This pro-LGBT church has its own army to counter hateful protesters
A church has created its own army of volunteers ready to protect it against anti-LGBT+ protesters.
These first responders reflect the accepting attitude of the First Congregational Church of Geneva, Illinois towards the LGBT+ community.
It all began in 2014, when the church hosted a family diversity photography exhibition .
In response to the church’s inclusive stance on same-sex relationships, many groups have taken it upon themselves to protest – at times violently.
In a political climate that has seen hate crimes increase against LGBT people, the church has also suffered anti-LGBT+ vandalisation.
0n July 31, the church had its rainbow flag stolen and its banner supporting marriage equality vandalised.
And the church regularly receives protestors turning up at its doorstep to preach hate against the LGBT+ community.
This eventually prompted 175 volunteers from progressive churches, organisations and elsewhere to counter the hateful protests.
Since November, counter-protesters have been protecting the church from anti-LGBT+ groups.
Jim Walz, a Democratic Congressional candidate, was one of those who joined in a recent pro-LGBT rally.
“Good morning from the First Congregational Church of Geneva, where counter-protestors have helped ensure people have the right to worship with inclusiveness, allowing people to get to services w/o harassment,” he wrote on Facebook.
The counter-protesters have remained peaceful but firm in their resistance to hatred.
Pastor Rebecca Clancy said it was “gratifying” to receive support.
Speaking to The Chicago Tribune, she added: “I found last week’s group rather threatening in their gestures and what they were wearing.
“The gay members are highly involved in the leadership of the church. They are prominent,” the pastor continued.
“I do feel we have been targeted and singled out.
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“There’s been a lot of vandalism because of a sign. This is one facet of what we do as a church.
“I don’t know why we have been so disproportionately targeted.”
While the counter-protesters of course recognised the hateful preachers’ First Amendment right to protest, once they started confronting people, the pro-LGBT people realised it was time for action.
The church has even set up a mailing list to notify counter-protesters when the hate preachers show up.
Last month saw the FBI publish hate crime figures that have been widely criticised because of concerns the statistics may be skewed by underreporting.
With similar fears that Republicans are legitimising discrimination against same-sex couples, LGBT+ allies may need to learn from Geneva’s example of standing up for minorities in danger.