Parishioners say gay rights protest went too far

February 19, 2010 4:37:49 AM PST
Parishioners at Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral say gay-rights activists went too far with their protest of a Valentine's Day Mass. They claim the protesters disrupted church services and that Chicago Police did little in response.

The organizer of the protest disputes the allegations. Members of the gay liberation network say they had no idea their protest disrupted mass because no one from the church or the police ever complained while the protest was in progress.

Holy Name Cathedral's pastor has asked the archdiocese to look into why Chicago Police allowed a demonstration within 150 feet of a church service, which violates a city ordinance.

In a Valentine's Day protest, with police present, members of Chicago's Gay Liberation Network picketed in front of Holy Name Cathedral this past Sunday. Their point was to protest against what they say is the Catholic leadership's campaign against gay rights.

"There were about 100 people. We were picketing. We had our signs. Some people were chanting. We had no amplified sounds during that," said Andy Thayer, Gay Liberation Network.

Picketers may have been without a bullhorn, but parishioners and Holy's Name's pastor say the protesters were close enough to the front doors of the church that the protest disrupted a Valentine's Day mass where couples were renewing their vows.

"They were loud and droning, shouting mantras that were offensive. It was just distracting," said Nora Doherty, Holy Name Cathedral parishioner.

Parishioner Nora Doherty says she asked the police several times if the protesters could be moved across the street because Doherty says they violated a city ordinance. Chapter 8-4 of the municipal code states that a person commits disorderly conduct when he knowingly "pickets or demonstrates on a public way within 150 feet of any church, temple, synagogue or other place of worship while services are being conducted".

Protest Organizer Andy Thayer says, before the protest, he did have a discussion with police about where the demonstrators could picket.

"We ended up not using our bullhorn and that seemed to be a compromise that worked for everyone on the spot," said Thayer.

"You can't make a deal to circumvent disorderly conduct laws," said Doherty.

Chicago Police says it is proud of its record supporting the First Amendment. Spokesman Roderick Drew said, "The department worked with the Archdiocese of Chicago in developing an operational response that supported the law while ensuring public safety."

The archdiocese did not return ABC 7's phone calls.

Parishioner Nora Doherty supports the right to protest because she is a pro-life demonstrator. She accuses police of using a double standard, because when she pickets in front of Planned Parenthood, she says police keep her and others across the street.

Chicago Police spokesman Roderick Drew says that the department does not exercise special treatment for any protest group.


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