Last edited: February 14, 2005

Preacher: Protest Attendance Uncertain

Galveston Daily News, March 9, 1999
Box 628, Galveston, TX 77553
Fax 409-744-6268

By Carter Thompson, The Daily News

GALVESTON -- A planned demonstration against the opening of a gay resort is off to a slow start locally, said the Baptist pastor who is organizing it. Pastor Ken Barber, who argues that all homosexuals are child molesters and sinners beyond salvation, said island religious leaders had not answered his phone calls to protest in front of Hollywood at Galveston in April.

Barber said the demonstration would begin on April 9, the day before the hotel is set to open. He said he hoped the demonstrations would continue indefinitely and spread to city hall.

"A lot of the preachers think I’m too radical," Barber said, sitting in the converted living room where he leads services at Grace Baptist Church.

Bob Wilkins, one of the seawall hotel’s owners, said Barber - who articulated his views in a column published in Saturday’s Daily News - is wrong and is sending a dangerous message of ignorance.

"It’s ludicrous," he said. "That is the only word I can say. I think statistics show 90 percent of child molestations come from heterosexuals."

A call to violence?

Wilkins and others have said that Barber’s column concludes with what sounds like a call for violence. Barber quotes Romans 1:32, which says people "who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them."

"It’s frightening," said Wilkins. "It’s the same argument with abortion clinics and the doctors who perform abortions. Hopefully, he’s not that inspirational."

Barber, who calls homosexuals "the bottom rung of the ladder," said he wasn’t calling for violence against them.

"God will kill them," he said. "AIDS will kill them. Their own sin will kill them.

"I would never advocate killing a homosexual," he said. "I pray for them."

Community support

Wilkins said he and co-owner Sherman Houck had received support from the community since Barber made his views public.

"It warmed our hearts," Wilkins said. "Not only have people called but have made a point to go out of their way and stopped by."

Grace Baptist Church, a three-story house at 3701 Church St., is a work in progress, Barber said. A rag-tag mix of carpet remnants covers the floor, and the congregation sits in stadium seats bolted to the floor.

A narrow, creaky staircase leads to the two floors upstairs, where Barber said the church housed individuals trying to get back onto their feet. Now, there are four people staying at the church.

"It’s not as bad as it appears," he said. "It’s in better shape than when we got it.

"We don’t care if we have a big church," he said, showing off a room on the top floor furnished with a bare mattress and tattered couch. "Our main focus is our street ministry, helping the homeless and prison ministry."

Barber, 42, started the church as a mission of Houston’s Grace Baptist Church in 1992. Barber left in 1995 after suffering a jolt of electricity while working on the house, he said. He returned last year, Barber said.

He said the congregation was small. The day after the column appeared, 12 people showed up for Sunday services. The week before, the number was 20, Barber said.

A small congregation

He said he expected to muster about 20 people for the protest.

The majority of the protesters may come from outside Galveston County. Pastor Aubrey Vaughn of Grace Baptist Church in Houston said he hopes to bring down 20 people, with an outside chance at 50.

Vaughn said the number of protesters would swell if W.N. Otwell, who heads a ministry in Nacogdoches, turned out. Vaughn said Otwell was considering an invitation.

Otwell earned public notoriety when he set up a trailer near Fort Davis to support the Republic of Texas separatist group in its standoff with law enforcement authorities, The Associated Press reported. Otwell also is reported to be a supporter of the Branch Davidians, and told the Associated Press the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building was retribution for the standoff at the Waco cult compound.

Otwell also has backed racial segregation, has said women should not work and in the 1980s warned of an impending invasion of the United States by Mexico.

Barber said he had spoken to other religious leaders, but he declined to mention their names. Others are looking into whether anything can be done legally to stop the hotel from opening, he said.

Barber said he came to God in 1981 as he contemplated tying his socks together to make a noose or slashing his wrists while jailed in Brazoria County on a charge of aggravated robbery.

He and his partner had robbed a woman who Barber now says escaped from them by the grace of God.

"Our plan was to kidnap her and rape her, use her for a while and kill her so she couldn’t talk," Barber said.

A changed man

Barber got a light sentence, which he said was because authorities could see he was a changed man.

One year after he committed his crime, Barber was free. He chose to study the Bible alone rather than attend the seminary.

Barber said he once was a member of the Southern Baptist Convention, but left. He said he was discouraged by the convention’s liberal stances, including allowing women to preach, and by its support of Baylor University, which he said supports abortion.

Pastor Ken Barber’s Editorial

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