ANTI-GAY BILLBOARDS: Staten Island, New York City
"We're not against gay people. We're against
Anonymous billboard donator.
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
..."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."
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"
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:
|Louis 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
threatens our values..."
|The local chapter of Morality in Media, and the pastor of the
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
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."
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"
|eating a cheeseburger|
|a Jew eating a meal with a non-Jew|
|eating a lobster or shrimp|
|eating rattlesnake meat|
|a woman wearing jeans or slacks|
|a woman re-marrying her former husband|
Needless to say, the posters did not mention any of the above. More
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- Leviticus 18:22, from the King James Version of the Bible.
- "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.
- "Battle over anti-gay billboards continues in New York,"
- "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