Think Locally, Act Hatefully

Ken Hutcherson has had a busy winter. The football star-turned-megachurch preacher started off January by taking on one of the largest corporations in the world but ended up embroiled in a fight with his daughter’s high school.

Hutcherson has made rabidly anti-gay activism his defining cause, especially as an advocate for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. In 2004 he joined James Dobson and other Religious Right leaders for an anti-gay rally on the National Mall, asserting that he represented “God’s people” and that he knew exactly what was on God’s mind: “There are absolutes and I’m absolutely right on this issue. God does not want marriage to be redefined.”

And in his preaching, he makes clear that his views extend beyond “protecting marriage”:

Reasonable people can disagree over whether gay marriage is a good idea. But Hutcherson goes beyond reasonable, at least to judge by the report of Seattle psychologist Valerie Tarico. … On a Sunday when Tarico was present, Hutcherson was preaching on gender roles. During his sermon, Hutcherson stated, “God hates soft men” and “God hates effeminate men.” Hutcherson went on to say, “If I was in a drugstore and some guy opened the door for me, I’d rip his arm off and beat him with the wet end.”

In early January, Hutcherson devised a creative plan to take control over Microsoft, the software giant based, like Hutcherson’s Antioch Bible Church, in Redmond, Washington. In order to stop Microsoft’s support for its gay employees—through a nondiscrimination policy and partner benefits, for example—Hutcherson launched a program to convince activists to buy Microsoft shares and donate them to his new AGN Financial Network. Then, according to the plan, Hutcherson could overturn gay-friendly policies at shareholders’ meetings.

While creative, the plan seems pretty futile:

It’s unclear what effect, if any, the initiative could have on the stock price. It would be difficult to influence company direction — just to gain a 1 percent stake in Microsoft, about 31 million people would each have to spend $104 to buy three shares. Microsoft has about 9.36 billion outstanding shares, and its largest holder is Chairman Bill Gates, with 858 million shares, or 9 percent of the total. Capital Research and Management Co. follows with nearly 557 million shares, or 6 percent.

… When asked whether the new initiative is a ploy to make money for his church, Hutcherson said, “Absolutely.”

“We’re going to need the finances to go to the next companies,” he said. “Anything you do successfully needs money.”

Nevertheless, the “ploy” has the support of religious-right figures such as Gary Bauer, Richard Land, Paul Weyrich, Don Wildmon, and Harry Jackson.

But it seems the Hutcherson has had to set his sights a little lower, from the corporate board room to the school board meeting. While speaking at a local high school on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the preacher was confronted with a contradiction:

Hutcherson spoke for about 30 minutes, telling the 1,500 students sitting in the school gym about growing up amid racial prejudice and how that led him to hate white people, Taylor said. But, Hutcherson told students, he eventually came to accept King’s teaching of acceptance and tolerance, and it transformed him.

As the assembly drew to a close, a female language-arts teacher stood and addressed Hutcherson with a rhetorical question.

“She said something to the effect of ‘How can you preach a climate of acceptance and tolerance, but that doesn’t apply to gays and lesbians?’ ” Taylor said. The teacher didn’t pose the question disrespectfully, but it was not an appropriate time to begin such a dialogue, Taylor said.

The school apologized for the breach in decorum, but Hutcherson quickly threatened action, demanding that the teachers involved be fired:

“You can see the arrogance that’s going on in our public school system with the agenda of making our schools just so open and available to what the homosexual agenda is all about,” he remarks. “I’m absolutely amazed at the stubbornness that we’ve run into in our public education system, especially with teachers who think that nothing can happen to them.” …

Hutcherson says the days of Christians just making a little noise and then going away are done. He shares that he told school officials “you are going to have to pay and pay dearly for your decisions in putting my daughter through the amount of stress that you have put her through in the last three weeks.”

Meanwhile, Hutcherson has launched a campaign against the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, which he calls a “sex club.”