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Rev. Mel White's Southern Baptist Protest Threatened

Orlando Promises Severe Penalties to Persons Arrested

High Court Costs and 60 Days in Jail for Disobedience

Compiled By GayToday

melwhite2.jpg - 6.90 K The Rev. Mel White will once again lead gay activists in a march against religious intolerance Orlando, Florida—City officials in this Southern Baptist enclave have threatened lesbian and gay protestors with exorbitant fees and with at least two months in jail should they dare to practice non-violent civil disobedience at the opening here this morning of the Southern Baptist Convention.

The protestors, including Central Floridian sympathizers and members of the non-violent activist group, Soulforce, held a last minute strategy meeting last night at Orlando's gay-friendly Joy Metropolitan Community Church.

Rev. Mel White, Soulforce founder and leader, addressed the more than 200 Activists planning to take part in the demonstration. He wrote:

“Our civil disobedience in Orlando at the Southern Baptist Convention, June 14, could cost us 24 hours in jail before our arraignment, a fine of up to $500 (with an additional $200 in court costs), and the possibility of another 60 days in jail.

“I called Arun Gandhi immediately and asked what his Grandfather would do. You could feel his excitement as Arun replied. 'This is a wonderful opportunity, Mel,' he said. 'Don't even think about paying the fine. Grandfather Gandhi wouldn't. He opened his arms to the opportunity of going to jail for justice. So did Dr. King. Let them sentence all of you to 60 days in jail and the minute you are sentenced there is likely to be massive public pressure to get you released.'

"I hope he's right. There are no guarantees. But we've studied Gandhi and King on the role of 'voluntary redemptive suffering' in winning justice. We've learned the principle and signed the pledge. Now, Orlando offers us a moment to see what happens when we are willing to pay the price as well.

"Southern Baptist policies against sexual and gender minorities lead to discrimination, suffering, and death in towns and cities across the nation. Their tragic belief that women should be subservient to men and that Southern Baptist women called to ministry can no longer be ordained or serve as clergy is just more evidence of the fundamentalist takeover of America's largest Protestant denomination.

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Rev. Mel White's Soul Force

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“This is a moment of truth for our community, perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take a stand for justice that just might be seen and heard by the nation. We've been planning this and announcing this for five weeks. We have almost 100 folks already signed up. But we're still hoping that even at this last minute, you will consider joining us.

“Go to for a map and easy directions.

“Our liaison with the Sheriff's office has warned us that there might be KKK, skinheads, and/or white supremacists staging protests against us. Naturally, Fred Phelps and his crew will be there. However, we feel confident that the Orange County Sheriff's Office has things well in hand for Tuesday and Wednesday. But there is always a risk and we cannot ignore that risk.

“You will stand in the company of heroes and sheroes. Dr. James Lawson, King's mentor in nonviolence, and Jim's brother, Phil will stand with us. Jimmy Creech will be there. Ed Harris, a founder of Honesty, the Southern Baptist GLBT solidarity group, and other Southern Baptists and former Southern Baptists will be arrested with us.”

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