Last edited: May 08, 2004

Pastors Condemn Homosexuality on Eve of Rhea Co. “Gay Day”

Associated Press, May 7, 2004

DAYTON, Tenn.—Bible-carrying preachers who led a downtown protest against homosexuality attracted little attention Friday on the eve of a gay rights celebration in Rhea County.

About 35 people, many carrying signs with Bible verses and messages such as “God says no to same-sex marriage,” marched along an otherwise empty sidewalk at midmorning.

Other than passers-by in vehicles, the only spectators were police officers and retailers who watched through their store fronts.

The Rev. Franklin Raddish of Washington, D.C., founder and director of Capitol Hill Independent Baptist Ministries, organized the protest in response to plans by gay activists for a Saturday picnic, games and entertainment at a park.

Plans for the gay rights celebration began in March after the Rhea County commissioners approved and then repealed a motion to ban gays and put them on trial for “crimes against nature.”

The protesters against homosexuality listened to preaching Friday on the shaded lawn of the historic courthouse where a jury in 1925 convicted John Scopes for teaching evolution.

“It’s a privilege to publicly stand and declare God’s side of this issue,” the Rev. Wayne Sexton said, pounding his fists on a podium and prompting “Amens” from some protesters.

Sexton said he drove from the Walland community where he is pastor of Ridgeview Independent Baptist Church. Some other participants drove from Lawrenceburg.

Rosemary Jordan of the Evansville community in Rhea County stood listening to the preaching and said she was surprised there wasn’t a bigger turnout of local residents.

“If they were Christians, they would be here,” she said.

Rhea County commissioners, who have described their vote to ban gays as a misunderstanding, did not attend the protest.

Jordan said most of the participants were from out-of-town.

Pam Webb, who watched the march from inside the retail store where she works, said the protesters’ strategy was wrong.

“It’s not going to change them (homosexuals),” Webb said. “God’s conviction is what changes people, not condemnation.”

Elycia Robinson, who identified herself as gay, was not upset by the protest.

“Everybody is going to have their opinion, no matter what,” Robinson said. “I don’t think it is going to accomplish a whole lot. I believe in God, and I believe he loves me.”

Dayton, 35 miles north of Chattanooga with about 6,200 residents, annually commemorates the Scopes trial. The verdict was reversed on a technicality and the trial became the subject of the play and movie “Inherit the Wind.”

[Home] [News] [Tennessee]