Church's 'equal rights' message draws criticism

A marquee message posted outside an East Knoxville church has sparked controversy. The church's pastor says people have misunderstood the communication.

The Knoxville Baptist Tabernacle sign read, "Remember Satan was the first to demand equal rights."

It was later changed, but it angered some who saw it. It was interpreted in different ways.

"Who was your target audience? Who were you speaking to when you put it up there?" Rick Staples of Knoxville wondered, criticizing the message. "And when you say you're asking for your equal rights, who's asking for their equal rights and who are you comparing to Satan? That was very strong language.

Andy Henry interpreted it as being aimed at a particular group of people.

"It's clearly a sign that was meant to offend a particular community - the LGBT community. Because of (the church's) lack of foresight, they ended up offending everybody who had ever fought for equality or civil rights in general."

Pastor Tony Greene says he meant no offense. He said the church was not targeting a certain group.

He thinks people misunderstood his message.

"Be careful when you demand your equal rights that you don't hurt others around you. You've got to consider everyone around you," he said.

Greene said it was also a test to see if people were reading the sign. He said he's received a lot of feedback.

The church changed the sign Monday to read, "Didn't mean to offend. We all need Christ."

In 2003, the late Rev. Bob Bevington of the church raised concerns among some when he argued in a print ad that Islam was not a religion of peace and did not respect other faiths. It prompted some Muslims, who said Bevington's ad was incorrect, to attend his sermon to understand what he was trying to say.


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