It wasn't all peace, love and understanding, but there were no clashes Saturday between Christian conservatives meeting in Lynnwood and protesters who accused them of promoting hate against gay people.
About 150 protesters gathered outside the Lynnwood Convention Center and waved signs such as "More love, less hate" and "Real men find Jesus sexy."
Inside the convention center, about 100 men, women and children, many Russian-speaking evangelical Christians, listened to leaders of the Watchmen on the Walls movement insist they did not hate gays — or anyone else.
Watchmen speakers invited protesters in to hear their message and listen to a six-piece rock band sing "I'm a friend of God" and similar lyrics.
About a dozen protesters sat in for several speeches. At one point, Andrew Prakasam, the event's master of ceremonies, exhorted audience members to high-five one another. Several young protesters slapped hands with elderly Christian women sitting in front of them.
"If you've come to hear a message of hatred, you've come to the wrong place," Prakasam said.
Watchmen on the Walls is considered a virulently anti-gay group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil-rights organization. The center recently released a report saying Russian-speaking fundamentalists have formed a "ferocious anti-gay movement in the Western U.S."
The center notes that Watchmen leader Scott Lively co-authored a book saying gay people helped form the Nazi Party and orchestrate the Holocaust.
Lively spoke Friday, during the first gathering of the three-day event, and said the group is against "cohabitation, divorce, abortion, adultery and other behaviors that weaken the marriage-based society on which civilization depends."
Watchmen are especially focused against homosexuality, he said, "because those who practice this self-destructive vice, and have organized themselves into a political movement, are the chief enemies of the natural family."
Homosexuality is "morally, physically, psychologically and socially wrong, unnatural and harmful," he said, adding that Watchmen view homosexuals "like we view alcoholics: unfortunate people trapped in a bad lifestyle."
At an earlier news conference Friday, Lively said he could accept gays and lesbians keeping what they do private. But Watchmen oppose them marching on the streets, and teaching and adopting children.
But Lively also said that the group does not promote or condone violence.
Speaking Friday at the conference, Pastor Joseph Fuiten, of Bothell's Cedar Park Assembly of God Church, said the media and the Southern Poverty Law Center have mischaracterized the Watchmen movement.
There was no evidence, he said, that those involved in the Watchmen are violent.
Pastor Ken Hutcherson of Redmond's Antioch Bible Church said in a speech Saturday that Christians "need to take back the right to disagree" with others. Hutcherson, a Watchmen leader, said he disagrees with his wife frequently but that doesn't mean he hates her.
Lynnwood police Deputy Chief Paul Watkins said "no problems whatsoever" occurred between protesters and Watchmen on Saturday.
For some, Saturday's protest was a family affair. Protesters included three sisters who grew up in Everett: Cindy Worthen, Dixie Stuart and Penny Abbott. Worthen, a bisexual, said she wanted to spread a message that "Snohomish County is a loving community and not a place for hate groups."
Toting a "Yes we can accept all!" sign, Stuart said she and Worthen have "whole different belief systems but we're tight, we're together all the time."
Abbott said she came in part out of love for her daughter, a lesbian. Abbott disagreed with the Watchmen's view that homosexuality is a disease. "It's not a sickness," she said.
Worthen's minister, the Rev. Bruce Davis of Evergreen Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Marysville, said he joined the protesters because he has seen family members "struggle with publicly expressed hatred of the sort we see from the Watchmen; it's very injurious."
Lynnwood activists, clergy and gay-rights organizations are meeting today for a vigil, discussion and free screening of a local documentary about Washington state lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. The event is scheduled for 3 p.m. at the Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Church.
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