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Religious Tolerance logo

ANTI-GAY BILLBOARDS: Staten Island, New York City

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Sponsored link.

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"We're not against gay people. We're against sin."
Anonymous billboard donator.

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According to ReligionToday for 2000-MAR-10: 1
Billboards that quoted the Bible on homosexuality have been removed. The 8-foot-by-16-foot signs quoted a passage saying, "Thou shall not lie with mankind as with womankind: It is abomination." 2 They were posted for five days in the borough of Staten Island in New York City before being condemned as hateful and divisive, and removed March 8. One billboard was replaced and the second was covered over in white, news reports said. ...The billboard company PNE Media of Union, N.J., said the ads had been "inadvertently posted." PNE Media requires that its billboards list the name of the advertiser, but the biblical ads did not. The ads were placed by a group called Keyword Ministries, PNE Media said. There was no phone listing for Keyword Ministries or its pastor, Kristopher Okwedy, The Associated Press said.

..."People may be expressing their religious beliefs, but they don't understand that these messages fan the fires of prejudice and hatred," said Guy Molinari, borough president. "I'm terribly distressed." Charles W. Keeler III, president of Integrity/Staten Island, a gay ministry within the Episcopal Church, said, "It's just so cowardly to take a position and not sign your name."

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Sponsored link:

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According to AAANEWS for MAR-27:
Rev. Kristopher Okwedy of KeyWord Ministries paid $2,000 to post anti-gay biblical messages on two billboards. Rev. Okwedy complained that his right to free expression had been violated. A group of about 90 individuals attended a demonstration in front of one of the billboards. James Smith, president of the Staten Island Lambda Association commented: "His $2,000 would have been better spent by a donation to Project Hospitality or the AIDS task force." City councilman J.X. O'Donovan said: "I know the Bible too, and there's a message in it called the Golden Rule that says 'do onto others as you would have them to onto you.' This is exactly the opposite of the Golden Rule...This should never happen again."

Okwedy, who describes himself as a "Bible-believing Christian" who
immigrated from Nigeria, is reported as saying: "The love of God put that sign up; it wasn't us.  We're not attacking anybody.  We want to deal with the issue of sex and its abuse.  We're tired of our children dying of STD's (sexually transmitted diseases)." He has received some support:

bulletLouis Wein announced his candidacy for the U.S.  Senate at a rally supportting Rev. Okwedy. He said: "The issue transcends homosexuality.  It's about the constitutional right to free expression." He referred those who rallied against the signs as "the thought police." Wein declared that "America is a Christian nation.  We recognize that our values stem
from that.  We're opposed to being forced to embrace a lifestyle that
threatens our values...
bulletThe local chapter of Morality in Media, and the pastor of the Shekinah
Glory Christian Church
also supported Okwedy.

Okwedy explained to reporters: "I have a newfound tradition and culture and it's based on the word of God. It is my standard.  It is my measuring stick.  My acts, what I do or don't do.  I measure against the word of God..."

The topic was scheduled to be discussed on the MAR-31 episode of the Atheist Viewpoint television show. Ron Barrier, program host and national Spokesperson for American Atheists, said that the segment will be titled "State, Church and Billboards: What's Wrong With This Picture?" He commented: "It's important that the community examine the complexity surrounding this situation...It's more than just about free speech or gay rights.  It's about religion's role in society vs.  the obligation of the state to protect its citizens from bigotry and prejudice.  It's about competing prayer rallies over what the various Bibles clearly say about homosexuality.  It's about who speaks for God, if there is one." Barrier noted that some religious writing are promoted as trendy and acceptable, while others are banned. "This is especially important since it's become fashionable in many states, including New York, to entertain the idea of hanging some version of the Ten Commandments in public schools and government buildings."

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According to Charisma News Service for 2000-MAR-28:
The American Family Association, a fundamentalist Christian organization, is preparing a lawsuit for Kristopher Okwedy against the advertising company who displayed the signs and against borough president Guy Molinarian who urged that the signs be removed. "The company that created the messages covered them over on the grounds that Okwedy had not identified himself anywhere on the posters. But the Nigerian-born pastor of KeyWord Ministries who paid $2,600 for the space, said that the business itself had designed and produced the ads after he told them what he wanted to say. Bryan Fahling, AFA senior trial attorney, said today that the company had breached the contract, which Okwedy wanted to see fulfilled. 'We also have some larger concerns because it appears that the borough president brought some pressure to bear on [the company] to remove the signs, so it looks as though we have a government entity utilizing its prestige and power to suppress free speech.'

Okwedy said: "God's Word doesn't change to suit our changing philosophies and society. I'm not trying to twist it to the point where people like it. The Word is able to confront people sometimes. Truth confronts sometimes. I'm not going to water down the Word so that people will accept it...Where do we draw the line? Our rights as believers and under the First Amendment are concerned. Some people say, 'Why not let sleeping dogs lie?' But if the people of God keep quiet and say we don't want to make trouble, it just gives them a right to walk all over us." 5

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Interpretation of the passage from Leviticus:

Conservative Christians typically accept the passage in the King James Version of the Bible literally. They interpret it as condemning all homosexual behavior, whether by gays or lesbians, forced or consensual, safe or unsafe.

Liberal Christians generally interpret the passage as referring to homosexual ritual sexual acts in Pagan temples. The passage says nothing about consensual sex between two adult gays or lesbians.

The Hebrew word "to'ebah" is often translated as "abomination" or "detestable" in English. Examples of violations of ritual codes involving "to'ebah"  are:

bulleteating a cheeseburger
bulleta Jew eating a meal with a non-Jew
bulleteating a lobster or shrimp
bulleteating rattlesnake meat
bulleta woman wearing jeans or slacks
bulleta woman re-marrying her former husband

Needless to say, the posters did not mention any of the above. More details

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  1. ReligionToday provides free newsletters to which you can subscribe at: http://www.ReligionToday.com. These summaries are part of GOSHEN.net, which also includes LiveIt.net, Devotionals.net, ChristianShareware.net, ChristianClassifieds.net, ChristianMessageBoards.net, BibleStudyTools.net, MediaManagement.net, WorldNewsToday.net, WebCastGuide.net, and ChristianCollegeGuide.net
  2. Leviticus 18:22, from the King James Version of the Bible.
  3. "Keyword Ministries, The church in Staten Island" has a home page at: http://www.keyword.org/ They have a Guestbook that you may use, in case you want to support or criticize their actions.
  4. "Battle over anti-gay billboards continues in New York," AAANEWS, 2000-MAR-27
  5. "Pastor To Go To Court Over Removal Of Billboards," Charisma. Posted at: http://www.mcjonline.com/news/00/20000328d.htm 

Copyright © 2000
Originally written: 2000-MAR-13
Latest update: 2000-MAR-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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