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Nov. 11 2008 12:00 AM

Gay anarchist group infiltrates, protests outside Eaton County church

(Nathan Harris/City Pulse) The "outside team" focuses its attention on traffic passing by the Mt. Hope Church in Eaton County.

A gay anarchist group infiltrated the Mt. Hope Church in Eaton County Sunday morning, disrupting a service by pulling a fire alarm, dropping leaflets and yelling at parishioners, a pastor said.

The group, Bash Back, was simultaneously picketing outside the church, beating on buckets and using a megaphone to shout “Jesus was a homo” and other slogans as confused churchgoers continued to enter the building.

Members of Bash Back issued a press release Tuesday saying that it targeted Mt. Hope, a church that claims a flock of around 5,000, because it is "complicit in the repression of queers in Michigan and beyond."

According to the Myspace.com page of the Lansing chapter, the network initially sprung up with the intent of increasing homosexual visibility within the anarchist community.

The “action” began early Sunday morning at the Northstar Center on Lathrop Street in Lansing where a group of around 20 protesters gathered. Pink bandanas, signs, a rainbow-colored “Bash Back!” flag and a pink, wooden cross were distributed among about half the group — the “outside team.” The rest — “inside team” — were dressed in conservative clothes and carried Bibles and stacks of fliers, intending to blend in to the church‘s 11:30 a.m. “contemporary-laid back service.”

City Pulse was alerted to the Bash Back event through a press release and had no prior knowledge of where the “action” would take place or what it would entail.

“We’re having an action today,” one of the organizers told this reporter at the Northstar Center. “You’re in for a treat.”

Bash Back began picketing outside the church doors soon after the 11:30 service began. The group also handed out fliers, which were much calmer in tone and targeted more at the curious than the angry.

“We specialize in confronting homophobia, transphobia and every and all other forms of oppression,” the fliers read. “We strive for the liberation of all people.”

After a few minutes of protesting in front of the church doors, the “outside team” was asked to move its protest to the street, about 100 yards from the building. The team, standing beneath a row of tall flags that flank the entrance to the fortress-like church, focused its energy on the passing cars.

About 40 minutes into the service, the “inside team” ran from the building to their cars and drove away.
The Rev. John Elieff, “Helps Minister” at Mt. Hope Church, said Bash Back members disrupted the service by bursting into the sanctuary, throwing fliers, hanging a banner from the balcony and pulling fire alarms.

“It was an unwelcome and violent demonstration,” he said.

When Eaton County Sheriff’s deputies arrived, they questioned the remaining protestors in the church parking lot. Elieff and other church staff questioned the Bash Back members why Mt. Hope Church had been singled out.

“I don’t know,” was an almost universal response.

Elieff acknowledged the group’s right to protest, but he said the church’s civil rights were infringed upon when the service was disrupted.

No one was arrested at the church, and, Elieff said, as far as he knew, no arrests have been made.
“I would have preferred that they had all been taken in,” he said.

Elieff called Bash Back’s description of the church as a “well-known anti-queer, anti-choice radical right-wing establishment” a “gross misinterpretation.”

He said the leadership of Mt. Hope Church attempts to identify the church as neither anti-homosexual nor anti-choice, but that homosexuality is one of many sins the Bible condemns.

“Mt. Hope Church struggles to follow Christ’s example of loving the sinner and not the sin,” he said.

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