Anti-gay hate group meets in Washington State

I found this in the Washington Herald. Southern Poverty Law Center and “my hero” Morris Dees are keeping track of them. Phelps isn’t the only one out there stirring up the shit and throwing the hate around. -val

Watchmen on the Walls is a Russian-speaking conservative religious group that takes its name from a phrase in the Old Testament. They’ve planned a three-day event at the Lynnwood Convention Center beginning Friday. The group has been called anti-gay by national watchdog groups. The group’s leader is from Latvia. Its members have been active in the Sacramento, Calif., area and in Portland, Ore., and Seattle.

Watchmen on the Walls (in Russian):

http://www.watchmenonthewalls.com/issue363.html

Southern Poverty Law Center report on the group:

http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport

CONTACT THE HERALD
Robert Frank, City Editor
frank@heraldnet.com

Published: Saturday, October 13, 2007
Anti-gay church group is coming to Lynnwood

Conference next weekend features anti-gay activist

By Jackson Holtz, Herald Writer

LYNNWOOD — An anti-gay religious group is planning a three-day conference beginning Friday at the Lynnwood Convention Center.

Watchmen on the Walls expects as many as 700 people to attend the prayer gathering, including religious leaders and an anti-gay activist who claims the Holocaust was perpetrated by gays.

Convention center officials said there’s little they can do to stop an organization from renting the publicly owned convention center.

The venue is owned by the Lynnwood Public Facilities District, a public taxing district that operates the convention center but is separate from the city.

“Our understanding is that they’re law-abiding. They have a right of free speech just like any other group,” said Mike Echelbarger, the board’s chairman.

“If we were talking about the (Ku Klux Klan) we’d have a totally different take on it. Of course we wouldn’t rent to the KKK,” he said.

Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon said the group’s anti-gay message isn’t welcome.

“It’s not a message that will resonate with the citizens of Snohomish County,” he said. “They’re wasting their time being here, in my opinion.”

Watchmen on the Walls is planning four “regular services, like church services,” said Sergy Trikhodko. He described himself as a contact person for the Lynnwood event, but said he could not speak about Watchmen on the Walls, its mission or history.

Other group officials could not be reached for comment.

The Russian-speaking group, founded by a Latvian minister, is building a reputation for being an “unbelievably virulent anti-gay organization,” said Mark Potok, a spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, based in Montgomery, Ala. The center is known for promoting tolerance, tracking hate groups and fighting legal battles against white supremacists, including the Klan and Aryan Nations.

Watchmen on the Walls’ positions are far beyond those typically seen among groups who oppose gays, Potok said. In the former Soviet republic of Latvia, members of the group have been accused of throwing human feces at people with whom they disagree. In the United States, the group is known for extreme, hate-filled speech, Potok said.

“It’s the kind of language that leads to violent crimes and often death,” he said.

While Watchmen on the Walls hasn’t officially been placed on the center’s list of hate groups, they likely will be when the list is updated at the end of the year, Potok said.

Among those expected to speak in Lynnwood is Scott Lively, a lawyer from California. He is a “radical anti-gay activist who has all sorts of beliefs about homosexuality and fascism,” said Michelle Deutchman, western states counsel for the Anti-Defamation League.

Lively has published a book advancing the theory that gays were responsible for the Nazi holocaust during World War II. Millions of people, including gays, Jews, the mentally retarded and others perished in Nazi concentration camps.

“Lively is about as bad as it comes when it comes to anti-gay propaganda,” Potok said. He said he doubts the California man truly believes that gay people orchestrated the Holocaust, but “he’s perfectly willing to make that claim,” Potok said.

Lively could not be reached at the phone number listed for his law office.

Also listed as a speaker for the Lynnwood gathering is former Seattle Seahawk Ken Hutcherson. He’s now a pastor at the Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland and a vocal opponent to gay marriage.

Trikhodko said Hutcherson will participate. Hutcherson’s assistant, Anne Comer, said the pastor has not been invited. He did speak at the organization’s conference last year in Kirkland, she said. Hutcherson was unavailable Friday to clear up the question.

The Watchmen group is composed of some of the state’s 200,000 Russian speaking immigrants, said Pastor Joe Fuiten of Bothell’s Cedar Park Church. He plans to be a featured speaker at the Lynnwood event.

Fuiten, known statewide for rallying the religious right on moral issues, bristled at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s characterization of the Watchmen.

“That southern law group, they’re a bunch of whackos,” Fuiten said. “They’re the hate group. That’s a gay front, is what that is.”

Potok said he’s heard that kind of criticism before.

“That’s what the Klan says about us, too,” he said.

Fuiten said the Watchmen are “extraordinarily” religious and conservative.

Many members fled to the United States from former Soviet countries because they wanted religious freedoms, he said. They arrived here to find a secular culture moving away from religious life. Now, they are calling for a return to moral values, Fuiten said.

“Watchmen on the Walls is an extremist organization that makes the radical right look liberal,” said Josh Friedes, advocacy director for Equal Rights Washington, a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights group. He’s concerned about violence, and wonders “What will Lynnwood do to make sure that GLBT citizens are welcome in the town and to make sure to the rest of the state that this conference isn’t a Lynnwood value?”

Lynnwood Mayor Don Gough didn’t return calls Friday.

Lynnwood police Deputy Chief Paul Watkins said extra officers will be available during the event if necessary.

“We’ll make some contingency plans just in case, but we aren’t expecting any problems,” he said.

Reardon said there’s no place in the county for hate. Arlington and Mill Creek police are investigating recent incidents of swastikas and racial slurs spray painted onto area homes.

The vandalism has spurred religious leaders to say that racism is alive and well in the county.

“Snohomish County certainly doesn’t welcome individuals or organizations that espouse messages of discrimination or hate or intolerance,” he said. “We certainly don’t welcome people who seek to promote those messages or incite violence.”

Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or jholtz@heraldnet.com.

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One response to “Anti-gay hate group meets in Washington State

  1. Speaking of Phelps…this was in today’s Kansas City Paper-Val

    Posted on Mon, Oct. 15, 2007

    Defamation claim dismissed against Westboro Baptist
    By KRISTEN WYATT
    Associated Press Writer

    BALTIMORE – A fundamentalist church that pickets at soldiers’ funerals was cleared of defamation charges Monday in a first-in-the-nation lawsuit filed by the family of a fallen serviceman.

    Westboro Baptist, a Topeka, Kan., church that has inspired several state laws and a federal law about funeral protests, was sued for defamation by the father of a fallen Marine.

    Albert Snyder of York, Pa., argued that Web postings by church members defamed his family. The church claimed that Snyder’s son, 20-year-old Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who was killed in Iraq, was taught idolatry and adultery by his parents because they divorced.

    U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett dismissed that claim in pretrial motions, saying that adultery – defined as having sex outside marriage – was not defamatory.

    “You think in 2007, that being accused of having sex with someone not your spouse, including premarital sex, you think that amounts to subjecting someone to public scorn?” Bennett asked the plaintiffs before dismissing the claim.

    Bennett said the church’s other claims, such as a statement that Albert Snyder raised his son “for the devil,” was a religious opinion and unlikely to be taken seriously.

    “Where does any reasonable person have cause to lose respect for Al Snyder?” because of the devil accusation, Bennett asked.

    Bennett ruled Snyder’s lawsuit may proceed on two fronts – invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Snyder, who attended Monday’s motions hearing, seeks unspecified damages from the Rev. Fred Phelps and his church.

    The church attempted to argue Monday that it did not invade the Snyder family’s privacy during the Marine’s March 2006 funeral in Westminster. The church picketed several hundred feet away, out of view of the family.

    Snyder’s lawyers argued that just the knowledge Westboro was picketing outside interrupted the family’s grieving.

    Church members, who believe military deaths in Iraq are God’s punishment for America’s tolerance of homosexuality, argued that they were too far away to disturb the funeral. Just because Albert Snyder saw the protest on television later did not disturb the funeral when it happened, they argued.

    “We’re out of sight, out of sound,” said Shirley Phelps-Roper, Phelps’ daughter and an attorney who represented herself at the motions hearing. “I don’t know how you intrude upon seclusion when you’re 1,000 feet away.”

    Bennett denied the church’s argument that the invasion of privacy claim should be dismissed, and he also refused to toss the emotional distress claim.

    Snyder’s lawyers introduced pictures of signs carried by Westboro members, with messages such as “God Hates You” and “You’re Going to Hell.” Snyder argues the signs inflicted emotional distress; the church unsuccessfully tried to argue they were referring to the American public, not the dead Marine personally.

    “It is one thing to protest a war. It is another thing to carry placards celebrating the death of a soldier,” Bennett said.

    Church members said they would argue their protests are covered by free-speech protections, but acknowledged in court Monday that they had a hard time finding experts to take their side for next week’s trial.

    “This is a nation that laughs and mocks and scorns,” Phelps-Roper said. “This nation doesn’t want us to say that God is punishing her for her sins.”

    A jury trial begins Oct. 22 and is expected to last two weeks.

    Recent Comments

    Members of the Westboro Church are experts in the legal feild. They…
    Mr Phelps and his people (who I understand are mostly his own…
    This is another example of the “Right” to Freedom of Religion being…
    I would ask the membership of Westboro Baptist Church: How many…
    Free Speach is what it is.

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