Rally supports Okla. rep. at center of gay comments stir
OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)--Hundreds rallied at the Oklahoma state capitol April 2 to show their support for Republican state Rep. Sally Kern, a Southern Baptist whose comments about homosexuality have drawn nationwide attention and even death treats.
The controversy began around March 7 when the Victory Fund, an organization dedicated to seeing homosexuals elected to public office at all levels, posted a video on YouTube with audio sound bytes of one of Kern's speeches where she stated her biblical views on homosexuality to about 20-30 Republicans. It has since been viewed more than 1 million times.
Supporters chanted "Sally! Sally! Sally!" and speakers stood in front of a sign reading, "We Stand With Sally Kern." Nearly 2,000 were in attendance, according to one estimate.
"This is not about me," Kern said at the rally, which spilled over from the first floor rotunda to the building's second and third floors. She is the wife of Olivet Baptist Church pastor Steven Kern in Oklahoma City. "It's about the church having the right to speak out for the redeeming love of Jesus Christ Who died to set us all free from sin. The Lord gave me a verse I've been claiming. Philippians 1:12, 'I want you to know that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel.'"
In the YouTube speech at the center of attention, Kern, who represents a district in Oklahoma City, said that "according to God's Word" homosexuality is "not the right kind of lifestyle" and that "the homosexual agenda is destroying this nation." She warned about the advancement of homosexuality in the public schools and in the political realm and said homosexuality "has deadly consequences" and the lifespan of homosexuals "is shorter." In the quote that has drawn the most attention, Kern called homosexuality "the death knell for this county" and labeled it the nation's "biggest threat," "even more so than terrorism."
Despite an outcry of criticism, Kern hasn't backed down. She said she has received thousands of e-mails and phone calls, many if not most of them negative. On April 18 an estimated 300 homosexual activists and their supporters rallied outside the state capitol against her. Even Ellen DeGeneres, the comedian and an open lesbian, got in the mix by featuring Kern's comments on her TV talk show. DeGeneres made a phone call to Kern's office with the hopes of speaking with the representative, but Kern's voicemail was full.
More than 150 mostly negative videos have been posted on YouTube, and the original YouTube video now has nearly 10,000 comments.
The rally was held not only to support Kern but also to make it widely known that Kern's views on homosexuality and the Bible are commonly held by Christian conservatives.
"Sally Kern has been under a barrage of criticism from the homosexual lobbies and the media, so we are here to support her," Linda Caswell, Oklahoma state director for Concerned Women for America, told Baptist Press. Caswell attended the rally. "I actually read her whole speech a couple of days ago and it was nothing like the gay community reported. It was biblically grounded. She used the Word and was talking about how the homosexual lifestyle affects the family."
Kern said she's been called "lots of names" lately -- "some good, some not so good."
"Some of the good names have been courageous, brave and hero. I want you to know I have more trouble relating to the good names than the bad," she added, her voice breaking. "I know I'm a sinner, but I'm not courageous, brave or a hero. I'm just an earthen vessel, and an old clay pot."
The roughly three-minute video on YouTube makes it seem like it's an unedited clip, but it's not. In fact, it quotes only some 500 words from Kern's 4,000-word speech, according to a transcript on the website of the pro-family group Americans for Truth about Homosexuality. Among the quotes missing is one in which Kern says, "The book that I base my life upon is God's Word. And it says to love everybody and I try to love everybody."
The Thomas More Law Center is representing Kern in any legal matters regarding the situation.
"Radical homosexual groups have done all they could to intimidate her, yet she has not backed down," Richard Thompson, president of the law center, said in a news release. "She is truly a courageous Christian woman. And it's gratifying to see other Christian groups come to her aid."
The law center has posted on its website a sampling of the curse-filled e-mails sent to Kern, whose address is public. Among the more tame ones: "I heard what you said and you should be killed you stupid [expletive] [expletive]," "I sincerely hope you die a slow, horrible death due to breast cancer," "I sure hope and pray that you rot in hell," "I hope you get hit by a truck" and "Christianity is the cancer in our society and should be eliminated!"
Kern defended her remarks March 25 on "Messenger Radio," a program co-hosted by Baptist Messenger executive editor Ray E. Sanders and managing editor Bob Nigh.
"I compared homosexuality to terrorism because [homosexual activists] want to destroy the traditional family and traditional marriage," Kern said. "That was the analogy that I was making. I was not in any way advocating that we need to go after these people [physically]. I was giving an example. I was making a point, using a metaphor if you will that ... this lifestyle, not the people, but the lifestyle is dangerous to this nation."
Kern told the program Christian freedom is at stake.
"I was just trying to make a point that the radical homosexual agenda is seeking to destroy the very foundation upon which this country has been built, and we need to wake up and stand up for our conservative values, yea our biblical values as Christians, or we will lose not only the freedom to express our own opinions, but we will lose the freedom to influence our children with our biblical lifestyles to pass on our values to them."
Matt Barber, Concerned Women for America's policy director for cultural issues, said Kern needs to know Christians support her.
"Millions of Americans proudly stand alongside Sally Kern and say, 'Thank you. Thank you for boldly standing your ground and for unapologetically defending Biblical Truth.' [Homosexual activists] intended to make an example of her," he said. "They have, but not in the way they had hoped. She has set an example for millions of believers around the world. Her courage and refusal to deviate from God's unequivocal condemnation of sexual immorality is serving to galvanize and embolden others. People say, 'Well Sally Kern wasn't intimidated, why should I be?'"
Michael Foust is an assistant editor for Baptist Press. With reporting by Bob Nigh, managing editor of the Baptist Messenger. The transcript of Kern's radio interview is available at www.baptistmessenger.com