A Catawba County pastor has refused to retract what some have called “hate speech” and “genocide,” references he made towards the gay community at his independent Baptist church in Maiden earlier this month, drawing protesters and national attention.
Amid that spotlight, various news media outlets have reported on an interview Sunday morning in which a CNN correspondent talked with the Rev. Charles Worley near his church, Providence Baptist, and asked whether he had any regrets about the controversial sermon he preached on Mother’s Day. The sermon called for the round-up and killing of homosexuals by placing them inside an electrified fence.
A video of those comments was uploaded to YouTube, first drawing broad attention to Worley. The Catawba County Sheriff’s Office has said someone tried to burn down the worship facility over the weekend.
Despite the negative reaction from some, Worley told the reporter he has no remorse for his words. Many members of his congregation have also defended his statements to the media.
Due to the attempted arson and overall public outrage over Worley and his church, Sheriff Coy Reid said that his department plans to amp up officer presence at the church throughout the week, especially during Sunday services.
A protest against Worley’s shocking statements, suggesting the building of some sort of homosexual concentration camp, took place Sunday at the Justice Center in Newton, drawing in at least 1,400 people over a three-hour period.
Protestors with local grassroots group Catawba Valley Citizens Against Hate (CVCAH) were not allowed to gather on church grounds, and only after the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) questioned the constitutionality of a Catawba County ordinance did county officials grant the group permission to gather at the Justice Center.
The ordinance requires groups to apply to use the Justice Center at least 14 days in advance.
Catawba County attorney Debra Bechtel told the Times-News Tuesday afternoon that she’s currently working to revise the ordinance and that there’s no way to estimate when the revision will be completed.
Bechtel said that when identifying any ordinance in need of revision, she not only does ample research to determine the extent of change necessary but also reviews other ordinances currently in place throughout the state to see which ones have and haven’t been successful.
She also noted that she plans to read a plethora of federal case law since the matter at hand involves “a constitutional protection.”
Although county officials have revised many ordinances over the years, Bechtel said she can’t remember the last time county officials were called to review an ordinance “where the United States Constitution was a catalyst for possible revisions.”
She claimed county officials didn’t “reverse” their decision to allow the protest to take place at the Justice Center but simply “anticipated” rejecting the group’s request since no application had initially been filled out.
“We can’t react to something (an application) we don’t have,” Bechtel said, “and we didn’t get an application until Thursday afternoon. We did anticipate that that wouldn’t allow us to grant permission since we didn’t receive one.”
After county officials did receive CVCAH’s application requesting permission to use the Justice Center, their attitudes changed.
Bechtel said the issue was about allowing citizens the right to express themselves, not about the protest’s content.
“We realized the 14-day requirement, while permissible for certain types of activities, was not appropriate for expression of free speech,” she said, “and that was why we allowed the application.”
Revisions are being made to distinguish the free-speech issue, Bechtel noted.
CVCAH posted the following statement about the recent protest on their Facebook page Thursday afternoon: “We publicly condemned his (Worley’s) remarks in news outlets from literally around the world. Over two thousand people stood with us to declare Love Not Hate.”
Because Worley also made bold statements in his sermon about President Obama, the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has also launched an investigation into the matter to determine whether or not the church sanctioned against certain political candidates. The Foundation said in a press release that such political speech is in violation of the church’s tax-exempt status.