So the religious zealots have, we hope, left town by now. From Thursday to Saturday, speakers from across the religious right spectrum descended upon Brandonâs Bell Shoals Baptist Church for the Family Impact Summit with workshops like âthe homosexual agenda,â âGlobal Warming or Global Whiningâ and various other topics to a captive audience of pastors and proselytizers. They also had some neat schwag, like the t-shirt below.
(Watch for my upcoming Urban Explorer covering an Equality Florida protest held before the conference).
I attended the first night of the summit and met Michael Freincle, a young man from Equality Florida who had paid to go through the full three days of the conference.
âI want information,â said Freincle, 20, who has the fortune of being both Jewish and gay. âTheir words donât end at the church doors.â
He knows â Freincle has lived his whole life three minutes from Bell Shoals, one of the Tampa Bay areaâs largest and most politically active congregations.
âGrowing up, this is what I had to hear,â he said.
After an excruciating musical introduction, Clint Cline of Design4, which has created advertisements attacking gay marriage across the country, introduced Focus on the Familyâs government and public policy director, Tom Minnery. In Minneryâs first five minutes on stage, he managed to cram Larry Craig, Barney Frank, Bill Clinton, terrorism, immigration and welfare into a diatribe condemning âthe Left.â
âGeneral freedom is not the freedom to do what you want â thatâs anarchy,â he told an audience of about 100. âItâs doing what you ought to do.â
He also seemed to enjoy listing the names of many Jews who feel the same way he does.
Afterward, I asked Freincle what he thought.
âI think I was more creeped out about my Jewish aspect than my gay aspect,â he said that night.
When I caught up with Freincle today he said the summit was "... interesting."
âThey are very good with their wording,â he said, describing how speakers attempted to spread their views more as helpful Christians than angry zealots.
â[The summit] really illustrated their commitment to this particular cause. They are very, very, very committed to eradicating homosexuality.â