Gay Activists Arrested for Staged Civil Disobedience at Church Trial

33 pro-gays were charged as they tried to forcefully halt the trial of a lesbian pastor
( [email protected] ) Mar 18, 2004 03:14 AM EST

SEATTLE -- Police arrested 33 of 100 pro-gay activists from across the country who orchestrated a rowdy act of civil disobedience outside Seattle’s Bothell Methodist Church, March 17, 2004. The belligerent crowd staged the protest to halt the commencement of the trial of Reverend Karen Dammann – the United Methodist Church pastor who blatantly violated church laws by carrying on an actively homosexual lifestyle.

Dammann, 47, is charged with "practices declared by the United Methodist Church to be incompatible to Christian teachings" in the trial that is expected to continue Thursday. Damman, despite the oath of purity she took as an ordained minister, lived with her lesbian partner for nine years, and even “married” her last month in Portland.

If the jury of 13-fellow members of the clergy finds Dammann guilty of conducting a relationship that flouts church rules, she could be removed from ministry. Past UMC trials similar in nature found the plantiffs guilty of all charges.

Therefore, to forcefully block the proceedings of Dammann's trial, the pro-gay mob trespassed onto church property and blockaded the entrance; police soon arrested them, and the trial commenced as planned.

"It was a negotiated arrest for second degree criminal trespassing," said Bothell Police Captain Bob Woolverton.

The protestors said they staged the incident because they said the church only punished Dammann for “coming out.”

"It is so heartbreaking that the United Methodist Church, my church, is sending a message to the world that, if you are gay or lesbian, and you lie about who you are and who you love, you can serve in silence, but if you tell the truth, we are going to punish you," said protestor Marylee Fithian.

"We feel we have no choice but to try to prevent the trial from taking place,” she said, angrily.

However, church officials repeatedly emphasized that Damman is on trial for her acts of homosexuality, and not her choice to “come out of the closet.” Dammann was initially charged in 2001, when she revealed her sexual behaviors to higher authorities in the church. Since then, she has been taken to several church hearings and has been placed on a temporary leave of service.