August 9, 2003. Concord N.H.: Days after a panel of lay and clergy Episcopalians selected 56-year-old Rev. V. Gene Robinson to be their next bishop, protests continue to be voiced around the world. Joining people from Nigeria to Nevada in decrying the historic choice of an openly-gay man to the position, a local group of concerned citizens voiced their opposition in a rally at the courthouse this morning.
Father Louis McDonald, a Catholic Priest who has been transferred twice in his career as a man of the cloth—allegedly for having sex with pre-teen boys—was one of the organizers of the protest. He addressed the small crowd from the steps of the courthouse, calling on “people of all faiths to condemn this decision, which clearly and overtly condones a godless and immoral way of life.”
Robert Rayford, a New Hampshire Episcopalian and father of two, joined McDonald and about 100 others at the rally. Rayford, known in his neighborhood as a dangerous alcoholic who frequently beats his family members in drunken rages, explained his attendance: “I’m really angry at my church for giving into the homosexual agenda. I don’t want my kids exposed to that kind of dangerous mentality.”
Keith Van Patten, a Vermont businessman and co-founder of the newly established People Advocating Wholesome Normalcy, came to the meeting in a rented bus with 23 of his fellow PAWN members. “We thought it was important to come add our voices to those others here,” Van Patten said, eliciting nods of affirmation from his group members, all Episcopalians.
Van Patten, a thrice-divorced financial advisor, whose wages are garnished each month to pay child-support for the six children he never sees, seems to be representative of the other PAWN members. An unofficial survey revealed that—of the 24 protestors who’d made the one-hour drive from Vermont—22 of them were divorced, 18 were confessed adulterers, 13 of them had at least one D.U.I. citation, and three of them had served time in state prison, two for robbery and one for criminal child endangerment.
As well as attending the rally and holding several signs with slogans like “Deviance is not Devine,” and “No Gays”, the members of PAWN circulated a petition, which they promise to deliver to the national Episcopal convention. Before Robinson—who was once married and has two children—can become Bishop, he must be confirmed at the convention in Minneapolis next month.
Susan Ripley, one of the few women attending the courthouse rally, watched quietly from the sideline. The 32-year-old waitress was recently released from prison after serving 6 years for second-degree murder, and she reported that “getting involved with the community” was one of her post-prison resolutions. “Putting my name on that petition feels real [sic] good, like I’m makin’ a difference.”
Robinson’s partner of 17 years, Mark Andrew, answered a telephone call to their home in Weare. He politely told our reporter that Robinson, whose children and former wife attended his confirmation on Wednesday to show their support, did not care to comment on this latest protest.
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