MAIDEN -- It started in a small-town church pulpit on Mothers Day: a preacher calling for gays and lesbians to be placed in a type of concentration camp.
But since a video of the sermon by the Rev. Charles Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church hit the Internet, his words have stirred a social media firestorm and visits to the quiet Catawba County town from CNN.
Worley, 71, suggested building a large fence, 100 or 150 miles long, so lesbians would be put in one area and the queers and the homosexuals in another, and have that fence electrified so they cant get out.
The 300-member church originally placed the video on its website, but it was removed over the weekend. But the video is still posted on YouTube, where it has drawn more than 165,000 views.
On Tuesday, a grass-roots group announced plans for a protest march Sunday near the church, which is outside the city limits of Maiden.
I was shocked, horrified and hurt, said organizer Laura Tipton, 24, of Hickory, a student at Appalachian State University.
Worleys sermon came five days after more than 60 percent of N.C. voters approved a constitutional amendment that defined marriage as a civil union between a man and a woman outlawing gay marriages.
The May 13 sermon was critical of President Barack Obamas announcement, days earlier, that he supports same-sex marriage. Worley told his congregation that he couldnt vote for a baby-killer and a homosexual lover.
After using Biblical passages that he said supported his argument, Worley outlined a plan to put gays and lesbians in confinement behind an electrified fence.
Feed em, and you know what? Worley said. In a few years, theyll die. Do you know why? They cant reproduce.
Some members of the congregation can be heard saying Amen in response to the pastors remarks.
Maiden, a rural town of about 3,500 people about 40 miles northwest of Charlotte, landed Apples new $1 billion data center in 2009. Authorities recently granted to Apple a permit for a 20-megawatt solar farm in Maiden, and Apple now says it will build a second farm a few miles away.
Maiden Town Attorney Kent Crowe said the town doesnt discriminate based on race, gender, creed or sexual orientation. Also, he said the town rejects any expression or demonstration of hate against any group or individual.
On Tuesday, Joe Heafner, a member of the congregation at Providence Road Baptist, said Worleys comments were taken out of context.
Worley takes a strong stand on the Bible and what it says, but he loves people, Heafner said. Ive never seen a man who cared more for his people, cares for all people, whether they were members here or not, he would go beyond what would be expected of him.
Worley himself could not be reached for comment, but his comments continued to attract attention.
At least one national news crew was in the Maiden area Tuesday. Business owners were reluctant to talk to media representatives, expressing regret about the negative publicity the small community was receiving.
Brent Childers, executive director of Hickory-based Faith in America, a group that aims to end religion-based bigotry against gays, said the media focus shouldnt be on one church but a problem thats widespread.
In churches across America, words are being spoken about gays that may not be as ugly as this pastor (but) they are the same message of rejection and condemnation.
While Worleys sermon doesnt surprise me, Childers said what saddened him most was that more North Carolinians do not see the stigma and hostility that is driving harm toward gay and lesbian individuals.
Childers said polls indicate younger people have a more sympathetic view of gays and lesbians. Anti-gay rhetoric may grow coarse Childers said, but in the end it will flicker into silence.
According to Tipton, more than 400 protesters are expected to meet at 9 a.m. Sunday at Maiden Elementary School, and be shuttled about five miles to the church. They will march peacefully, she said, along the street outside the church. Their message will be one of love and acceptance instead of hate and intolerance, Tipton said.
Shes already met with Worley, and although he said he made a bad choice of words, he didnt apologize. We would like him to apologize.
Charlotte church: Its not us
The controversy over a preachers sermon at Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden is proving to be confusing.
Charlottes Providence Baptist Church, at 4921 Randolph Road, said Tuesday that senior pastor Al Cadenhead and other church members have received angry emails, calls and messages from people confusing the two churches.
Jesus is our model for living and His presence is our source of strength for life, the Charlotte churchs statement said. Jesus preached a Gospel of love. So do we. Jesus preached that we love our neighbor, whether that neighbor is like us or not.