BIO        WRITING        PHOTO        VIDEO        CONTACT        HOME

Pastor apologizes for remarks; says use of words 'terrorist attack on family' was wrong; still opposes same sex unions.
By Nathan Welton
The Tribune
July 19, 2004


About a dozen protesters picketed in front of San Luis Obispo's Church of the Nazarene Sunday over the Rev. Rick Eastman's comment last week likening gay marriage to a terrorist attack on the traditional family.

After his morning sermon, Eastman apologized to the picketers after retracting the terrorist references, but still emphasized that a marriage, to him, is not for people of the same sex.

"I do believe strongly that marriage is between a man and a woman," he said. "In hindsight I should not have used (the word terrorist). I'm sorry, and I apologize to the people it would have hurt."

The picketers, rallying on a call from local political Web sites, reacted to comments the pastor made in The Tribune a week ago regarding a proposed federal constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

"I'd say we can focus on terrorist attacks, but I believe this is a terrorist attack on the family, in a sense," he said in the story.

The quote came in response to a question about the urgency of last Wednesday's U.S. Senate vote on the amendment - which was shot down - during a time of war, budget crises and terrorism.

The pastor said the word "terrorist" just stuck in his head.

"Whether or not societal problems will be caused by gay weddings is a legitimate debate," said David Broadwater, a protest organizer who supports gay marriage. "But that's not why we're here."

Picketers took issue with the exact words and phrases the reverend used.

"In the '50s, the 'ism' was communism," said co-organizer Dennis Kish, who came with his wife, Susan Owen. "Today the 'ism' is preceded by terror."

Eastman wrote a one-page letter to his congregation Sunday, explaining that his comments weren't just limited to the gay and lesbian community, but to all deviations of the original marriage design, including divorce, unmarried cohabitation and "over-the-counter 24-hour" marriages like the recent one of Britney Spears.

He further noted that he and his wife had worked for several years in Oklahoma City's gay community, organizing interfaith care teams to serve people with AIDS in the final stages of their lives.

"My best friend was gay, and he died of AIDS," Eastman said.

Protesters, carrying signs like "Weddings are not terrorist attacks," had asked the pastor to retract his statement and issue a public apology.

"It's language like this that instigates hate crimes," Broadwater said. "And those who engage peaceably in public policy debate are not engaging in terrorist attacks."

Picketers said that congregation members were polite, and bought out water and doughnuts in the morning.

"It's good to see it getting attention, it's good he's responding, and it's good he came out to talk with us," said Broadwater. "It's good people are talking about it."