Protesters Rally Against Pastor's 'Why I Hate Obama' Sermon

Arizona town stages 'love rally' at church that prays for president's death.

September 7, 2009, 5:52 PM

Sept. 7, 2009— -- Members of an Arizona community are trying to counteract what they say is hate-speech seething in one of the town's conservative churches.

About 100 protestersarrived at Tempe's Faithful Word Baptist Church on Sunday to demonstrate against controversial comments from its pastor, Steven L. Anderson.

The pastor delivered a sermon last month that was entitled, "Why I Hate Barack Obama," and called on his parish to pray for the death of the president.

Anderson told ABC's affiliate KNXV-TV in Phoenix that he received a phone call from the U.S. Secret Service after that August incident.

The so-called "Love Rally" outside Anderson's church -- office space wedged between a pawn shop and a salon in a strip mall -- was organized by the People Against Clergy Who Preach Hate.

"It's hard to believe we could have someone of a religious nature wishing our president was dead," protester William Crumb told the ABC affiliate.

"I'm just disgusted with this man who claims to be a minister of the Lord preaching hate toward the president," protester Larry Crane said.

"I'm sure you have plenty of footage from previous interviews you did with me," Anderson told the KNXV television crews approaching him for comment Sunday. "I'm just a little tired right now."

Anderson, 27, is the father of five children and is a small business owner. His wife Zsuzsanna home schools their children.

The day after Anderson's sermon, one of his parishioners, Christopher Broughton, carried a loaded AR-15 semiautomatic rifle and a handgun to a protest of Obama's address to a veteran's group.

Broughton said he was motivated not by his pastor but by a long-standing dislike for the president, but told The Associated Press he "absolutely" agreed with Anderson. He was not arrested, as it is not illegal to openly carry a gun in Arizona.

In addition to what the protesters called hate sermons at the local church, Phoenix School Superintendent Tom Horne has voiced concern over Obama's televised classroom speech planned for Tuesday.

Tempe, a suburban town outside Phoenix and home to Arizona State University, is a "somewhat liberal" community, according to local reporter Stephen Lemons, who had his own confrontation with the pastor later in the day after Sunday's protest.

Lemons and Anderson argued after the reporter asked questions about the pastor's other job, installing commercial fire alarms. He also asked Anderson about an incident earlier this year when the pastor was tasered by border patrol.

On YouTube with large red marks across his forehead, Anderson said the Tasering incident occurred after he refused to answer a Yuma, Ariz., border patrol agent's questions when stopped.

Protesters Face Off Against Hate Speech

"He was talking weird stuff like the Jews killed Christ," Lemons told "I asked him what he meant and he freaked out. After I asked him about why his business and church were at the same address, he flipped out then he got angry and touched me once."

As for the community protest, "The crowd was fairly significant," said Lemons, who writes the blog, Feathered Bastard for the Phoenix New Times, a weekly newspaper.

"It wasn't a huge protest, but the fact that it got 100 people out on a Sunday morning on a long weekend, that's pretty good," he said.

"There is a lot of far-right crazies and Obama hatred," said Lemons. "A lot of people in this state don't like Obama. Phoenix today reminds me of Dallas prior to 1963."

Several of Anderson's parishioners, who declined to identify themselves, defended their pastor's sermons to ABC.

"I hate people that hate God," said one Faithful Word parishioner.

"As far as I know we live in America, we have freedom of religion, freedom to assemble and the freedom of speech," added another.

Protesters say they'll continue to picket Faithful Word Baptist Church.

"I just think it's sad," Crane said. "We can have discourse without preaching hate. That's what this minister is doing."

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