On June 4, Nashville, Tenn., police responded to a complaint regarding traveling evangelist and self-proclaimed “prophetess” Glynis Bethel, who had allegedly pepper-sprayed a woman who was protesting her anti-gay preaching. When an officer moved in to arrest Bethel, she pepper-sprayed him, too.
Out on bond three days later, Bethel posted a press release accusing police of violating her First, Second, Fourth and 14th Amendment rights. “I would prefer to be beaten and to die than to allow these wicked and evil Nashville police officers and white racist bigots to get away with breaking the laws they are supposed to be upholding,” wrote Bethel, who is black. “Romans Chapter 13 states that it is our duty to bear the sword upon evil doers and this Bible scripture doesn’t exempt corrupt po-lice.”
The prophetess, who with her husband, “Apostle” Orlando Bethel, leads the Baldwin County, Ala.-based Repent or Burn in Hell Ministries, is a well-known figure in certain circles in the southeastern United States. Together with their three teenage children (who are the ministry’s only members), the Bethels travel from town to town, denouncing “sinners” and exploring the outer limits of their First Amendment rights. Their self-described “fire and brimstone” preaching, which especially targets gay people, along with “fornicators,” “whoremongers” and abortion clinics, has led to countless arrests – usually on charges of disorderly conduct, protesting without a permit or public obscenity. “It’s a curse,” Orlando Bethel said of homosexuality in an interview posted on YouTube. “It’s just like a disease, leprosy. It’s something that’s used as a judgment of God on a person because, basically, of their rebellion against him.”
Not surprisingly, the Bethels are often compared to Kansas’ much-reviled Westboro Baptist Church, which is best known for picketing funerals with signs captioned with insults such as “God Hates Fags” and, like Repent or Burn in Hell Ministries, is largely composed of a single family. But while Westboro — whose ranks include a number of highly skilled lawyers who recently won a First Amendment case in the Supreme Court — limits its legal crusade to free speech rights, the Bethels (who do not possess law degrees but are experienced pro se litigators) take a more expansive view of how the Constitution protects their right to evangelize.
“It says ‘the right to keep and bear arms,’” Orlando Bethel told the Intelligence Report in a reference to the Second Amendment. “Not keep it in your closet. To bear it.” Complaining about the Baldwin County sheriff’s denial of his wife’s 2009 petition for a concealed carry permit, supposedly on the grounds that she had a “grievance with government,” he said, “I thought that was funny because that was the original intent of the Second Amendment.”
It is exactly this kind of language that worries Baldwin County Sheriff Huey “Hoss” Mack, who has been dealing with the Bethels since they arrived about 10 years ago. At first, Mack told the Report, the ministry seemed little more than a nuisance. But, he said, “It has escalated. The amount of aggravation and the amount of contact with public officials as well as those in the legal system has increased and [they have] become more confrontational. … There is a legitimate concern that if it continues to escalate, how far will it go?”
Glynis & Orlando Bethel, Southern Poverty Law Center 65 Comments
[11/18/2011 10:44:22 AM]
Fundie Index: 87