Tonawanda News

Local News

April 27, 2006

Church signs spur dialogue

North Tonawanda, NY — The First Baptist Church on Meadow Drive in North Tonawanda posted a sign the weekend of March 25 that was considered homophobic by some residents of the community.

On one side of the sign there were phrases like “God loves homosexuals.” The other side of the sign read that homosexuality “destroyed a nation,” “spreads disease” and “is an abomination to God.”

The signs were taken down shortly after they were put up, but the church’s pastor, Robert Quick, denies that it was the controversial nature of the sign.

“I don’t know that we have ever had negative responses to our signs,” he said.

The signs serve as a connection between the church and the rest of the community. Though there are no strict guidelines for sign postage, Quick said that when choosing content, he wants to achieve one of three things.

“Our signs advertise events, post scripture verses, and then at times we simply speak about biblical truths,” he said.

John Curr, the director of the western regional office of the New York Civil Liberties Union, says that this situation should be one that can be used to open up dialogue within the community.

He said that nobody should tell the church what it can and cannot put up on its signs, even if people object to it.

“These are the kinds of institutions we need to protect,” Curr said. “No one should take any sanction against a congregation.”

Jim VerSteeg, the executive director of the Pride Center of Western New York, believes the perpetuation of messages like this one is damaging.

He said there are many congregations that embrace the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender population. Applying homophobia to ideology discourages this sort of affirmation.

“Free speech is free speech, but that does not include hate speech,” VerSteeg said. “What is unfortunate here is that people of faith in the gay community get overshadowed.”

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