LYNNWOOD — The weekend-long meeting of the Watchmen on the Walls, an anti-gay Christian group, kicked off Friday night at the Lynnwood Convention Center.
Watchmen on the Walls officials said through song, prayer, networking and organization they are working to promote the natural family, traditional marriage and recovery for homosexuals who want it.
“We’re not trying to create a theocracy,” said co-founder Scott Lively, a California attorney, author and president of Defend the Family.
“But if people who believe the way we believe were running the TV stations and the government and business and academia, I think that society would be a healthier place and that’s our goal,” Lively said.
About 150 people showed up Friday night to attend the kick-off event, which featured music, sermons and speeches.
Pastor Joseph Fuiten of Bothell’s Cedar Park Church spoke Friday night.
Pastor Ken Hutcherson of Kirkland’s Antioch Bible Church, one of the founders, is scheduled to speak this morning.
Local religious and gay and lesbian groups are expected to protest the Watchmen meeting today and Sunday. No protestors greeted the group Friday evening.
Fuiten said he had planned to speak about civic engagement but changed his mind as a result of “incendiary” media coverage in advance of the Watchmen meeting.
“I have received hundreds of genuinely hate-filled e-mails and phone calls at both my home and office from homosexuals,” Fuiten said. “But no reporter has ever mentioned that or accused (homosexuals) of being violent or hate-filled.”
Fuiten said he has no affiliation with the Watchmen and was an invited speaker. The pastor is known statewide for work against same-sex marriage.
The Watchmen are opposed to homosexuality because it “is morally, physically, psychologically and socially wrong, unnatural and harmful,” Lively said during a press conference Friday afternoon.
Lively also is the author of “The Pink Swastika,” a book advancing the theory that gays were responsible for the Nazi holocaust.
Lively’s ideas, statements and past actions are worrisome to civil rights activists.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, an Montgomery, Ala., organization that monitors hate groups in the U.S., said Lively and Watchmen on the Walls’ rhetoric is dangerous because it’s the kind of language that can incite violence.
On Oct. 3, the center, which is known for fighting the Ku Klux Klan, the Aryan Nation and white supremacists, published a report on the Watchmen and identified them as “an international extremist anti-gay movement.”
They accused the group of pelting gays and lesbians with human feces.
Lively practices what he preaches when it comes to “battle-hardened” tactics, the report said.
A court in 1991 ordered Lively to pay $20,000 to a lesbian photojournalist he was accused of dragging by the hair through the halls of a Portland church, according to the center.
Lively said claims being made by the center about Watchmen on the Walls are untrue.
“The Southern Poverty Law Center used to be a very good organization,” Lively said. “But something happened and they swerved off into this politically correct position of taking sides with the gay activists against the rest of society.
“And now they’re using the reputation that they earned justly working against racism to try to work against people who are standing for family values. They’re no longer a nonbiased independent source of information, they’re political activists on one side of this culture war.”
The Watchmen members are predominantly Russian-speaking immigrants, a multinational network of like-minded Christians who don’t stand for violence, he said.
“If one of our association happens to act violently towards someone who is homosexual, that person will be disassociated immediately,” Lively said.
The group’s reputation concerns local gay and lesbian leaders.
“The messages of hate and speakers of hate inspire many people to take action and that’s what we’re concerned about,” said Connie Watts, executive director of Equal Rights Washington, a gay and lesbian rights group.
Protests planned for today and Sunday will be met by a visible presence from Lynnwood police. Officers will be there to protect free speech, and make sure everyone is safe, Deputy Chief Paul Watkins said earlier this week.
Hutcherson said he and a group of pastors got together a couple of years ago to form the Watchmen as a way of defending traditional marriage. Gay groups in the past few years have been pushing for same-sex marriage laws that guarantee the same rights as heterosexual couples.
The group stands against same-sex marriage, he said.
“This is what the Bible wants us to stand against,” Hutcherson said. “God is the God of love. God hates sin. We love God and we hate what the Bible hates. That doesn’t mean we’re violent. We never will be.”
Everett-resident Cindy Worthen, a bisexual single mother, helped to organize today’s protests. She attended Friday’s press conference and said she was offended by what she heard.
“It disturbs me greatly that they think they know what’s best for my family,” she said. “Is this 2007 or 1940? They want people to go back in the closet and shut their mouths and we will not do that. We’ve fought too hard for our rights.”
Lively said he expects the Watchmen’s position to be met with outrage from those who accept homosexuality as normal and healthy.
“We will not allow them to intimidate us or to rob us of our right to share in the public dialogue about the direction in which our societies should go,” he said.
Galina Sinelnik and her husband, a pastor, flew from Ohio to pray with people who share their beliefs and language.
Asked about hate and violence, she said the group isn’t like that.
“No never, never. There’s no violence at all,” she said.
University of Washington sociology student Mike Baginski, 19, of Edmonds said he disagrees with the Watchmen but decided to attend Friday night out of curiosity.
“This is more for me to see how religion influences people’s beliefs,” he said.
Reporter Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3437 or firstname.lastname@example.org.