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Did Toronto’s Neighborhood Parishioners Get Unfairly Tarred As Anti-Gay Street Preachers?

Did the anti-gay preachers from Toronto’s Highfield Road Gospel Hall, who supposedly showed up outside a gay couple’s home to pray their gay away, get a bad rap? Yes — says one of the men living in the targeted house.

Blair Chiasson says he and his partner Paul Collins aren’t victims of anti-gay preachers, as their neighbors (who tried running them out of town, or at least off the block), assumed. “I don’t like how the whole issue is being distorted,” says Chiasson, a civil servant. “Nothing happened. Nothing happened. … I just want this to stop. Stop discussing it. Stop talking about it. It’s really kind of spiralling out of control.”

Online, hundreds of others joined her in condemnation. Prominent U.S. sex writer Dan Savage, who is gay, called the parishioners “Christofascists.” Another gay blogger called them “Christian terrorists.” To Chiasson, however, they are the unthreatening “church people” — and they did not do anything wrong. Chiasson, 45, said he believes Highfield parishioners only choose to read the Bible from a spot near their house because a fire hydrant prevents cars from parking there.

He said the parishioners preached on the street long before he and Collins, 47, arrived 13 years ago. Moreover, he said, he and Collins have never felt personally targeted by the parishioners, have never heard them say anything homophobic, and have not even been present for three years on the summer Sundays when the infrequent sermons occur.

He said the parishioners are “a part of the neighbourhood” with the right to speak freely. The neighbours who confronted them, he said, “overreacted.” “We don’t even know the people that started this,” he said. “So the people who are apparently our defenders, we don’t even know who they are.”

Geoffrey Skelding, who taped the incident and uploaded it to YouTube, says he didn’t personally hear any anti-gay preaching. “I don’t know 100 per cent if it was targeted at the couple. I don’t think that that’s the issue anymore. I think it’s turned into, ‘You know what, I don’t think you need to be spreading whatever message you have the way you did on my street.'”

Levy Okinga and Esther Gordon, two of the parishioners, say their church never targets specific homes and never said anything anti-gay.

So rather than being anti-gay street preachers, this group of faithful are instead just a public nuisance, exercising their First Amendment rights. Fine! But could you at least help clean up all the dog poo the homeowners don’t pick up? That’d be a great help, thanks!

By:           JD
On:           Aug 25, 2010
Tagged: , , ,

  • 27 Comments
    • Jeff
      Jeff

      “Nothing happened. Nothing happened. … I just want this to stop. Stop discussing it. Stop talking about it. It’s really kind of spiralling out of control.”

      Who the hell is she Joan Crawford?

      Sounds more like she doesn’t like the publicity

      Aug 25, 2010 at 12:57 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS
      PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS

      Anti-Gay or not they should respect the rights and privacy of others who may not wish to hear their sermonizing and preaching in front of their homes……….

      And maybe things are different up North but usually those who have the overwhelming urge to spew the word of their god on public streets like the inbred band of scum the phelps aren’t really encouraging love,respect, and tolerance towards the Gays……….

      Aug 25, 2010 at 12:59 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Joseph
      Joseph

      First amendment rights? Queerty, you know that Toronto is not part of American and your constitution? Right? Up here we have the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Please don’t confuse the two.

      Aug 25, 2010 at 1:06 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Chopsie
      Chopsie

      I’m sure the gays in the house they were carrying on about wouldn’t sing “Let Me Entertain You” and strip in front of their church…

      Aug 25, 2010 at 1:08 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Joseph
      Joseph

      And by the way…our Charter does not afford the same freedom of speech rights that Americans have. Hate speech has a broader meaning here.

      http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/resources/legislation/canadian_law/federal/charter_of_rights/chart_right_free_ov.cfm

      “Hate Propaganda vs. Free Speech
      In a high-profile case in 1990, the Supreme Court of Canada weighed James Keegstra’s rights to free speech against the offence of wilfully promoting hatred under the Criminal Code. As a teacher, Keegstra made racist comments in the classroom.

      The court ruled that under section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a limitation of free expression is justified in a democratic society. The court stated that since hate propaganda harms us all, then stopping its spread helps people from different backgrounds to live together — and may even reduce violence in Canada. For these reasons, the Supreme Court said that section 1 of the Charter “saves” the crime of wilfully promoting hatred. In other words, the court said that that Keegstra had in fact broken the law.”

      Any form of discriminatory speech can land you in trouble!

      Aug 25, 2010 at 1:12 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Tallskin
      Tallskin

      I think they’re mentally ill loons (but then I think religious people are mad) with nothing better to do with their time.

      If they are christians shouldn’t they be out doing good works somewhere? Like feeding the homeless. Making themselves actually useful?

      Aug 25, 2010 at 1:38 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mr. Enemabag Jones
      Mr. Enemabag Jones

      So the neighbours stick up for the gay couple, and the gay couple shits on the neighbours? What a douchebag.

      I wonder if he would have defended them the same way, if those preaching were white?

      Aug 25, 2010 at 1:43 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Lawrence
      Lawrence

      Queerty…they were in Toronto… Their first amendment rights dont exist there, you may want to look up the Canadian Charter of rights and freedoms!

      Aug 25, 2010 at 2:06 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Steve
      Steve

      Regardless of whether they were anti-gay or not, they ARE christofascists. They can preach in their churches. They have no business going onto the street in the evening and forcing their beliefs on other people.

      Aug 25, 2010 at 2:09 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • JohnS
      JohnS

      That’s the problem with apologist Queers. How many times have we heard in our community some version of “I understand why you hate me and want to deny me rights” or “I wish you would change your mind but I respect your viewpoint.” All I can say is FUCK THAT! We need to start standing up as a community and saying “If you have a problem with me, you can go to hell” or perhaps something less nice. I’m not going to tolerate anyone’s hatred of me simply because they happen to be “closed-minded” or too old to change their minds (which is what I’ve heard numerous times). This is the modern era with televisions which have shows with gay characters and Blockbuster or Netflix which will deliver great gay-themed movies to your house(watch one to get a feel for what kinds of trials and tribulations we go through simply to exist) and the internet where you can actually *gasp* talk to a gay man or woman. If someone is unwilling to do anything to understand the gay community but still wishes to condemn us, then fuck them and their street preachers and we need to start saying just that.

      Aug 25, 2010 at 2:39 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Baxter
      Baxter

      @Steve: They’re hardly forcing their beliefs on people. They’re just preaching in public, not torturing people into converting. If you don’t like or agree with them, ignore them and move on with your life.

      Aug 25, 2010 at 2:42 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • DR
      DR

      Let me see if I get this right:

      The guy who posts the video to YouTube, Geoffrey Skelding, is gay, and gathers a bunch of people who ASSume the church goers *must* be homophobes and runs them off the street.

      He admits to never hearing any anti-gay preaching, neither does anyone else in the mob.

      He admits that it’s “gone beyond” the gay thing when the supposed gay victims say this isn’t an issue and shows his true colors, which are “I don’t want to hear what you have to say so go away”.

      Wow, and Skelding has the audacity to claim ignorance? Looks like he tried to garner sympathy and this blew up in his face. Good.

      Aug 25, 2010 at 3:13 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Fitz
      Fitz

      The Christian community has sort of earned this quickness to interpret everything that they do as an attack against gay people. It seems like, for last 5 or 6 years at least, they have been WAY more focused on making sure that I don’t get to call myself married than on doing anything positive in the world. So yeah…. a bunch of Christians preaching in the street? I say, get a Lion.

      Aug 25, 2010 at 3:47 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Tallskin
      Tallskin

      @Fitz, that is very well put! Exactly.

      My default position is now whenever I see/hear/read someone is a christian I automatically assume they’re going to be hostile to me and my sexuality.

      same with muslims

      Jews.

      Even Buddhists.

      Religion equals homophobia – with bullshit reasons for being homophobic.

      Aug 25, 2010 at 4:05 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • DR
      DR

      Interesting. Another blog managed to save the original text from the video on YouTube, since all references to sexual orientation have been removed from the video:

      “This is a group from a church at the end of my street. Apparently they have been grouping in front of a gay couple’s house and reading their bible loudly for the past 7 years. They may have also driven a lesbian couple from the area as well by doing the same thing. Tonight most of our neighbours came out and were successful in getting them to leave. The people who go to that church don’t even live in our area! Police came by shortly thereafter.”

      Interesting. Busted in a lie/misrepresentation, and the poster now shows his true colors:

      “This is a group from a church at the end of my street. Apparently they have been grouping in front of a couple’s house and reading their bible loudly for the past 7 years. They may have also driven another couple from the area as well by doing the same thing. Tonight most of our neighbours came out and were successful in getting them to leave. The people who go to that church don’t even live in our area! Police came by shortly thereafter.”

      Thank God I don’t live in Canada. It’s shameful that any gay person thinks he has the right to bully anyone to not speak in public. The word “hypocrite” comes to mind.

      Aug 25, 2010 at 4:13 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B
      B

      No. 15 · DR wrote, “Thank God I don’t live in Canada. It’s shameful that any gay person thinks he has the right to bully anyone to not speak in public. The word ‘hypocrite’ comes to mind.”

      It is not hypocritical for people to object to loud preaching outside their houses: the issue is not content but noise (and if they were reading from the Bible, that book says next to nothing about homosexuality). It’s no different than if someone was sitting outside your house playing music so loudly that it drowns out your conversation over dinner.

      QUEERTY’s current article simply raises a question about whether a gay couple was targeted instead of the neighborhood as a whole, which would require knowing whether or not the church people knew that the gay couple lived at a specific address.

      Aug 25, 2010 at 4:42 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • John Smith
      John Smith

      Thank you for posting this.

      We all hate those Christian filth bags. Take your fairytale hard-backed book and shove it up your rear-ends.

      Aug 25, 2010 at 4:48 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • DR
      DR

      @B:

      I have to disagree. The gentleman who posted the video said:

      “I don’t know 100 per cent if it was targeted at the couple. I don’t think that that’s the issue anymore. I think it’s turned into, ‘You know what, I don’t think you need to be spreading whatever message you have the way you did on my street.'”

      His beef is with the message, but since the people who were the supposed victims told him and his friends to back off, he’s backtracking and trying to make himself look like a victim. He’s not. He’s a bully and a hypocrite.

      Aug 25, 2010 at 5:18 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • El-Brucio
      El-Brucio

      You know, had I lived in that neighbourhood, I would have been sorely tempted to mow my lawn at that time every Sunday with my very loud gas mower.

      Ooooh, now it’s time to take out the leaf blower!

      Actually, it would probably depend on what they were actually preaching and what denomination they were.

      Aug 25, 2010 at 5:40 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • John McLaren
      John McLaren

      The messenger who took the video and posted it on YIOU TUBE and who stirred up the neighborhood by crying :GAY WOLF” was gay. The Christians may have been a nuisance but it was justice that a gay couple who has lived there for 13 years stood up for the Christians and dispelled the vicious, untrue reports of anti-gay activity.

      Aug 25, 2010 at 6:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • edgyguy1426
      edgyguy1426

      @Mr. Enemabag Jones: Most of them WERE white. I guess it takes one bag to know another.

      Aug 25, 2010 at 6:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • John McLaren
      John McLaren

      The messenger who took the video and posted it on YOU TUBE and who stirred up the neighborhood by crying :GAY WOLF” was gay. The Christians may have been a nuisance but it was justice that a gay couple who has lived there for 13 years stood up for the Christians and dispelled the vicious, untrue reports of anti-gay activity.

      Aug 25, 2010 at 6:03 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jimmy
      jimmy

      First Amendment rights? This is Canada, Charter of rights and freedoms FTW!!!

      Aug 26, 2010 at 12:21 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jimmy
      jimmy

      @Mr. Enemabag Jones: You probably mean ALL-white, because it’s a diverse crowd. What are you implying mr. douchebag?

      Aug 26, 2010 at 12:26 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Paul Ginandes
      Paul Ginandes

      What I saw in the video clearly displays the frustration and anger of the neighbors who have had their peace and quiet disrupted almost weekly, for seventeen years by this crowd of uninvited zealots. In an attempt to leverage these street preachers out of the neighborhood, someone claimed they were using anti-gay language. They probably didn’t. But it doesn’t change the fact that the neighbors are totally opposed to the preachers’ presence and activity, and it shows a distinct lack of respect and christian love for those bible beaters to get all up the neighbors’ grill when asked to leave. One gentleman with a bible in his hand clearly threatens to return whenever they please to preach.
      These evangelists are on a par with that damned ice cream truck which comes around every ten minutes, all summer long with a computer generated broadcast of “Turkey in the Straw”, complete with hooting whistles and donkey noises to punctuate the performance. I’m not anti-ice cream. I’m sick of the ruckus disturbing my summer evenings. Yes, the bible pounders have a right to be there, but they must realize the enmity they are generating by making such a noise at such a time. I have no idea why they believe they are doing their cause any good. I suspect they know it’s useless activity, as far as conversions are concerned, but they enjoy the excitement of publicity and controversy, and it makes them feel like they’re doing something, no matter how stupid or pointless.

      Aug 26, 2010 at 7:21 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • drums
      drums

      Wow, that video of social awkwardness was really uncomfortable to watch! Unless they have a busking licence or something, I’m pretty sure the people of the neighbourhood do have a legal right to ask them to stop standing around yelling on their private street. It’s nice that the gay couple doesn’t mind, but their neighbours live on the street too and if their neighbours do mind then they should be allowed to act. Just because they weren’t saying anti-gay things doesn’t mean they weren’t offending other people such as non-Christians or people who value peace and quiet. Chiasson can’t ask his neighbours to shut up about it just because he doesn’t want the attention.

      Aug 26, 2010 at 4:22 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • hephaestion
      hephaestion

      It’s infuriating that they are preaching on the street. Anti-gay or not, that is just absurb and obnoxious.

      I once heard an anti-gay minister preaching hatred of gays into a microphone in downtown Washington DC (at 12th & G Streets, NW) so I walked right up to his microphone and screamed “FUCK YOU!” It made me feel so good to do that that I still have a smile on my face 3 years later. Stand up to the bastards!

      Aug 26, 2010 at 7:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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