Arts & Entertainment
Bash Back! Lansing protest fallout continues
Originally printed 7/12/2012 (Issue 2028 - Between The Lines News)
A protest by the radical queer organization Bash Back! Lansing in 2008 has resulted in the state passing a new misdemeanor criminal law.
The law passed the legislature on June 25 and was signed by Gov. Rick Snyder on June 27. It goes into effect on Sept. 1.
Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) championed the legislation in the Michigan Senate.
"This week we will be celebrating Independence Day, and the freedom to worship is a right that Americans have died to protect," said Jones."In Michigan and across America we must stand firm against any group that attempts to disrupt a religious service. I am hopeful that stricter punishment will deter anyone from interrupting a religious service. However, if it does not, I will go back to work and make it a felony."
Under the law, entering onto private property where religious services are being held or intended to be held and disrupting the service is a high misdemeanor, punishable by up to 93 days in jail, $1000 fine and no more than 100 hours of community service. Subsequent convictions are punishable by the same jail terms, fines of $2000 and no more than 200 hours of community service.
The law was introduced in response to an action by the radical queer group Bash Back! Lansing in 2008. Members of the group infiltrated Mount Hope Church in Delta Township, which is located just west of Lansing. Once in place, activists threw leaflets, kissed, unfurled a banner and chanted Jesus was gay.
The church has a long history of supporting anti-gay initiatives including promotion of ex-gay therapies.
Although Michigan law allowed Eaton County to bring low-level misdemeanor charges against the protesters in 2008, no criminal charges were filed. Instead, the church, represented by the conservative legal organization Alliance Defense Fund, sued the organization and members under the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or the FACE Act.
That lawsuit was settled in July of 2011 when the federal court issued an order enjoining members of the group from protesting at private religious worship locations.
Jones says the 2008 protest was an attack on religious freedom.
"In history some nations (Nazi Germany, etc.) have allowed church (synagogue, mosque) invasions and disruption of religious services," he said. "We must take a strong stand....Never here in Michigan!"
While Jones says the law would not apply to gay pride events -- where protesters regularly disrupt and harass participants in the name of Christianity -- he said he opposes any violence against gays.
About the law
Stories on the original protest:
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- Saginaw Equality Float Takes Second Place at Cinco De Mayo Parade
- Contact Theory Changes Minds, Hearts
- Outside The Safety Net
- Book-A-Palooza To Benefit Common Language
- Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter Announces Run
- Source: Former Michigan Congressman Mark Schauer Will Run For Governor