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Saturday, January 27, 2007

With God on Their Side

posted by on January 27 at 12:46 PM

Today the Seattle Times has a front-page story about how local anti-gay crusader Ken Hutcherson has found a new ally in Russian-speaking Evangelicals from the former Soviet Union.

Janet I. Tu begins the story with this scene:

On a recent Sunday morning, at a strip mall in Kent, a few hundred people gathered to worship, rocking out to a band playing contemporary worship songs and cheering on the fiery pastor — all in Russian.

This might seem an unlikely place for Ken Hutcherson — Redmond’s Antioch Bible Church senior pastor, who is known for outspoken views against homosexuality — to look for allies in his effort to overturn a state law banning discrimination against gays and lesbians.

But then Pastor Andrey Shapovalov asked the children to come forward. Bless them, he said. “Pray that none of them become homosexuals or lesbians or have abortions or live a life of crime.”

Of course, drilling homophobia into young people’s heads can help set them up for committing crimes later in life, as I pointed out in this Stranger story about a gay-bashing conducted in 2004, in Seattle, on Gay Pride weekend, by three Russian-speaking Evangelicals from Bellingham.

The gay-bashers attended churches that preached against homosexuality, and were later convicted of assault and a hate crime for beating and stabbing former Seattle resident Micah Painter. Why did they attack Painter? Because, as a female companion who was with the attackers that night told police, Painter looked gay and being gay is “against our religion.”

This incident, which was covered by the Times, is curiously absent from Tu’s report on Russian-speaking Evangelicals teaming up with Ken Hutcherson to fight gay rights. The Times wrote about the gay bashing, it wrote about the trial of the attackers, it editorialized that “the best defense against hate crimes is a strong offense,” and after my story came out, it picked up on what I identified as the central irony in the case: That a group of Evangelical Christians who had themselves fled religious persecution in the former Soviet Union were now using their newfound religious freedom to persecute gay Americans.

As the Times wrote in 2005:

[The attackers] came to the United States from Russia, in part, to escape persecution. So it was ironic, a King County Superior Court judge said yesterday, that they were awaiting sentencing for persecuting someone else.

Why is it so important that this three-year-old incident, and the ironies involved, be included in a story about Russian-speaking Evangelicals now teaming up with Ken Hutcherson?

Because, as is often said, and as my colleague Josh Feit said recently in another context, root causes are important. Preaching homophobia as religion can be a root cause of anti-gay violence, and in fact, here in Seattle, we had, in 2004, a gay bashing whose roots traced directly back to the homophobia preached in Russian-speaking Evangelical churches. That’s worth noting in a story about Ken Hutcherson now stoking the anti-gay passions in these churches as part of a campaign to repeal the state’s new gay civil rights law.

But while we’re on the subject of root causes, here’s something else that jumped out at me from Janet I. Tu’s story. The whole alliance between Russian-speaking Evangelicals and Ken Hutcherson traces back to an event organized by Josh Feit a Stranger-sponsored debate between Hutcherson and King County Executive Ron Sims.

The unusual alliance began last spring, after a debate on gay rights between Hutcherson and King County Executive Ron Sims. A local man saw it and approached Hutcherson to arrange a meeting with his uncle, an evangelical pastor in Latvia who heads a network of churches in 14 countries, including the U.S.

At the time of the Hutcherson-Sims debate, some people were uneasy about the event for exactly this reason.

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Why is it an "unusual alliance"? Most of the Russians I've run into are thuggish, stupid, materialistic slobs, who are incapable of taking responsibility for their actions. Fits right in with the religious right.

Trash will always be drawn to other trash.

Posted by The only good commie..... | January 27, 2007 1:08 PM

Most of the Russians Ive met are either fellow atheists or Orthodox, have at least a BA if they grew up in the former Soviet Union, are more cultured than most and yes are materialistic as hell. Cant say Ive run into too many Russians who are evangelicals, southern baptist or pentecostals.

Ukranians, Latvians and other Russian speakers from those countries tend to be in that camp.

They also tend to do anything that goes against Russian culture which they loathe. Remember Ukranians were huge colaborators of the Nazis until the Nazis turned on them. I think Eli has it right again, they are Russian speaking, but who knows if theyre actually Russian.

Regardless, it is a growing community in the east side, Ukranians in cross roads Bellevue have pretty big numbers.

Ive said it before the rise of evangelicals in Eastern Europe, Africa, and Latin America is alarming. In Latin America they have basically replaced the liberation theology churches whose christian based communities tended to be a lot more progressive, lefty and inclusive and respectful of others' lifestyles and culture.

Posted by SeMe | January 27, 2007 1:43 PM

It would be a lot cooler if this read "With Odin on Our Side.

Posted by Justin | January 27, 2007 3:43 PM

These particular Russians, whatever else their backgrounds might be, are bad news, virulently and dangerously homophobic to the point of violence. In California, they've become a particular problem in Sacramento, which has a huge Russian immigrant community.

LA Times: For gays, a loud new foe

Backup link if that fails

That's just the tip of the iceberg. The GLBT community here needs to be prepared to counter these people; there's no reason they should come as a surprise at this point.

Posted by dantc | January 27, 2007 6:53 PM

And Hutcherson himself advocates violence against gays, stating that "This is a war." What a jerk.

Posted by him | January 27, 2007 7:05 PM

I found it odd that Hutch used the term "this is war" as well. Maybe some kind of pre-emptive restraining order can be filed against him- even if it is only token. Sounds like he is advocating violence. Then if something later happens that can be traced to him, people can say "we tried to expose him".

Posted by Justin J | January 27, 2007 8:14 PM

it is not surprising because the russians are the ghettoest people in europe. they are smelly, drunken, and like to smoke a lot. I live in kent and have to actually live next to them. they live like animals with 30 people living in a 1 bedroom apartment. Let them hate me...shit....I live in a 3 story house all by myself and they live in a 500 square foot apartment with 30 of their vodka drinking relatives. Ghetto people hate gays and we hate ghetto people. it is the natural order of things and the way it should be. What do I care if ken hutcherson and his flock of miserable menthol smoking, 10 kids to a house, hate me. Let him recruit the poor for his cause. I am glad that they hate me because then I don't feel bad about hating them...If they loved me, then I would feel guilty about hating their smelly ghetto asses

Posted by who cares | January 27, 2007 10:15 PM

I think its time we organize in the gay community to take down Hutch. He's the one that's said it's a war and now it's time to put as much pressure on him as possible. Time to put pressure on the Lake Washington School District that rents space to him (space paid for in part with state tax dollars); challenge the 501 status for his "church" and make life as uncomfortable for him and the people he is entangled with. I've had conversations with the Southern Poverty Law Center to try to get his church listed as a hate group- and now it's time to push that harder. He keeps on saying he "played for the NFL"- we need to tie him to that and put pressure on them and anyone that has a public connection to him. He's not going to quit until he feels some pain in the pocketbook and legally. It's an ego thing for him, but unfortunately he's bent on trying to destroy lives instead of following his good book. His fifteen minutes should have been up a long time ago, and now it's time for it to be ended for him.

I've helped a couple of gay Russians try to get asylum in the US. For them in particular, it's a terrible life for them there. The comments above don't help- like many people they shouldn't all be lumped in together. I agree it's despicable that many of the immigrate to this country only to engage in that type of conduct. We have to show that it's not acceptable.

I agree with Hutcherson on one thing. It's a war.

Posted by Dave Coffman | January 28, 2007 1:31 AM

Good write up, Eli. I read that story yesterday and kept wondering where the balance was in it. After all, the Times goes out of it's way to present a fair story even when the "fairness" is full of false statements (see much of their environmental reporting on global warming) and when they've written other stories debunking those false claims (see their excellent report last year on the funding of anti-global warming "scientists"). Why not be fair here and present a rebuttal of Hutch and his ilk?

Why? Because the memory of the reporters and editors at the Times is very short. For example, 3 weeks after said excellent report on global warming, they printed a wire story that contained false claims from one of the scientists that their excellent report exposed - without challenge or mention of their own coverage of him. I called them on it and got 2 nice replies both of which amounted to "we cannot read every story in our own paper particularly under deadlines". No follow up either. If they cannot remember a touted story after 3 weeks, can we really expect their memory of a gay bashing incident from 3 years ago to remain intact?

Posted by B.D. | January 28, 2007 5:51 AM

Did anyone listen to Michelangelo Signorile's interview of Pastor Kenny last week on his radio show about his new Initiative? Signorile did a surprisingly terrible job of making Kenny seem like a boob, especially since he does such a good job on his own. Instead, it was nothing more than another opportunity for Kenny to be heard, even if by an already-openly hostile audience. Signorile could have and should have knocked him out of the ballpark, but he hardly even bunted, even when Kenny said ridiculous things like, "Jews are born jewish," as if religion is genetic, in support of his argument that, "If jews can convert, so can gays."

Posted by SB | January 28, 2007 11:51 AM
The whole alliance between Russian-speaking Evangelicals and Ken Hutcherson traces back to an event organized by Josh Feit a Stranger-sponsored debate between Hutcherson and King County Executive Ron Sims.

Y'know, I was always told that if you ignore a bee that's flying around you, it has less of a chance of stinging you. When you start swattin' at it, you've got problems.

Posted by H0RATI0SANZSERIF | January 29, 2007 9:47 AM

It's actually a perfect fit for Hutch. He can leave the actual carrying out of his evangelical hate to the Russians, and once they're caught, he can just put his hands up and go, "Clearly, their culture is different and I had NO IDEA they felt it was okay." And everyone believes him and he continues his campaign of hate.

Pretty fucking mobsta-style arrangement, if you ask me.

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