of hate. Maybe it’s enough to simply do that day-to-day. Maybe that’s the purpose of showing pride.
Lindsey Breneman is The Alligator engagment editor. She is proud to be the B in LGBTQ+.