ACUSHNET (CBS) – As hundreds of people gathered inside an Acushnet church for Mass on Sunday, a dozen people stood outside quietly protesting a sign they called hateful.
St. Francis Xavier Parish posted a message last week that read “Two men are friends – not spouses.” A Facebook protest sprung up almost immediately from the homosexual community and their supporters.
On Sunday, several former church members stood outside the Mass holding signs with slogans like “Spread Love, Not Hate.”
Acushnet native Eddie Camara said he was angered by the sign and floored by what he called an inaccuracy.
“Religious marriage is not the same as a legal marriage. You still have to have that document and it is legal in Massachusetts so don’t you dare tell me I can’t have a spouse that’s a male,” Camara said.
Msgr. Gerard O’Connor says the church didn’t mean to hurt feelings or to provoke the reaction they did.
“There’s no hatred in the gospel of Jesus Christ and there never can be. We’ve got to do everything out of love,” said O’Connor.
For Timothy Evans, the six words on the church message board didn’t spell love; they ostracized.
“It might not have been in-your-face overtly hateful, but that is the type of subtle bigotry that can affect people,” said Evans.
Evans went on to say these kinds of messages plant the seed for a bullying epidemic in America.
About a dozen protesters stood outside for two hours, never chanting or shouting. Many said the church had a right to post what they wanted, but that the protesters have a right to peacefully disagree.
“I feel like this is another step toward making history,” said former church member Erica Davignon.
Davignon carried a sign that proclaimed “Marriage is about LOVE. Jesus Christ taught me to accept everyone.”
The church’s anti-gay marriage sign was up for one day before it was changed. Church leaders say they received threats over the sign, but that they did not change the words in response.
The sign now reads “Go out and proclaim the gospel.” It’s a message the church believes it has a responsibility to share.
“It’s all about love. But within that context, we must tell the truth. To preach the gospel doesn’t mean we cut things out,” said O’Connor.