I wasn't shocked to see a video that went viral in recent days in which Steven L. Anderson, an Arizona pastor, had given a sermon on November 30, quoting Leviticus and calling for executing gays as a solution to the AIDS epidemic. That's because a few years back he called me a child molester when I told him I was gay, and then wished me dead, hoping that I'd "get brain cancer like Ted Kennedy," who'd recently passed away.
Anderson is the embodiment of hate and makes the late Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church look like Ghandi. He's much more dangerous because Anderson has an actual congregation -- not just a cultish family -- called the Faithful Word Baptist Church, in Tempe, Arizona. They are a group of extremists who come to an office space in a strip mall in Tempe -- the site of the "church" -- to hear Anderson spew his venom and follow his commands, and that's surely one reason why the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) labeled the church a hate group.
Back in 2009, Anderson gave a sermon titled, "Why I Hate Barack Obama," in which he prayed for the death of President Obama. "God hates Barack Obama," he told his congregation. "I hate Barack Obama." This was on the eve of the president's visit to the area, and while Anderson noted that several of his congregants would be going, he couldn't make it. A few days later it was reported that Christopher Broughton, a man who brought his loaded AR-15 rifle to Obama's speaking event outside Phoenix, was one of Anderson's followers, who attended that sermon the day before.
In the same sermon Anderson attacked "sodomites" and called for the execution of gays back then too. I invited him on my radio program at the time, not just to try to understand this lunacy and challenge him on it; I think we need to expose people like Anderson, so the world can see their hate and be made aware of their dangerous rhetoric. He told me he wouldn't consider an individual a "murderer" if he or she shot the president, and then talked about his belief that gays should be executed. He claimed that "homosexuals infiltrate church and molest kids." When I told him I was gay and didn't molest children, he said I certainly was molesting children and called me a liar. I asked if he would then pray that I'd die too. He answered, "If you're a homosexual I hope you get brain cancer like Ted Kennedy." (You can watch the video clip below.)
A lot of people think people like Anderson should be ignored. But when there's an audience listening to him, following his twisted and violence-inciting rants, I believe quite the contrary: People like Anderson should be monitored by groups like SPLC and should be kept under a floodlight, so that he knows the whole world is watching. And it's also great when we can take someone like this and turn his hate into something good and powerful. That's what the organizers of Planting Peace, who've taken on Westboro Baptist church, are doing. They're using Anderson's rant as an opportunity to raise money and awareness about HIV and AIDS, and sending a lump of coal to Anderson for every donation they get. Here's hoping that the postal service will be hauling truckloads of coal to Tempe this Christmas.