By Thomas DeSeno
NOTE: This story originally appeared in MoreMonmouthMusings.net – courtesy of our friend, Art Gallagher.
The Asbury Park City Council, using government letterhead, made a declaration opposing a religious belief. Government can no more denounce a religious belief than they can endorse one, without violating the 1st Amendment Establishment Clause. They then went on an illegal bullying campaign against a Pastor. So caught up in a mob-induced false narrative of gossip, they ignored that the Pastor was bringing financial relief to the Westside black community, something all City Councils failed to do for 50 years.
Pastor JD Shuttlesworth scheduled a weeklong “Festival of Life” here, as he does in poor communities across America, handing out cash cards, groceries, even a car. He celebrates Jesus while doing so. He wanted to serve Asbury Park’s poor black community as he did in Camden. The applicant for the permit to use Bradley Park was local Pastor Lyddale Akins, who was jointly sponsoring the event.
Unfortunately Asbury Park has an “outrage team.” It is comprised mostly of middle-class white people who commit cultural appropriation, pretending to be marginalized. They constantly protest whatever is in the news that week, outrageous or not. They are inorganic. Different protests, same gang “virtue signaling” every time.
One of them started gossip that Shuttlesworth preaches hate against gays. This triggered the outrage team. They started false and heinous rumors, portraying this man as the second coming of Jim Jones. The City bought it.
They said Shuttlesworth is a Bible Belt Evangelical (a dog whistle to the virulently anti-Christian). He’s actually a Pentecostal from Pennsylvania. While his religion believes gay sex is a sin, stating that dogma isn’t “hate;” just as other pastors stating sodomy committed by straight people is sinful, is also not “hate.”
Be clear: Nothing compels me to agree with or defend Shuttlesworth here. I’m not. That isn’t the point. It’s Ok for every person, business, church and political officeholder to protest the Pastor’s religion. Have at it, if that’s your way. But you know who is not free to protest his religion? The Government itself. If Government condemns some dogma you end up with a state religion of dogma not condemned, violating the Establishment Clause. That’s the point.
Let’s tell this story chronologically. It spans about 96 hours. Its antagonists are the City Council, 3 local Pastors and the outrage team. Let’s see how the rumors of one person from the outrage team quickly seduced the City Council to become a Star Chamber of religious intolerance and turned 3 local Pastors who joined them into Christian apostates and bullies.
The Wednesday before the Sunday the festival began, a City Councilperson who had been told an outrage team member claimed Shuttlesworth was homophobic, made a phone call to the City Manager. That Council member inquired what could be done about Shuttlesworth, and the manager responded that they should get a Special Events Permit for a protest. That night the outrage team held a panic meeting to plan that protest, in league with a representative of the City. The following morning (Thursday) the City Council issued their government position attacking the Pastor’s “rhetoric” on homosexual sex. Let’s pause the chronology to look at that.
The “rhetoric” is one YouTube video, with Shuttlesworth sermonizing in church, citing his religion’s dogma that gay sex (not simply being gay) is a sin. I have made dozens of requests of the City, the outrage team and their supporters to show any other videos, and they can’t (most couldn’t cite that video, stating only they heard gossip the Pastor was bad). So the City Council issued a government position, condemning a church sermon about a religious belief, which is illegal for them to do.
Back to the chronology. The next morning (Friday), the outrage team issued a statement that their protest would likely be in Atlantic Park, adjacent to Bradley Park. To rent a park in Asbury, one must apply, get scheduled for a council meeting, be reviewed by the Special Events Committee, have a public comment session and win the council vote. It takes about 45 days or longer.
Not so when the City itself is secretly planning the event for you. Friday afternoon the outrage team walked into City Hall with an application and walked out with a one day permit. The City Council wasn’t there. The City Manager was at a meeting in Trenton. But the City Manager gave word to a clerk to hand them a permit (normally he legally he can, but since this was his idea, it probably wasn’t legal due to a conflict of interest). Let’s stop the chronology again to look at that very moment.
The application was in the name of the owner of a concert sound company. Why? He has the biggest speakers in town to drown out the Pastor. But the permit wasn’t issued to him. It was issued to a non-existent entity called “Rally of Love.” Since no such thing exists, the taxpayers are on the hook for liabilities. For insurance, the President of the Chamber of Commerce has a business and tried to use hers, with a declaration page insuring the park and the City. The problem is, if she didn’t tell her insurance company she was neither the applicant nor the permit holder, they will deny all claims, again leaving the taxpayer footing the bill for lawsuits.
The $1,500 fee to rent the park has not been paid. Also, the outrage team used the park not 1 day like their “permit” said; the City let them use it 5 days. They owe the taxpayers $7,500.00, and they aren’t paying it. I suggest the Homeowners Association take them and the City Council to court for it.
Back to the chronology. By Saturday, Pastor Lyddale Akin was brow-beaten by the outrage team into pulling out as co-sponsor of Shuttlesworth’s Festival of Life. Who could blame him. The outrage team are bullies. Privately, businesses are expressing a fear of saying no to the outrage team’s constant demands for money or donations. With social media, they can start an online propaganda campaign, create posters and protest you near instantaneously. Scarier, the City Council joins every protest, thus legitimizing them, while media reports on them dutifully. The outrage team can conduct a digital Kristallnacht against your business or church at any time using this neo-fascist method. #Love though – it says so on all their signs.
On Sunday, who was on the stage with giant speakers drowning out a Pastor preaching Gospel and handing out gifts to primarily poor blacks? A City Council majority. It was their gig, from the idea of it, to planning, to greasing the permit, to the protest. It’s wrong, and I supported Mayor Moor and Deputy Mayor Quinn in their every election. I still admire and support them, noting that in this instance, they didn’t guard themselves from the impetuousness and groupthink of the outrage team.
The outrage team also claimed the City encouraged people to make noise complaints and bring Shuttlesworth to court, calling it “a new form of protest,” thus using our Municipal Judge as a weapon against a religion. Government gone wild. Good grief.
Gays rightfully spent years fighting the government power to value some people less than others. Now that some gays are in Asbury Park’s government, they used government power to devalue Shuttlesworth. I’ve always supported gays being themselves. Some gays in Asbury don’t want Shuttlesworth to be himself. They want him to be exactly like them. #Diversity, I guess. Don’t accuse me of being too broad. I know we’ve had gays on Asbury Park’s City Council in the past who didn’t act like this.
We have to talk about 3 Pastors: Pastor Friedel of Shore Christian Church, the Rev. Dr. Vanzant of Second Baptist Church and Reverend Harris of the AME Zion Church. They stood onstage to protest Shuttlesworth for espousing that gay sex is a sin. Hypocrisy alert: All three of their churches have Christian dogma that holds gay sex is a sin. They protested what they believe to be the Word of the Lord. Look Pastors – I get your fear of the outrage team. I also know that Peter denied Christ three times before the cock crowed, but at least he cried bitterly when he did. And the Romans had swords.
Other Protestant churches in Asbury Park also say gay sex is a sin, as well as two Catholic Churches and the Mosque on Ridge Avenue. I don’t see the City Council, the outrage team or these 3 Pastors protesting Mt. Carmel or Holy Spirit Church. Of course they’d never picket the Mosque – that would counter too many Democrat talking points in an election year.
Let me tell you something else Pastors Friedel, Vanzant and Harris – you’re bullies. Imagine justifying to your Youth Ministries what your consorts did to Shuttlesworth and the bullying you supported by standing with them: They spread lies that Shuttlesworth is a pedophile, a drug addict, shows infidelity to his wife, has sex with strangers in bathrooms and is gay (something wrong with being gay?). They claim to be mailing annoyances to his Church. They had children as young as 6 tearing down Shuttlesworth’s posters so poor people couldn’t find out free groceries were available. They harassed businesses who had the posters. They went online and made fun of Shuttlesworth’s children and his family’s clothes. #Love? You teach this? You let yourselves become this. Where’s your decency?
Pastors, you helped drown out a sermon in the public square instead of promoting listening and dialogue. Giant speakers were used against him. The outrage team tried to have bagpipes, bands, noisemakers and drum circles to stop his sermon from his west. From his east, The Beach Bar’s DJ turned up his volume to drown out the sermon. They also surrounded him, driving cars around Bradley Park with radios on full. You pastors drowned out a sermon. #Christian?
You didn’t just surround Shuttlesworth, you came at him from above. The outrage team reported that the Asbury Hotel, whose owners iStar are partners in contracts with the City, threw colored confetti onto Shuttlesworth’s crowd from their roof. The bullies laughed online when the primarily poor black crowd first began to cower from not knowing what it was. I know what it was – litter-trespass-assault-impoliteness-annoyance. It’s all iStar. It’s all the City. And it’s you 3 intemperate Pastors, too. #Welcoming?
Here is what Christianity expects from you, Pastors. You should issue an apology to Shuttlesworth for what you and your co-adventurers did to him and his family while visiting Asbury Park. You can keep your distance from his ministry; you owe an apology to his humanity. But I expect less from you. Christianity expects you to never partner with the outrage team again. But I expect less from you.
Another bad actor here was Garden State Equality, the LGBT activist group whose head, Christian Fuscarino, is on the outrage team. Last year Fuscarino was on stage with some of these same Pastors, and nearly summoned the courage to bring up their Churches’ stance on gays. He should have, but he chickened. Last week he teamed with them again, knowing they believe the same as Shuttlesworth. But the mob targeted only Shuttlesworth, therefore so did he. Garden State Equality has an anti-bullying campaign. Maybe you should attend one of the meetings, Fuscarino.
Fuscarino had an ugly display of Christo-phobia while Shuttlesworth was here, but also showed a callous disregard for the black community. It was selfish. Mr. Fuscarino, let me tell you and the 3 Pastors what is meant by “Black Lives Matters:” You have 10 fingers. If one is cut and bleeding, at that moment, that finger matters. Not that the rest don’t, but that finger needs particular redress. Shuttlesworth saw that poor blacks in Asbury’s Westside both matter and need redress. But Garden State Equality couldn’t stand the sight of some marginalized group getting attention on a day they were not. Selfishly, it must always be about them. So they tore at a Pastor bearing gifts – poor blacks receiving those gifts be damned. The City Council helped. I know none of you intended racism, but reckless actions have unintended consequences, like de facto racism. #InstitutionalRacism?
Fuscarino is useless to gays anyway. After Omar Mateen pledged his support to the Islamic State and killed 49 at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Garden State Equality immediately issued a statement of solidarity – with Islam. The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) recently reported there are 8 countries in the world that put gays to death and 5 more who legally can, and all 13 use Islamic law to do it. They reported zero non-Islamic country killing gays.
ILGA doesn’t bring that up because they are Islamophobic. ILGA doesn’t bring it up to say all Muslims are bad. Simply put Mr. Fuscarino, no LGBT advocate should show “solidarity” with Islam with that being the state of their world, while also viciously attacking a Christian who says gay sex is a sin. Your loyalty lies not with gays, but with the Democrat talking point that believes votes can be gained by calling everyone else Islamophobic. So you pledged solidarity to Omar Mateen’s inspiration and threw gays not under the bus, but off the roof (the preferred method for killing gays in 13 countries).
Probably the hardest part to understand was criticism of a Pastor giving away money, when criticism is usually reserved for Pastors asking for money. When the owner of Johnnie Mac’s bar walked around Asbury last Christmas handing out tens of thousands of dollars in gift cards, all these same people praised him. Shuttlesworth was simply doing the same in June. Is this hatred because he is a preacher? Asbury Park was named after a circuit preacher, much like Shuttlesworth is one. What has happened to this City?
I telephoned Pastor Shuttlesworth. I found a man who was magnanimous toward his haters. Even the government. He spoke only of his thrill to be able to preach to the people in Asbury Park and lift them. I tried to bait him into complaints about his detractors and he would only express his love for them. He praised our police. He rarely brings up homosexual sex in his sermons. It is unfortunate that became the hyperbolic scream of his Asbury Park protestors. He told me he is used to it. In today’s world, wherever he preaches, an anti-Christian bias appears in protest. He still loves them.
That conversation made me reflect upon the state of Asbury Park. Since when do we believe that people are only one thing? It is wrong to label people “all good” and “all bad.” It is wrong to find one thing we disagree with about someone, then label them “all bad.” Certainly someone who holds one trait we dislike can have a thousand others we do. Certainly a person with whom we disagree with in one area is also capable of many good deeds. Isn’t that the point of diversity, even multiculturalism? What happens to love if one disagreement triggers hate?
To the 3 Pastors, I ask you to recall the story of Cyrus from the Bible – which reveals to us that God will even call upon a heathen to do good works. You could have supported Shuttlesworth in his quest to help the poor while disagreeing with him in other areas.
So what can be done? Someone could file a complaint with the State Department of Community Affairs against the City Council. This isn’t the first time this has happened in Asbury. Last September the outrage team held a rally that protested a political party, where only officials from the Democrat Party were allowed to speak. It turned into a rally against white people, America and the President. Yet two of the sponsors were the Asbury Park School District and The Asbury Park Housing Authority, and they had officials on stage. Government entities can’t do that! Government entities can’t join political rallies! Asbury’s constant mixing of Government and activism is out of control.
Maybe if the Publisher of the only daily newspaper around here wasn’t so busy accepting community service awards from the very same people that he should be investigating/reporting about, he might file a complaint with the DCA.
But forget that complaint. I hate seeing people jammed up. I say to the City Council there is a better way. Start by issuing a withdrawal of your government statement. Apologize to Shuttlesworth for how he was treated as a visitor. You can stay away from his ministry, but like the Pastors, you owe an apology to his humanity. Unlike the Pastors, I have higher expectations of you and believe that you will. The other thing that you MUST do is avoid letting activists use the Government as a tool. It’s illegal. Stop it. Tell the outrage team the City Council is going to take a break from the constant protests in town. Leave activism to the activists.
All that’s left is for me to ask Pastor Shuttlesworth to pray for me, because I know what happens when someone holds a minority view in this City these days. Instead of inspiring dialogue and healing, I’ll receive hate, public humiliation and excoriation. The gentleness and love Blue Bishops once held for each other is gone, replaced by gentrifying newcomers whose spirit is based not upon compassion, but ill-will and glory-seeking.
I hope instead the outrage team will reflect upon my motto: Politics is a tiny part of who we are – never let it stop you from enjoying the rest of a person.
Tommy De Seno is an attorney, a journalist and a contributor to the website Ricochet.com