STONE ME WITH THAT FIRST STONE!
By Melanie Nathan, March 30, 2014.
Over fifty LGBT activists protested for over an hour in the rain yesterday outside ATLAH World Missionary Church in Harlem, demanding that the church’s controversial pastor, James David Manning, emerge and administer the stonings that his public sign recently called for. Until it was vandalized last week, the church’s marquee read, “Jesus would stone homos. Harlem is a homo free zone.”
Holding a forty-foot rainbow banner and shouting chants like “Harlem queers under attack! What do we do? ACT UP! Fight back!” and “Hey hey! Ho ho! David Manning has got to go!” the multiracial crowd also brandished signs that read, “God is love” and “Let he without sin cast the first stone.”
At one point the rowdy group moved to the side entrance of the church, repeatedly ringing the building’s buzzer and raising their fists while they shouted, “We’re here for our stoning! We’re here for our stoning!” Several church members watched from inside through a glass door, smiling and chatting.
Harlem resident and transgender activist Jennifer Louise Lopez called for the protest after the recent video of her interaction with a befuddled ATLAH staffer went viral and drew strong support: http://bit.ly/1lk8zSV.
Lopez told the crowd that Manning had served time in prison for larceny, burglary, and criminal possession of a weapon, and said, “He is a very hateful and dangerous man.” She spoke out against using scripture to brainwash congregations by delivering hateful messages. “We will no longer stand by while Evangelical Christian churches misrepresent us,” she said. Lopez, a United Methodist Christian, called for an Easter day global demonstration of solidarity against churches that preach hate. She led the crowd in demanding, “Not one more day!” of misrepresentation.
Jim Eigo, a veteran ACT UP member who works with the AIDS Prevention Task Force at Harlem United, said “AIDS is still killing so many in this neighborhood. We know that words of hate and retribution like Pastor Manning’s words just aid and abet this disease.” Eigo said that Manning’s bigoted message “keeps people in the closet about their sex lives” and “keeps people from getting tested for HIV and from seeking out effective treatment until they are already sick and the virus has done great and irreparable damage to their bodies.”
Activist Lovari read a passage from the Book of Matthew 19:12 that he said showed support for androgynous and LGBT individuals, “For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb: and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men: and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to accept this, let him accept it,” he read.