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San Diego Church Puts up N. Carolina Billboard Slamming Same-Sex Marriage Ban Backers; Interview With Pastor

| May 29, 2012
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Not sure this is going to go over well in North Carolina.

In fact, I know it’s not, judging by some of the comments on this WSOC TV Charlotte news story about a San Diego church’s plan to put up a billboard in the city with a  message condemning the state’s recent passage of Amendment One. That measure, which decrees that “marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State,” enshrined a ban on same-sex marriage in the constitution and potentially threatens the legality of civil unions and other types of domestic partnerships between same-sex couples.

Here’s what the San Diego church’s billboard says:

Missiongathering Christian Church is sorry for the narrow-minded, judgmental, deceptive, manipulative actions of those who denied rights and equality to so many in the Name of God.

This afternoon, KQED’s Stephanie Martin interviewed Alex Roller, a pastor at Missiongathering Church, about the billboard. Edited transcript…

STEPHANIE MARTIN: What’s the status of the billboard?

PASTOR ALEX ROLLER: I haven’t heard if it’s been put up yet, but it was scheduled to be put up today.

STEPHANIE MARTINBilly Graham campaigned for Amendment One and you put the sign on Billy Graham Parkway….

ALEX ROLLER: Yes, but also the location had to do with the visibleness of the location. It’s right outside the airport, and it’s at the intersection of Billy Graham Parkway and I-74. And because of the number of words on the billboard, we wanted it to be at a place that was prominent, but where people driving by would either be slowing down or could read the entire text while continuing.

STEPHANIE MARTIN: And this is similar to something you put up in California a few years ago?

ALEX ROLLER: Yes we posted two billboards in San Diego in response to Proposition 8 in 2008, as a way to say that some Christians don’t speak for all Christians, that there are progressive Christians who believe in the Bible and Jesus but still support marriage equality and rights for the LGBT population. The only difference in the language this time is the billboard will read “took away the rights and equality,” because when Prop 8 passed gay marriage had been legal.

STEPHANIE MARTIN: You’re a California church. Why go clear across the country to North Carolina to do something like this?

ALEX ROLLER: North Carolina kind of came to us. When Amendment One passed, images of the Prop 8 billboard began to resurface online. Human Rights Campaign of North Carolina posted the image, and we started getting phone calls and emails from across the country and even from Canada and the UK, thanking us for the message.

And we thought, what if we were able to continue the message we put out there after Prop 8, and to stand in solidarity with LGBT people of North Carolina and straight allies, to say there are people of faith who love and support this community and stand in solidarity with this community and we just want them to know our hearts are with you.

STEPHANIE MARTIN: How did the Prop 8 billboards go over?

ALEX ROLLER: Very well. Once the photos of the billboard went viral, it hit like 37 different blog threads worldwide within about a week. And we received thousands of emails, phonecalls and postcards thanking us. We received our fair share of criticism of well, since San Diego was ground zero for Proposition 8. But the vast majority of the response was grateful and supportive.

STEPHANIE MARTIN: Are there plans for more billboards?

ALEX ROLLER: We don’t know. There’s a Facebook fan page where people can come and participate in dialogue and download a profile-sized version of the apology that says as a Christian I’m sorry, to join in spreading the news and message of the movement that there are likeminded people of faith and even likeminded people not of faith who want to stand in solidarity with the LGBT community.

We know there are several other states in the next several weeks and months that are going to be voting on similar issues. It’s possible that if equality is denied in other places, we’ll attempt to raise funds to put the apology up in those states and cities as well.

STEPHANIE MARTIN: How much did this billboard cost you?

ALEX ROLLER: Three thousand dollars, for four weeks.

STEPHANIE MARTIN: Where did you get the money?

ALEX ROLLER: We had some people come to the church and when they heard we were thinking about doing this, they wanted to help pay for it. We also have started a Givmo page, which is a social network fundraising site where people can go and view why we’re doing the billboard and contribute.

STEPHANIE MARTIN: The Democratic Convention is coming to Charlotte in September. Are you going to try to extend the billboard?

ALEX ROLLER: That’s certainly a possibility. We don’t necessarily have direct plans to do that at this point.

STEPHANIE MARTIN: How big of a church are you?

ALEX ROLLER: About 300.

STEPHANIE MARTIN: How do you feel about the negative comments about this so far?

ALEX ROLLER: We definitely anticipated we’d likely receive a lot more criticism and negative feedback in North Carolina than we did over the California billboards in 2008. We certainly have received a lot of negative and angry emails already.

We are certainly all entitled to our opinions and perspectives. Our goal in putting out the message of this apology was to say to the LGBT community of North Carolina and likeminded straight allies that there are people across the country that stand in support with you, and to know that you’re not alone in this journey for the fight for marriage equality. And to say if you’re an LGBT person of faith that there is a place for you; you don’t have to abandon your faith to live who you are as a person.

Update Wednesday: Alex Roller tells Stephanie Martin that the billboard is now up. He writes: “Because of the delay in getting it put up, they are also running the billboard on one of their digital billboards in another location (BIlly Graham Pkwy & I -85) for the rest of the week.”

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