By Tammye Nash – Senior Editor

Another demonstration set outside First Baptist Church as Jeffress’ anti-gay sermons continue

Pro-LGBT protesters wave signs outside First Baptist Church of Dallas during an anti-gay sermon Sunday, Nov. 9. – TERRY THOMPSON/Dallas Voice

A little more than 100 people turned out early Sunday morning, Nov. 9 to gather across the street from the front doors of First Baptist Church of Dallas, singing songs and waving signs to protest that morning’s anti-gay sermon by the Rev. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of the church.

Organizers and longtime friends Laura McFerrin and Sam Fulcher said this week they hope to see an even larger crowd outside the church this Sunday, Nov. 16, as the protests — and the anti-gay theme in the sermon — continue.

"It’s a series of lectures called ‘Politically Incorrect.’ This week the topic is about how to talk to a homosexual," said McFerrin.

Fulcher said he has been told that this Sunday’s sermon will be the last in the series to specifically address LGBT issues. "But we want to confirm that, because as long as their message is focused on gays in a negative way, we want to be out there protesting it."

Sunday morning sermons begin at 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 10:50 a.m. outside the church, at 1707 San Jacinto in downton Dallas.

McFerrin said she and her partner plan to attend the 8 a.m. service "so that when we are outside protesting, we know what they are saying inside. If people want to there earlier than 10, that’s good, too."

Last Sunday’s sermon topic was "Why Gay is Not OK." It was the church marquis announcing that sermon that prompted Fulcher and McFerrin to organize the initial protest. Fulcher saw the sign on Nov. 4, driving home from a rally celebrating Barack Obama’s victory in the presidential race.

"The first thing I thought was how ironic it was. I had been at the rally celebrating Obama’s win, and it was so very exciting to see that boundary being broken. Then I saw that sign. So I jumped out and took a picture," Fulcher said.

"I wasn’t surprised by the sign, considering it was First Baptist. Then the next morning I found out about Prop 8 in California and all the other anti-gay votes. Looking at it that way, the sign seemed very symbolic to me. It’s a visual symbol of the fact that discriminating against gays is more acceptable than ever now," he said.

Fulcher sent the photo to several friends, including McFerrin, and the idea for the protest blossomed quickly.

McFerrin said the passage of the anti-gay constitutional amendment in California also prompted her response to the First Baptist sermons.

"I was so upset about Proposition 8. I was remembering Obama’s speech from the night before, and I thought, ‘Why are we sitting around just talking about this? Let’s do something.’

"But we really didn’t know what we were doing," she continued. "We started using the Internet to get the word out. On Saturday we canvassed Oak Lawn, handing out flyers. We would have been happy with five people — Sam and I and our partners and my mom. All it takes is one person to make a change, after all."

McFerrin she was pleased with the turnout, and with the peaceful nature of the protest last Sunday. People from from a Methodist church nearby brought doughnuts to the protesters, and some from First Baptist Church brought coffee out to the protesters.

A couple of First Baptist representatives even talked to the protesters about the sermon and gay rights. But most of those attending the service ignored the protesters and tried to "pretend we weren’t there."

"I think we [protesters and First Baptist members] agreed to disagree," McFerrin said. "It was all very peaceful, and that’s what we wanted. It’s their right to attend that church, and it’s the pastor’s right to preach that sermon. But it’s our right to protest about it."

Both Fulcher and McFerrin said that organizing the protest was a new step for them, and both think it was the first.

"I think about those gay and lesbian children who are forced to sit in a pew in that church and are taught to think that being gay is not OK. I want them to have a chance to hear someone say, ‘Yes, it is OK,’" McFerrin said. "And I listened to the pastor’s sermon on YouTube where he was telling people to vote with their faith, to vote for Christians who will think the same way he does. He was telling people from the pulpit how to vote, and that is not OK.

"We organized the protest because we were upset and that marquis really hit a nerve," she said. "But the bigger issue is that all those people vote, and they need to know that I am a citizen here, too. I pay taxes. I own a small business. I have been with my partner for eight years.

"I think of myself as a kind of accidental activist. In his speech, Obama said, ‘Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.’ We’re the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek. And that’s how I feel."

Fulcher looked back to his years in junior high school, when he "dated" his friend Laura McFerrin, to explain why he was ready to step out onto the front lines of activism.

"We were so scared to death back then in eighth grade to be out, even to ourselves. And now, here we are, kind of taking on one of the biggest churches in Dallas," he said.

"It’s odd in a way, but it puts things in perspective for me, too, about how far I have come. It’s really kind of exciting, and very symbolic of how far one can come in life if they are honest."

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 14, 2008.

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