By Mike Talavera
On Sunday, members of Austin’s LGBT community and their supporters protested the morning services of Georgetown-based Celebration Church, which recently found a new home at the Mueller Performing Arts Center after striking a deal with the Austin Independent School District (AISD).
The protest had been organized by local organization Stonewall Militant Front (SMF) after learning that the church likened homosexuality and bisexuality to incest and bestiality on their website.
Joined by the local Gaysi chapter (Gay Desis), as well as a dozen or so other supporters, SMF led chants like “Defend our youth from these attacks! Pride means fight back!” and yelled at church parishioners as they walked into the auditorium.
There was another group of about 20 protesting outside the garage next to the Performing Arts Center. When asked why they were not part of the main protest, a member of the group said that “they had a different message” and that they were “more comfortable” where they were.
Other sources told Incendiary News that this liberal group had been brought out through a private Facebook event page which had dissuaded people from joining the main protest, claiming SMF “tended to be violent.”
Contrary to these claims, the only threats of violence at the protest came from the squads of AISD and Austin police as well as one upset churchgoer who charged angrily at the protesters until he was stopped by his friends and the police.
When the protest started, one woman had cautioned others to stay on the sidewalk because “the police are here to keep us safe.” A masked protester immediately contradicted her, stating that the police were there to protect the homophobic church. “They don’t give a damn about us,” the masked protester said.
Executive pastor Jim Kuykendall told Incendiary News that he didn’t see any dialogue happening between the church and the protesters. “They believe what they believe, and we believe what we believe.”
Kuykendall went on to defend the church’s views on “sexual purity” by saying that it was not the church’s statement – “That’s in the bible, which is several thousand years old.”
Most of the parishioners ignored the harassment of the protesters, although a few did attempt to engage. One older couple told a young protester that he “should read scripture.” A young woman told protesters that she accepted all of them, to which they replied that her church did not. The woman became frustrated and continued walking.
Local anti-gentrification group Defend Our Hoodz joined the protest as people arrived for the second church service of the morning. Two food trucks had arrived by this time, blocking the view of the protest from the street. As churchgoers went to get food, protesters were able to confront them face to face.
“These kids that are gay, lesbian, or trans – they end up hating themselves because of the beliefs y’all are spreading!” one masked protester said.
Another masked protester called attention to a few members of Texas Nomads SAR, a civic nationalist group, who had been watching and filming the protest. “These are the kind of people your beliefs attract!” the protester said. “They are anti-immigrant and anti-LGBT! They should be run out of this city!”
Although the numbers of the demonstration were not strong enough to shut down the church service entirely, people in attendance said that they were ready to come protest again.
“We are not going to give up!” one masked protester said through a megaphone. “We won’t stop until this bigoted church leaves Austin!”