Local ministers denounce City Council vote on same-sex domestic-partner benefits

In the aftermath of last night’s Asheville City Council vote to support same-sex domestic-partner benefits for city employees, four local Baptist ministers held a press conference today to voice their displeasure, while saying they still welcome homosexuals into their congregations.

The conference was called by Rev. Keith Ogden, senior pastor at Hill Street Baptist Church, who spoke against the benefits resolution at the Council meeting last night. He was joined by John H. Grant of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist, James E. Roberts of Fairmont Missionary Baptist, and Jerry Young of Trinity Baptist.

Click on the video below to see Xpress’ video Ogden’s opening statement, and hear Ogden and Grant answer questions about their stance.

Jon Elliston, managing editor



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About Jon Elliston
Former Mountain Xpress managing editor Jon Elliston is the senior editor at WNC magazine.

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33 thoughts on “Local ministers denounce City Council vote on same-sex domestic-partner benefits

  1. johncopeland

    These “preachers” say they oppose a “radical homosexual agenda” when most people in Asheville see nothing radical about allowing all tax paying American citizens to enjoy the same benefits provided to all other citizens. To state that this is NOT a civil rights issue is a lie! These preachers and their churches enjoy TAX FREE status and therefore should have absolutely no say in how the City of Asheville spends its tax money! American tax paying citizens who are born homosexual are being taken advantage of and “forced” to pay taxes for services and benefits for others while they themselves are being told they can not enjoy the same benefit. These preachers are abhorent and do not follow the teachings of their own biblical spiritual leader. It is a well known fact the Baptist organization like many other religious organizations want to pick and choose which bible verses they want to follow and apply the most hateful to those that they would condemn. Therefore, I must condemn these preachers for being evil sinners to mankind. I urge the City of Asheville to remove their tax free status.

  2. rhymash

    They hated JESUS too!
    I pray that GOD will soften your hearts, that you will honor your Baptisimal Vows, & remember, that as black men you have suffered condemnation based on the BIBLE as well.
    People stood up for YOU and now you need to STAND UP and unite rather that divide. There are mission Christians and Issue Christians. Don’t let the Christian Mission be left behind while you take issues and use them for division, I will continue to be a MISSION Christian and Stand Up for all UNJUST issues.
    God Bless You one and ALL !

  3. katie

    I am sorry for all your hate and anger. I hope that love finds its way to you.

  4. Sage

    They forgot to bash shellfish eaters and encourage stoning of women and slavery.

  5. rubart

    When these reverends complain that taxpayer money shouldn’t be used for the “homosexual agenda”–i.e., government benefits for partners in domestic relationships– what they fail to consider is that GLBT taxpayer money is used to support their own agenda, including GLBT taxpayer money helping to make up the funds that tax-exempt churches fail to supply. When will fundamentalists learn that a democracy, by definition, cannot give special favor to “biblical principles.” Can I get an amen?

  6. rubart

    I just listened to the second part of Keith Ogden’s talk, after I posted my first comment. Can someone tell me if it’s actually true that “African Americans aren’t allowed to live in Biltmore Forest?” Or is that just another example of Ogden’s rhetoric? I’d think that not allowing African-Americans to live in Biltmore Forest would be blatantly against the law. Someone please enlighten me on this. Thanks.

  7. Jessica B.

    Reverend Ogden asks why taxpayers should have to pay for homosexuals to have benefits. Maybe it’s because those gay (and lesbian, bi and transgendered) people are employees of the city, working for those taxpayers. Is Reverend Ogden (and anyone else against this issue) willing to provide tax rebates to those LGBT citizens who pay for the benefits of heterosexual city employees?

  8. entopticon

    Keith Ogden, John H. Grant, James E. Roberts, and Jerry Young are unconscionably disgraceful bigots, plain and simple.

    Their shameful hate speech about a supposed “homosexual agenda” is every bit as disgustingly vile as white supremacist rhetoric about a supposed “black agenda.” Homosexuals want liberty and equal rights under the law.

    Those four men have a hell of a lot of nerve calling themselves men of God. They are an absolute disgrace to the churches that they represent.

  9. Sage

    I feel bad for all the closeted members of their congregation. They should leave and attend churches that don’t demonize them. Typical cherry picking cafeteria Christians. It’s just easier and fun to gay bash than be consistent and take all the sexism,racism,and violence in the Bible truly literally.

  10. LOKEL

    Perhaps we should take away some of the civil liberties that these black men now enjoy as a result of their historic quest for equal rights and see how they like it …

  11. Betty Cloer Wallace

    After a lifetime of participation, Jimmy Carter resigned from the Southern Baptist Convention because of that organization’s increasingly exclusionary and discriminatory practices—as have many other thinking, caring, spiritual people.

    In addition to ousting GLBT members or forcing them into the lowest levels of the Baptist hierarchy of religiosity, Baptist men do not allow women (since the late 1990s) to hold positions of leadership in their churches nor to sit on their administrative boards.

    Why would any self-respecting person subjugate their spirituality to the demands of homophobic and misogynistic old men who have evolved a caste system to ensure that women and GLBT must function as secondary citizens in church, family, and society—as, the male pastors argue, their Holy Father so ordained?

    Carter furthermore declared that Christianity and other religions that demean women are the primary cause of (and excuse for) degradation and suffering by women and children throughout the world and that he would spend the rest of his life trying to right that wrong. We need more real men like that, in WNC and elsewhere, and fewer such arrogant, cultish, bigoted pastors as seen in these anti-same-sex-partner-benefits videos.

    The Baptist pastors talk about “morality” as if they have a divine right to define it for everyone else, including government officials. What a travesty of justice!

    Allowing such exclusionary Christian practices to encroach upon government policy further entrenches the subordinate role of women and GLBT in our country and elsewhere—far beyond the issues of same-gender domestic-partner benefits and sectarian prayer at governmental meetings.

    Keeping such dogmatic discriminatory religiosity out of government is an obligation of every freedom-loving citizen. Caring and spiritual people must work diligently to ensure separation of church and state—and if you are not already involved in the struggle, Asheville is a good place to start.

    And by the way, these religious organizations have tax-exempt status while blatantly practicing such discrimination and exclusion of large groups of people. Our government is actually supporting them! How “radical” is that?

  12. Betty Cloer Wallace

    The ultra-conservative religious right has long found satisfaction and success in co-opting historic words and national symbols to further their own narrow causes and to exclude other people who do not agree with them—the flag, the Constitution, freedom, liberty, tea-bagging, we the people, the American way, don’t tread on me—and now they’re trying mightily to co-opt the definition of marriage by arguing that a religion-based ritual is the only “real” marriage.

    Actually, a “real” marriage in our country is a civil function defined by our government, not a religious matter defined by any church, and it is only a matter of time before the civil definition of marriage will become much broader and far more inclusive of all people in our democracy, i.e. a union of any two adults who want to enter into a marriage contract filed in the courthouse, not a church.

    My favorite religious-right co-option misnomer, though, is the use of “atheist” and “anti-Christian” to try to denigrate anyone who believes in separation of church and state. Surprise! There are many, many Christians and people of other religious persuasions out there who strongly believe in separation of church and state, as well as a much broader and more inclusive civil (legal) definition of marriage.

    And the flag belongs to everyone.

  13. rubart

    My favorite tactic of conservative Christians is their labeling anyone who doesn’t believe what THEY believe an “unbeliever.” As though we automatically don’t believe in things like love, kindness, compassion, spirituality, a loving and non-tyrannical God (or Creator or Source).

    It’s so easy, then, for them to play the part of Good and Right and True, and everyone else as being opposed to those things. Because they believe and everyone else doesn’t believe.

    I always call them on it when they refer to me as an unbeliever. I tell them that not only do I believe, but my beliefs are deeper than theirs because I came to them through my own explorations and spirit and plain hard work. Whereas they got theirs straight out of a box.

    Here’s a great quote by Sinclair Lewis: “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.”

  14. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Jake wrote: “Does anyone else here see a Baptist parallel with the Taliban?”

    Discrimination and annihilation of human rights and warmongering in the name of the Lord has gone on for centuries—but the Baptists do it in the name of a blue-eyed Jesus.

  15. rubart

    If you want to know what Jesus really looked like, go to any good kosher deli in New York City. The guy slicing the salami is as close as we’ll get. Certainly much closer than what we’ve got now. (But don’t buy anything there. Go Vegan!)

  16. entopticon

    Just s sidenote… The average deli owner in NYC probably does look whole lot more like Jesus than the mousey-brown to blond-haired, blue-eyed, white Jesus in most of the paintings, but in actuality, most of them have a lot of European blood, and are far whiter and more fair-haired than Jesus could have been. An old Israeli friend of mine that lives down the road from me here is probably a far closer approximation. He has black hair and his skin is as dark as any of the men pictured above.

  17. boxlunch

    I know of no restrictions concerning African Americans living in Biltmore Forest. Crazy liberals….that’s another story!

  18. Anyone who has had a military career is eligible for their Survivor Benefit Plan. Here is how they have unceramonously handled this issue a non traditional significant other. The way I’m reading this, is asomeone who is financially effected by the death of the retiree, is eligible for survivor benefits. As long as premiums have been paid in, they don’t seem to be eliminating someone of the same sex.

    Person with an Insurable Interest

    A member who does not have a spouse or dependent child when eligible to make a program election may elect to provide coverage for a person with an insurable interest in the member. The Department of Defense defines an insurable interest as “a natural person with an insurable interest who has a reasonable and lawful expectation of financial benefit from the continued life of the participating member, or any individual having a reasonable and lawful basis, founded upon the relation of parties to each other, either financial or of blood or affinity, to expect some benefit or advantage from the continuance of the life of the retired member”. If the election is for a person who is more nearly related than a cousin, no proof of financial expectation is required.

    An election for insurable interest coverage, for other than a dependent (as described in 10 U.S.C. 1072(2)), made by a member retiring on or after November 24, 2003 under a military disability provision, who dies within one year after being retired due to a cause related to the disability for which retired, shall be voided and any premiums paid for that coverage will be paid to the person to whom the annuity would have been paid.

  19. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Regarding the videotaped press conference by three Baptist pastors following recent action by the City Council concerning employee-partner benefits, Rubart asked: “Can someone tell me if it’s actually true that “African Americans aren’t allowed to live in Biltmore Forest?” Or is that just another example of Ogden’s rhetoric? I’d think that not allowing African-Americans to live in Biltmore Forest would be blatantly against the law. Someone please enlighten me on this.”

    Boxlunch answered: “I know of no restrictions concerning African Americans living in Biltmore Forest.”

    Pastor Ogden’s statement, verbatim: “Homosexuality is a lifestyle choice. I’ll tell you what’s a civil right—when homosexuals and lesbians can move into Biltmore Forest and African-Americans cannot move into Biltmore Forest. Now that’s a civil right, but they don’t want to talk about that. It’s a civil right—you didn’t choose to be white, I didn’t choose to be black—when you violate my race. But people choose their lifestyle choices, their sexual predilections and proclivities.”

    Hmmm, well now. Race-baiting dressed up in a clerical collar furthering the cause of…..what, exactly?

  20. Concerned Christian

    I am so disappointed in the Christian Community of Asheville and especially in the African American Christian community of our city. I have sat in meetings and attended services attempting to create a less segregated Sunday morning. We do have a problem of racial separation in this town, but we also have a the problem of pastors like the above insisting that their interpretation of the bible, God’s will and science means they can disregard the civil rights and needs of an entire group of God’s children. I was personally hurt and scared to return to anti-racism talks by hear Dr. Ogden condemn the way God has made me and by having Jerry Young be nice and welcoming but then agreeing that I should have less rights. I wish other church leaders who have the power to speak back would show up to challenge these men. As a christian, I know they do not speak for Jesus or God but from their own fear. Sadly, Mayor Terry is with them. . .

  21. entopticon

    “It’s a civil right—you didn’t choose to be white, I didn’t choose to be black—when you violate my race. But people choose their lifestyle choices, their sexual predilections and proclivities.”

    How astonishingly ignorant. Gays and lesbians may be able to hide their sexual preferences, but they certainly don’t get to choose them any more than Pastor Ogden gets to choose to be black.

    Ogden’s claim that being homosexual is a “lifestyle” choice is bigotry at its ugly worst. It is no more of a lifestyle choice than being black is a lifestyle choice.

    Ogden’s claim that everyone gets to choose their sexual preference is bigotry and ignorance at its ugly worst as well. Only bisexuals get to choose which gender they want to be with (more power to them). The rest of us do not. Either Ogden is an unconscionable hypocrite for suggesting that other people have a choice to be attracted to both genders even though he does not, or he is projecting his bisexuality onto the rest of us. My sexual preference is not a choice, and neither is it for gays and lesbians.

  22. Katie

    Anti-miscegenation laws, also known as miscegenation laws, were laws that banned interracial marriage and sometimes sex between members of two different races.Typically defining miscegenation as a felony, these laws prohibited the solemnization of weddings between persons of different races and prohibited the officiating of such ceremonies. The constitutionality of anti-miscegenation laws was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1883 case Pace v. Alabama (106 U.S. 583). The Supreme Court ruled that the Alabama anti-miscegenation statute did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. According to the court, both races were treated equally, because whites and blacks were punished in equal measure for breaking the law against interracial marriage and interracial sex.

    In 1948, the California Supreme Court in Perez v. Sharp ruled that the Californian anti-miscegenation statute violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and was therefore unconstitutional. This was the first time since Reconstruction that a state court had declared an anti-miscegenation law unconstitutional. California was the first state.
    ???So this must be why the Rev. is so anti-california.??? People look through history. Oppression and bigotry have been disguised as religion and laws forever. If we just live and let live who would be hurt?

  23. UNaffiliated Voter

    I find it amazing that Rev. Ogden made such a comment about Biltmore Forest, which does have some diversity.

    Jake, in America, LaRaza is our Taliban!

  24. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Asheville/Buncombe could take some lessons from New Orleans, a city that has historically recovered, over and over, from all sorts of devastation. New Orleans has done it by being INCLUSIVE of everyone regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, or cultural heritage—not by having small narrow-minded people try to set the agenda for the city by EXCLUDING people.

  25. rubart

    Regarding Betty’s inclusivity message, by coincidence (or maybe not)I was reading an online excerpt from a guide to New York City earlier today. And I came across something I hadn’t heard of before.

    A group of Irish (and Irishophile) New Yorkers started an alternative St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the city because the big one on Fifth Avenue refused to let any gay groups participate.

    Here’s a quote from the alternative parade’s website:

    “Ours is the first in the 260 years + of Irish parades in New York City to be open and welcoming to all who wish share the spirit of the day. We err on the side of hospitality. Our theme “cherishing all the children of the nation equally” is taken from the 1916 Easter Proclamation of the Irish Republic.”

    Check out their website for a beautiful example of the hope of the world: http://www.stpatsforall.com.

  26. lots of love

    Prostitutes,lesbian, gays, trans, all want to be able to have the same rights as everyone else. These group are largely excluded out of society. Let’s start loving and supporting everyone and not casting stones. Congrats, city council!!! And the beat marches on!!! Next step the legalization prostitution.. Time to give everyone the right to choose. I still do not see why abortion is legal and prostitution isn’t. Wow may I say double standard.. Taking life or providing love.

  27. Meredith Eugene Hunt

    Asheville already does recognize the rights of all its citizens, but shouldn’t further provide for a special class based on sexual perversions.

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