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N.C. Gay Conference To Be Held Under Tight Police


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N.C. Gay Conference To Be Held Under Tight Police Security

by The Associated Press

Posted: August 26, 2005 7:00 pm ET

(Lake Junaluska, North Carolina) A meeting of gay Methodists in western North Carolina over Labor Day weekend has law enforcement officials preparing for protests from conservative groups and the Ku Klux Klan.

Haywood County Sheriff Tom Alexander met with other officers Thursday to plan for the Sept. 2-5 gathering at the Lake Junaluska Assembly of the Reconciling Ministries Network, a Chicago-based group that wants the United Methodist Church opened to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians. The conference, called Hearts On Fire, is expected to attract about 500 attendees.

Among those planning to protest the meeting are the Cordele, Ga.-based American White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported Friday.

Imperial Wizard J.J. Harper told the newspaper he expects 20 Klan protesters in plain clothes. State law bans the KKK from wearing masks in public.

Alexander plans to deploy his own deputies, members of the Junaluska Assembly's 13-officer force and officers from the State Bureau of Investigation, the FBI and the state Highway Patrol around the conference site.

Officers from other municipalities will be on call to respond to problems, Alexander said.

"I am more worried about the non-organized protesters than the organized protesters," he said.

The security chief for the privately owned assembly, Steven Staley, said pro-gay and anti-gay protesters will be asked to go to separate areas of the campus.

Local newspapers have been filled with letters about the conference in recent days. On Sunday, Nesbitt Chapel United Methodist Church in nearby Buncombe County bought a half-page newspaper ad urging "Christian Brothers and Sisters in Christ" to join them in "standing against the pro-homosexual rally" planned for Labor Day weekend.

©Associated Press 2005


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