Arkansas Hub

LGBT-Affirming Church Barred From 'Celebrate Jesus Easter Parade' In Gay-Friendly Eureka Springs, Arkansas: VIDEO


Eureka Springs, Arkansas, has long been known as "the gay capital of the Ozarks." 

But in a state that recently banned LGBT protections and passed an anti-LGBT "religious freedom" law, the popular resort town increasingly finds itself at the epicenter of the battle for equality. 

The latest culture clash occurred this weekend, when Eureka Springs simultaneously hosted one of its three annual "Diversity Weekends" as well as the Celebrate Jesus Easter Parade. 

A pro-LGBT Methodist Church asked to participate in the parade, but was turned away. reports: 

The Celebrate Jesus Easter Parade has been growing in Eureka Springs over the past three years. This year the Eureka Springs First Methodist Church applied to be in the parade, wanting to carry a sign saying "Jesus loves all." The church was denied, and now they're asking why. 

First United Methodist of Eureka Springs applied to be in the parade, and was initially accepted. One week before the parade, however, they were told they were no longer welcome. Church member Suzie Bell believes it's because of their stance on the LGBT community. 

"They wanted to know what our banner was going to say, and it said "Jesus loves all. They had decided that they did not want us in the parade, and that we weren't welcome." Bell said. 

Bell said she believes the church was turned away "based purely on our love and acceptance of the LGBT community." Meanwhile, parade director Laura Nichols released a statement that failed to explain the decision. From the statement: 

"This day isn't a day of pointing fingers or playing the blame game. This parade is to honor our Lord and Savior and for praising God for sending His only Son who willingly went to the cross, died and rose on the third day that when we repent of our sins and accept Him. ... 

"Regardless of what has been stated in the papers. We do not have anything against the Methodist Church. After all my uncle was a Methodist minister. Nor do we have anything against the homosexual community. When I worked downtown I had homosexual people that I considered my friends and still do."

With the Arkansas Legislature set to ban local LGBT protections in February, Eureka Springs quickly passed a nondiscrimination ordinance, in hopes that officials could eventually challenge the state law in court. Then, last week, the Legislature passed an anti-LGBT religious freedom law that was ultimately revised before being signed by the governor due to backlash. But the friction between LGBT-friendly Eureka Springs and anti-LGBT forces goes back far beyond that. 

ChristThe massive Christ of the Ozarks statue (right) overlooks the town from a theme park that is home to theatrical re-enactments of the events around Jesus’s crucifixion. But attendance at the park dropped off as Eureka Springs became known as a gay destination, and it closed in 2012 before reopening recently, according to The Guardian.  

The Rev. Phil Wilson, of First Christian Church, was one of the stars of the American Family Association's 2007 video, "They're Coming To Your Town," billed as “a look at how a handful of homosexual activists infiltrated the Eureka Springs, Arkansas, government and changed the very moral fibre of the city”.

Wilson is now leading opposition to Eureka Springs' LGBT protections — which will be voted on in May — based on discredited arguments about transgender bathroom use. 

The Guardian reports: 

“There have been many things that have happened in Eureka Springs that have made us be perceived as an eminently desirable homosexual destination,” he said. “We have 6,000 years of Judeo-Christian history that has affirmed that homosexuality is morally wrong and we live in a society that says it’s morally right.”

Asked if he truly believed that Christians in the US were under threat of oppression and needed laws to protect them, he referenced the Islamist terror attack that killed 147 people in Kenya on Thursday.

“It’s on Fox News continually in the last day or two,” he said. “I see persecutions.”

Watch's report on the parade and a promo for AFA's hate video "They're Coming To Your Town," AFTER THE JUMP ...

Continue reading "LGBT-Affirming Church Barred From 'Celebrate Jesus Easter Parade' In Gay-Friendly Eureka Springs, Arkansas: VIDEO" »

SNL's CNN Newsroom Sketch Breaks Down Arkansas and Indiana's Debate Over 'Religious Freedom' - VIDEO


On SNL's CNN Newsroom sketch last night, Brooke Baldwin (played by Cecily Strong) walked viewers through all the major headline news from this past week - the Germanwings plane crash, Iran nuclear weapons deal, and the "religious freedom" debate in Indiana and Arkansas.

"We couldn't get a CNN reporter in either of those states, but we might have something even better," Baldwin said. "A local performance art group has agreed to give us a general sense of what's been happening in both those states."


Continue reading "SNL's CNN Newsroom Sketch Breaks Down Arkansas and Indiana's Debate Over 'Religious Freedom' - VIDEO" »

Mike Huckabee Slams 'Phony' #RFRA Backlash, Says Gays Won't Stop Until There Are No More Churches: AUDIO


Appearing on hate group Family Research Council’s “Washington Watch” on Wednesday, Mike Huckabee claimed that gay rights activists have turned the controversies surrounding ‘right to discriminate’ legislation in Arkansas and Indiana into a “phony crisis," reports Right Wing Watch.

Huckabee added that intolerant LGBT activism is like something out of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984:

“It is a classic example of — really a page out of 1984, when what things mean are the opposite of what they really are. And that’s what I’m seeing here is that in the name of tolerance, there’s intolerance. In the name of diversity, there’s uniformity. In the name of acceptance, there’s true discrimination.”

Forgetting recent history, he went on to claim that unlike the gay community, conservative Christians would never boycott a business.

Host Tony Perkins in fairness interjected that he plans to boycott Walmart since the company is “taking a stand against religious freedom.”

Huckabee continued:

“There may come a day in which [Christian conservatives] realize how close they are to losing all of their freedoms. And maybe there will be a day in which every one of the believers of this nation, people of faith and even some people who aren’t necessarily Christian but they’re people of conscience and they’re people of fairness, and they’ll just say that we will have a national boycott of the following businesses, and let’s just see if they really feel that they are taking the right position.”


Continue reading "Mike Huckabee Slams 'Phony' #RFRA Backlash, Says Gays Won't Stop Until There Are No More Churches: AUDIO" »

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) Says Activists Should Be Thankful Indiana Doesn't Execute Gays: VIDEO

Tom Cotton

Appearing on CNN Wednesday, Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) said that critics of Indiana’s “right to discriminate” law should get “perspective” because the state doesn’t execute gay people, reports Think Progress.

Cotton also - incorrectly - suggested that Indiana’s law was the same as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) signed by President Clinton in 1993.

According to Indiana trial lawyer Matt Anderson, the Indiana law opens up “the path of least resistance among its species to have a court adjudicate it in a manner that could ultimately be used to discriminate.”

Yesterday, Dan Savage dismantled Cotton's argument in a segment over on MSNBC.

Watch both videos, AFTER THE JUMP...

Cotton has the dubious honor of support from the National Organization For Marriage.

Continue reading "Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) Says Activists Should Be Thankful Indiana Doesn't Execute Gays: VIDEO" »

National LGBTQ Task Force Launches 'Nix It Now' Campaign To Fight Future Religious Freedom Bills


Russell Roybal stepped into his role as the National LGBTQ Task Force’s newest deputy executive director earlier this week with a message about discriminatory religious freedom bills. Indiana, he explained, won’t be the last state to attempt passing similar legislation, and pro-LGBT activists must remain vigilant. 

Roybal“As a nation that prides itself in the separation of church and state and religious liberty inscribed in the United States Constitution, we find ourselves at a crossroads,” he wrote in an op-ed for The Hill. “In state capitals across the country, there are attempts to include [religious freedom bills] in new and existing laws, with the intended outcome of denying or stripping away critical protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people.”

The attention and criticism directed towards Governor Mike Pence played a crucial role in his decision to sign a new bill meant to counteract the harms created by the original bill. It’s likely that in the coming weeks some LGBT advocates will walk away from Indiana confident that the battle against discriminatory “religious freedom” acts has been won. 

As Roybal points out, though, it will take the same kind of focused response in the future to defeat similar bills in other states. The Task Force’s “Nix It Now” campaign is designed to help people share their concerns about anti-LGBT laws in other states similar to Indiana’s. A large part of what made Indiana such a visible target were things like social media signal boosts from celebrities like George Takei and fantastic media scrutiny that put public officials on the spot. Nix It Now aims to make sure that the public can drum up that same kind of attention.

Arkansas Senate Passes Amended 'Religious Freedom' Bill As Hundreds Rally Outside State Capitol: VIDEO


The Arkansas Senate has given its approval to an amended "religious freedom" bill in the wake of Gov. Asa Hutchinson's call to "remedy" the legislation to better reflect the 1993 federal law, the AP reports.

Unlike the previous version, this new proposal only addresses action by government, not individuals or businesses. 

The Arkansas Times adds that the House Judiciary Committee will consider the amended bill at 10am today, with a full House vote expected later this afternoon. 

The news comes as HRC President Chad Griffin and hundreds of other LGBT-rights supporters rallied outside the Arkansas State Capitol yesterday to hold lawmakers' feet to the fire and ensure the new bill will not open another door to discrimination in the state.

Watch footage from yesterday's rally, AFTER THE JUMP...

Meanwhile, Seth Hutchinson, Gov. Asa Hutchinson's son whose opposition to the original #HB1228 was mentioned by his father at yesterday's press conference, has again spoken out on the situation in Arkansas, telling Business Insider:

Seth"I'm proud to have made a small contribution to the overall effort to stop discrimination against the LGBT community in Arkansas, the state that I love (Go hogs!). I love and respect my father very much, but sometimes we have political disagreements, just as many families do. We must build a mass movement of Americans fighting for economic, environmental, and social justice if we want to see real progress."

Continue reading "Arkansas Senate Passes Amended 'Religious Freedom' Bill As Hundreds Rally Outside State Capitol: VIDEO" »


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