Tempe, AZ - Two groups representing divergent views showed up at a controversial church Sunday in Tempe, Arizona.
Members of Faithful Word Baptist Church ambled into a strip mall to listen to their pastor, Steven L. Anderson, who most recently set off a firestorm when he delivered a sermon about, "Why I Hate Barack Obama," and said he prayed for Obama's death. A second group, who call themselves People Against Clergy Who Preach Hate, conducted what it called a "love rally" outside the church at 2707 W. Southern Ave.
About 24 members of Faithful Word Baptist Church carried Bibles. After the one-hour service, members defended their pastor and described him as a "caring human being."
One member, who wore a black polo shirt with a message emblazoned in red, "Hating is not a Crime," strutted in the parking lot.
Anderson, who briefly emerged from the church door, said "absolutely" to a media question about whether he still believes Obama should die.
About 100 love-rally members stood on both sides of Southern Avenue and held placards with messages of "My God is a God of Peace," while two people wore bright vests that read "Quakers for Peace." Many in this group were vocal and decried the young pastor's words.
Others are concerned about a Faithful Word congregation member who showed up outside of the Phoenix Convention Center toting an assault rifle in August, when Obama spoke there.
The debate boils down to hate, said Mesa resident Shirley Rish. Hate-filled talk scares her. Many relatives died in Auschwitz because of hate, she said.
Rish, 74, said she called on two Republican congressmen, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., to help put an end to what she called the "hate talk" spreading in Arizona.
"I'm all for tolerance and love," Rish said. "Hate is such a dangerous word . . . I'm afraid someone might get hurt."
And tempers flared.
Carolyn T. Lowery, with the Arizona Black United Fund Inc., attempted to gain entrance to Faithful Word services.
A security guard for the strip mall stopped her in the parking lot.
Lowery, a Phoenix resident, believes Anderson is using the pulpit to spread hate.
Faithful Word "sounds like a cult to me," Lowery said.
by Betty Reid, The Arizona Republic