Queer Anarchists Disrupt Church Service in Mich.

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Wednesday November 12, 2008

A group of gay anarchists staged a confrontation at a Michigan church Nov. 9, disrupting a church service inside the building while also demonstrating outside.

The City Pulse reported on the "action" on Nov. 11.

The group, which calls itself Bash Back, had two contingents. One group, dressed for church and holding Bibles, sat inside the church, seeming to partake of the worship service until the group's members caused chaos by setting off the fire alarm, confronting parishioners, and scattering leaflets.

Outside, another contingent, dressed in pink scarves and waving a Bash back flag, beat drums and carried placards. One member with a megaphone shouted that "Jesus was a homo!"

Bash Back took credit for what it called an "action" at the church, stating in a press release that Mt. Hope Church, an Eaton County, Mich., church with a congregation of about 5,000, was "complicit in the repression of queers in Michigan and beyond."

The City Pulse article said that the group maintains a Facebook page at which its goals are stated. According to the Facebook profile Bash Back seeks to enhance the queer presence among anarchists.

The group's leaflets contained a different explanation for their activities.

Read the leaflets, "We specialize in confronting homophobia, transphobia and every and all other forms of oppression.

"We strive for the liberation of all people."

A short time after the protest began, the colorfully clad outside contingent complied with a request to move their demonstration away from the church. The conservatively dressed contingent inside the church, according to Rev. John Elieff, activated fire alarms inside the church and strung a banner.

They then exited the church and left in their cars, the article said.

Said Rev, Elieff, "It was an unwelcome and violent demonstration."

Deputies from the Sheriff's Department arrived and spoke with the outside contingent, who were also asked by Rev. Elieff and church members what the reason was for targeting Mt. Hope Church.

The demonstrators' response: "I don't know," the article reported.

Religious and social conservatives seized upon the disruption to characterize GLBT people as "fascists" and to conflate anarchists with "liberals."

A Nov. 12 article at the Web site Catholic Online referred to the group interchangeably as "fascists" and "anarchists," and took the group's protest of what Bash Back called "a deplorable anti-queer mega church" as evidence of a generalized "disdain for the Christian community."

The article at the Catholic Online site described the anarchists as "intentionally disruptive homosexual activists" who "mockingly carried an upside down pink cross."

The site also reported that the leaflets distributed by the group constituted "anti-Christian literature."

The site reported that the interlopers were heard to cry, "It's Okay To Be Gay! Bash Back!"

The group's description of itself, as reported at Catholic online, fit the general description of anarchists. Bash Back reportedly touted itself as "a radical trans/queer/anarcha-feminist group" whose mission is to "fight for liberation while rejecting all forms of state power."

Fascists, quite the opposite of anarchists in political philosophy, seek to impose state authority on all aspects of civic and domestic life, building consensus around nationality or racial identity and enforcing its tenets through military might or police authority.

According to the Catholic online, Bash Back wrote of their Nov. 9 target as follows: "The Mount Hope Church is a deplorable, anti-queer mega-church in Lansing, Michigan.

"The church works to institutionalize transphobia and homophobia through several repulsive projects including organized 'ex-gay' conferences and so-called 'hell houses,' which depict queers, trannies and womyn who seek abortions as the horrors.

"Mt. Hope is complicit in the repression of queers in Michigan and beyond."

The City Pulse article said that Rev. Elieff denied that Mt. Hope Church was anti-gay, but he did offer a vague and much-used characterization of the church's stance on GLBT issues, saying, "Mt. Hope Church struggles to follow Christ's example of loving the sinner and not the sin."

No arrests were made. Said Elieff, "I would have preferred that they had all been taken in."

Similar sentiments were exhibited by national conservative religious organization The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the leader of which, Bill Donohue, issued a plea for an investigation to the Mich. state attorney general's office.

Donohue suggested media indifference to the intrusion, saying, "The real story here is the refusal of the mainstream media to cover what is surely one of the most disturbing events of 2008.

"If an organized group of gay bashers stormed a gay church, there is not a single sentient person in the United States who wouldn't know about it."

Added Donohue, "This is urban fascism come to America's heartland. It must be quickly stopped before it gets out of control."

Donohue declared, "We are contacting Mike Cox, the Attorney General of Michigan, calling for an investigation."

Conservative Web site Right Michigan, in a Nov. 10 article, warned, "This is what we're up against," going on to describe the interlopers' demonstration as consisting of "lewd, public, sex acts" as well as "vandalism," and ascribing the action by the band of anarchists to the whole of "the Michigan left," which the site asserted had "declared open war on peaceful church goers."

Right Michigan praised Mt. Hope Church as "an evangelical, bible believing church whose members provide free 24 hour counseling, prayer lines, catastrophic care for families dealing with medical emergencies, support groups for men, women and children dealing with a wide variety of life's troubles, crisis intervention, marriage ministries, regular, organized volunteer work in and around the city, missions in dozens of countries across the globe, a construction ministry that has built over 100 churches, schools, orphanages and other projects all over the world and an in-depth prison ministry that reaches out, touches and helps the men and women the rest of society fears the most."

The church "also teach[es] respect for all human life and the Biblical sanctity of marriage as an institution between one man and one woman," the Michigan Right article said.

The site went on to describe the anarchist group as "liberals," who were outfitted with "secret-service style ear pieces and microphones" for their intrusion on the church's Sunday worship.

The site claimed that the intruders attempted to incite physical violence with the parishioners, all the while aiming video cameras in hopes of catching any such violence on tape.

The site claimed to quote from one of the group's "liberal blogs" when it came to a list of items it suggested participants bring to the disruption of the church service: "(A) video camera, a megaphone, noise makers, condoms, glitter by the bucket load, confetti, pink fabric...yeh."

The site singled out the word "condoms" for emphasis, putting that single term in bold type, and going on to speculate that, " some of the condoms may have been put to even more nefarious use."

The article referred to the anarchists as "'open minded' and 'tolerant' liberals" in its description of the perpetrators.

According to an echeat essay, liberals and anarchists are jas different from one another as are anarchists and fascists.

"Contemporary liberal and anarchist philosophy are both two very different ways of trying to see what would be the best way to run society," reads the essay.

"Contemporary liberals are involved in every day politics but through over regulation and dependence on government they loose their chances of running a reliable democracy.

"Anarchist[s]," on the other hand, "have very good ideas of how a natural society could function without government or modern institutions but the biggest problem they have is how to get to that point."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.