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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 2, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 35
One arrested as anti-Gay fanatics protest Charlotte Pride Festival
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One arrested as anti-Gay fanatics protest Charlotte Pride Festival

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

While thousands of LGBT folks and their friends celebrated Pride in Charlotte, N.C., on August 27, several hundred self-proclaimed Christians gathered to insult and intimidate the Pride marchers.

One person, the Rev. Philip 'Flip' Benham, was arrested.

The Pride celebration and the anti-Gay counter-demonstration come at a time when the North Carolina legislature will be considering a proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages.

The anti-Pride demonstration was organized by Dr. Michael Brown who claims he started his FIRE School of Ministry to 'raise up a holy army of uncompromising spirit-filled radicals who will shake an entire generation with the gospel of Jesus by life or death.'

Many of Brown's supporters wore red shirts printed with the slogan 'Repent or Perish.'

Brown and an associate, Lou Engle, claimed on their website that the Charlotte Pride protest will have 'a ripple effect around the nation' and begin the process of turning back LGBT rights.

According to the Charlotte Observer, several blocks of Charlotte's South Tryon Street were closed to accommodate the large crowd of Pride celebrants. The annual Pride Festival is the largest fundraiser for the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte.

Although they closed the street to traffic, police also allowed Brown's anti-Gay demonstrators to approach the Pride marchers. Some reported being harassed and 'prayed over' by red-shirted Christians who refused to comply with repeated requests to leave them alone.

Benham was arrested for violating Charlotte's noise ordinance while reading from Paul's Epistle to the Romans. He said the text explains God's wrath against sinful humanity.

It was not Benham's first run-in with Charlotte police. He has been arrested four times since January 2010. In July, he was found guilty of stalking after he distributed hundreds of posters featuring a Charlotte doctor's face and the words, 'Wanted ... by Christ, to Stop Killing Babies.'

Prosecutors say Benham - a regular visitor to clinics where abortions are performed in Charlotte and across the nation - went to a Charlotte doctor's home and inside his clinic to take pictures.

He is currently on probation for the stalking charge. It requires him to stay away from the doctor's home and to stay at least 500 feet away from clinics where the doctor works.

But, says Benham, the court order does not prohibit him from speaking up at other public events.

In fact, he said, his group is already making plans to protest at the Democratic National Convention, which will be held in Charlotte next year.

The North Carolina legislature will be in session through January 2012. A proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages was filed in February, with hearings scheduled to begin in September.

In the weeks leading up to Charlotte Pride, Equality North Carolina, the state's largest LGBT organization, helped to organize a series of marches and vigils against the amendment.

The Charlotte Observer, the state's largest newspaper, published an editorial against the amendment on August 16.

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