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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Planned gay pride picnic in heart of Harlem puts local church leaders in a tizzy

The backlash comes as no surprise to Harlem Pride's Carmen Neely.

A planned gay pride picnic in the heart of Harlem has put local church leaders in a tizzy, with one pastor vowing his family won't leave the house on that day.
"If children start to believe it is okay to be gay, they will think it's okay to be a pedophile or have sex with animals," said Dr. Ronald Ferguson, the senior pastor at Antioch Church of God on W. 124th St. "It's a slippery slope."
Ferguson, who has three adult children and four grandkids, said he expects parishioners to follow his lead and stay indoors when the second annual Harlem Pride event arrives June 24.
"This gay pride nonsense is an abomination," Ferguson told the Daily News. "God does not want to see homosexuals in our parks."
Neither do Ferguson or some other local pastors fuming over the celebration of gay rights set for Marcus Garvey Park.
"The park is a family area, and the homosexual agenda will do nothing but harm the community," said Pastor Charles Curtis of Mount Olivet Baptist Church.
"Due to our religious beliefs, we do not support ... that event."
The backlash is no surprise to Harlem Pride President Carmen Neely. Her group encountered resistance last year after a misunderstanding over the event's name.
"When people hear 'Harlem Pride,' they think proud of living in Harlem or proud to be black," she said.
The unaware attendees instead found men holding hands, women kissing and bedazzled drag queens belting Lady Gaga hits.
The church critics complain the event is an attack on family values and a bad example for black youth.
Harlem Pride's weekend-long celebration, from June 24 to 26, includes a barbecue, bowling and a dance party. The park party is the only event located in a public area.
Despite the verbal assault from Harlem's black churches, Neely has no intention of backing down.
"I want the gay and lesbian people of uptown to have a celebration of our own," she said. "This will be different than the events in the West Village because it will be filled with people of color."
Neely insists the event is for everyone - including children.
"I realize the church plays a big role in the black community," Neely said, "but we're people, too, and deserve our day in the sun."

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