A group of pastors and conservative businessmen in a small Arkansas town are fighting a bill that would protect LGBT people from discrimination. Claiming gay, and especially transgender people are dangerous pedophiles, violent rapists, and “sex offenders,”Â they are using a man who, it turns out, is a convicted serial rapist, as their spokesperson.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas has a population of just 2073. One of the area’s local businesses, a passion play recreating the last support and the crucifixionÂ of Jesus, has a theater that seats twice that number. The area is known for its reputed healing springs, its religious extremists, and its LGBT community.Â
It’s not surprising that the town council passed a bill to protect its LGBT citizens from discrimination, and it’s not surprising that local pastors and conservatives teamed up to fight the ordinance as if it were the battle of Jericho. They also claim the bill would dissuade Christians from visiting the town, harming its tourism industry.
Pastors and conservatives paid for an ugly, lying ad, which appeared in a local newspaper.
â€œIf you think tourists are going to be excited about even the possibility that their wives, daughters and girlfriends will be sharing a bathroom with a guy who decides heâ€™s â€˜transgenderâ€™ just to have a little fun (or worse) at the ladiesâ€™ expense, you donâ€™t know tourists and you donâ€™t know sex offenders,â€Â the newspaper adÂ reads.
They also released a four-minute video featuring local area pastors, a pastor’s wife, a lawmaker, and a “concerned grandmother” as spokespeople fighting the bill. Voters will decide if the nondiscrimination ordinance will stay on the books or be repealed on May 12.
But the group that released the video included a local pastor who, as the Arkansas TimesÂ first reported today, “is a convicted serial rapist.”
“Acra Lee Turner, 60, currently serves as a pastor ofÂ Penn Memorial Baptist ChurchÂ in Eureka Springs,”Â David KoonÂ at the Arkansas Times reports today. “In an interview with theÂ Times, he confirmed that he is the same Acra Lee Turner who, as a 22-year-old man, was convicted of three counts of rape in Stephens County near Lawton, Okla. In April 1977, he was sentÂ to prison for three concurrent sentences of 30 to 60 years for those crimes, including â€” according to this story fromÂ an Oklahoma newspaperÂ â€” the rape of an 80-year old woman who was beaten so badly that she was almost unrecognizable.”
In the video, Pastor Turner says LGBT civil rights are not a human rights issue. No LGBT person he says, “has been lynched, no one has to sit on the back of the bus. It’s not a human rights issue, it’s a human behavior issue.”
He says he has nothing against gays, and that he loves them.
That video also includes a speech from another spokesperson the group chose. Joann Turner, identified as a BaptistÂ pastor’s wife.
Turner claims the LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance would give anyone “the right to come into the ladies’ bathroom.”
“As a mother and as a grandmother, and having young children, even innocent ladies going into the bathroom, this [bill] would open us up to being abused in any way.”
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‘I Dare You to Deny Me Communion’: 60 Democrats Blast Bishops for Move to Punish Biden by ‘Weaponizing’ Eucharist
They were warned.
Before their three-day meeting that culminated Friday with a vote to move toward denying America’s second Catholic President, Joe Biden, communion over his stance of supporting a woman’s right to choose an abortion, the Vatican told the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to not politicize communion or other sacraments.
They did it anyway, and now powerful Democrats – and many others – are furious.
“Next time I go to Church, I dare you to deny me Communion,” U.S. Congressman Ted Lieu, a Democrat of California, and a Catholic, with a massive 1.6 million followers on Twitter, threatened the Bishops.
His comments were in response to Friday’s news of the USCCB’s politically-motivated decision, and in response to SiriusXM host Michelangelo Signorile, who asked if other Catholics will be denied communion over their “sins.” Signorile pointed to Newt Gingrich, whose history includes adultery, divorce, and re-marriage. Gingrich’s wife was President Donald Trump’s Ambassador to the Vatican.
Dear @USCCB: I’m Catholic and I support:
-A woman’s right to choose
-Treatments for infertility
-The right for people to get a divorce
-The right of same sex marriage
Next time I go to Church, I dare you to deny me Communion. https://t.co/bUmiyJ8TtH
— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) June 18, 2021
Another California Democrat, Rep. Jared Huffman, suggested the church should lose its tax-exempt status.
If they're going to politically weaponize religion by "rebuking" Democrats who support women's reproductive choice, then a "rebuke" of their tax-exempt status may be in order. https://t.co/P6TGVCOMYp
— Rep. Jared Huffman (@JaredHuffman) June 18, 2021
Lieu and Huffman were far from the only Democratic lawmakers to speak out against the USCCB’s move toward denying communion to politicians who support abortion rights.
“We believe the separation of church and state allows for our faith to inform our public duties and best serve our constituents,” 60 House Democrats said in a three-page “Statement of Principles” letter released Friday afternoon.
“The Sacrament of Holy Communion is central to the life of practicing Catholics, and the weaponization of the Eucharist to Democratic lawmakers for their support of abortion is contradictory.”
And they carefully noted the hypocrisy of the Bishops, who have never even suggested denying communion to Republican lawmakers who support the death penalty or engage if the separation of families at the border and caging of children.
“No elected officials have been threatened with being denied the Eucharist as they support and have supported policies contrary to the Church teachings, including supporting the death penalty, separating migrant children from their parents, denying asylum to those seeking safety in the United States, and denying rights and dignity to immigrants.”
Some other prominent House Democrats who signed on to the letter include Cheri Bustos, Joaquin Castro, Gerry Connolly, Rosa DeLauro, Debbie Dingell, Ruben Gallego, Marie Newman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Jackie Speier.
US Catholic Bishops Move Toward Denying Biden Communion in Political Decision Violating Vatican Direction
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops overwhelmingly voted on Friday to move toward chastising President Joe Biden, a devout Catholic, for his policies supporting and defending a woman’s right to choose an abortion. It is the first official step toward denying the U.S. President communion. Biden personally opposes abortion but believes it should be a safe, protected, and legal right, which the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled.
The Bishops voted 168-55 to create a “teaching document,” as NBC News reports, to serve as a “rebuke” of Biden and other Catholic politicians who support abortion. The Roman Catholic Church opposes the move.
“The Vatican has warned conservative American bishops to hit the brakes on their push to deny communion to politicians supportive of abortion rights — including President Biden, a faithful churchgoer and the first Roman Catholic to occupy the Oval Office in 60 years,” The New York Times reported Monday, suggesting the U.S. Bishops’ move is just as much a political gesture as a religious rebuke.
“Some leading bishops, whose priorities clearly aligned with former President Donald J. Trump, now want to reassert the centrality of opposition to abortion in the Catholic faith and lay down a hard line — especially with a liberal Catholic in the Oval Office.”
The Times reports the push to go after President Biden is being led by Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles (photo), the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“The focus of this proposed teaching document,” Archbishop Gomez wrote in a memo, “is on how best to help people to understand the beauty and the mystery of the Eucharist as the center of their Christian lives.”
But the Times noted the Vatican does not want “to use access to the Eucharist as a political weapon,” Antonio Spadaro, a Jesuit priest and close ally of Francis, said.
Conservative American bishops were demanding “a strong rebuke of Biden,” NBC notes, “because of his recent actions protecting and expanding abortion access, while opponents warned that such action would portray the bishops as a partisan force during a time of bitter political divisions across the country.”
Watch: ‘Traitor’ Pence Heckled and Booed by Pro-Trump Christian ‘Faith & Freedom’ Conference Attendees
The conservative Christian Faith & Freedom “Road to Majority” conference erupted early Friday afternoon as pro-Trump attendees heckled and booed likely 2024 presidential hopeful Mike Pence, calling the former vice president a “traitor” for refusing to overturn a free and fair election on January 6.
Pence tried to ignore the verbal assaults, speaking over protestors. Some were escorted out of the room, according to a Tampa Bay Times editor:
He’s now being shouted down with boos and yells of “traitor” as he speaks. People are being escorted out. https://t.co/PXWsfskgCv
— Steve Contorno (@scontorno) June 18, 2021
Watch as Pence gets heckled. Video via Forbes‘ Andrew Solender:
Pence gets drowned out by hecklers at the Faith & Freedom Coalition summit, some of whom appear to be chanting “traitor!” pic.twitter.com/pAQxavsK3O
— Andrew Solender (@AndrewSolender) June 18, 2021
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