EAST LANSING, Mich. — An anarchist group and its members may no longer invade churches anywhere in the country unless they want to be held in contempt of court and fined $10,000, according to orders issued by a federal judge Monday. The orders came in a lawsuit filed by the Alliance Defense Fund on behalf of a Michigan church after members of the group Bash Back! invaded one of the church’s worship services in 2008.
Several individuals who participated in the invasion agreed to the permanent injunction in the case, Mount Hope Church v. Bash Back!, but the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan had to issue a separate default judgment against Bash Back! and Bash Back! Lansing after the two groups failed to respond to the lawsuit or to communications from the court. Bash Back! openly advocates the use of riots and crime to further its views in favor of homosexual behavior.
“The use of violence, threats, and other criminal behavior to advance a political agenda should never be acceptable in America,” said ADF Legal Counsel Dale Schowengerdt. “ADF filed suit on behalf of Mount Hope to stop Bash Back! from invading churches, disrupting worship, and terrifying adults and children who attend religious services. The court’s orders accomplished that and send a message to any other groups contemplating such tactics that they will not succeed.”
The Lansing chapter of the group targeted Mount Hope because of the church’s well-known Christian views on marriage and homosexual behavior. Through a page of the Bash Back! website, the group covertly recruited people for its plans to invade the church’s most heavily-attended worship service, seeking some participants who would be willing to maintain “a more ‘militant’-looking presence out side [sic] of the building.”
“I can tell you that we are targeting a well-known anti-queer, anti-choice radical right wing establishment,” the page said. “However, we cant [sic] give you really any detailed information due to the cop who’s ridiculous job it is to do surveillance over this blog.... ‘ONLY ONE DIRECTION! TRANS AND QUEER INSURRECTION!’ - Bash Back! Lansing”
On Nov. 9, 2008, members of the group dressed in militant garb staged a protest outside the church to distract security personnel, blocking access to the building and parking lot at various times. Other members of the group dressed in plain clothes then deceptively entered the building. At a coordinated time, they sprang up shouting religious slurs, unfurling a sign, and throwing fliers around the sanctuary while two women began kissing near the podium. The group pulled fire alarms as they ran out of the building. After the incident, the group bragged about its activities on its website.
Federal law imposes penalties upon anyone who “by force or threat of force or by physical obstruction, intentionally injures, intimidates or interferes with or attempts to injure, intimidate or interfere with any person lawfully exercising or seeking to exercise the First Amendment right of religious freedom at a place of religious worship.”
- Pronunciation guide: Schowengerdt (SHOW’-in-gurt)
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.