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Gay marriage controversy is reason Oakfield cans community worship service

By Billie Owens

Oakfield will not be holding a Community Worship Service this Sunday, normally a feature of its "Labor Daze" celebration, because the issue of gay marriage has caused a rift between churches there.

The Community Betterment Committee's Labor Daze officials, after discussions with Mayor Rick Pastecki and others, opted to cancel the 10:30 a.m. service at Triangle Park on Sunday to avoid any possibility of a "brouhaha," said festival co-chair Donna Dwyer.

The service has been part of the holiday weekend line-up for 24 years -- until now.

The situation devolved from a letter to the editor published in the Daily News on May 22 written by Rev. Larry Eastlack of Oakfield United Methodist Church. It stated that while most evangelical leaders are encouraging their congregations to oppose the "Marriage Equality Act," he differed. The legislation has been passed in several states and New York is considering it, too.

Eastlack's letter said that although most Christians believe homosexuality is incompatible with Biblical teachings, "I believe it is possible to stay true to your religious convictions, whatever they are, and still support legislation that would allow homosexual persons to enjoy all the rights and responsibilities that come with matrimony."

The reverend was unavailable for comment, but his letter created a veritable firestorm in the community and it's still smoldering.

The brigade against his views is led by fundamentalist pastors at Oakfield Community Bible Church, led by Bill Smith, and Mark Perkins, who leads the Oakfield Alabama Baptist Church. They've been coordinating the Community Worship Service for the past several years and wanted to exclude Eastlack from the Community Worship Service this year specifically because of his now publically known views on gay marriage.

(Leaders' "participation" amounts to sitting among other local church representatives and listening to a guest speaker's sermon. Cal Kern, president and general manager of a Christian sports team called Niagara Power Baseball, was scheduled this year.)

They asked to sit down with the reverend and Perkins said they, including Eastlack's associate Dave Phelps, discussed their views cordially and the meeting ended with Eastlack's decision not to participate if that meant creating more strife.

A letter prepared Aug. 10 by Perkins and Smith -- which amounts to an ultimatum to disavow gay marriage or else be shunned -- was given to Eastlack afterward "almost as an afterthought," said Perkins to emphasize the amiable tone at the meeting's conclusion.

The letter rejects the notion of gay marriage as a civil rights issue and the idea that homosexuality is determined genetically. It cites Scripture on the issue and urges Eastlack to change his stance, with this caveat:

"...our Elders have stated that having you take part (in the Sept. 6 service) would send a message to our community and respective congregations that 1. We are in agreement with your stance or 2. We are willing to pretend that unity exists."

The Labor Daze Community Worship Service was heretofore ecumenical in nature, according to residents. But Perkins said the public Sunday service is not supposed to be "a social feel-good message."

"It's meant to send a clear, Biblical Gospel message to people there who might not attend church or otherwise hear it," Perkins said.

The mayor finds the whole thing ugly.

"My personal feeling is that it just saddens me down to my soul," Pastecki said.

Julie A Pappalardo

Why do these so called "churches" who preach peace, love, family etc waste their time and $ to destroy other peoples families? Why are they OBCESSED with the lives of people who they don't even know?

This is a civil issue NOT a church issue. You get a marriage license from the STATE not the CHURCH folks!

And shouldn't the church be spending their time and tax free $$ feeding the poor, taking care of orphans, and giving back to their communities who let them operate tax free?

Instead, they use this (tax free) $$ to spread hate and intolerance toward their fellow man (and woman).

If these church goin folk want to live in a theocracy, I suggest they move to Iran/Afganistan/ (insert other crazy religous war starting country here), and get OUT of the USA.

As Dick Cheney said "Freedom means freedom for EVERYBODY."

Sep 2, 2009, 2:05pm Permalink
Jason Murray

so william im sure a gay person has shopped in the same stores as you. goes to the same schools as u did same hospitols and might possibly of helped build ur home. damn william no place is safe for u. oh and william im pretty sure its against the bible for priests to rape little boys but let me guess u still go to church every sunday. it may not of been ur priest but it was a priest of your faith.

Sep 2, 2009, 2:48pm Permalink
Beth Kinsley

Something just seems wrong about one (or two in the case) pastor telling another pastor what that they need to disavow something or be "shunned". Pastoral strongarming? And William - the Marriage Equality Act wouldn't force any church to perform gay marriage ceremonies. That decision would be up to the individual religions and/or churches.

Sep 2, 2009, 3:51pm Permalink
Sean Valdes

Not getting into the gay debate - it's sad that local churches are so politicized - so 1 church likes gays and the other doesn't - so what! You can't sit down and celebrate an overall common belief? There's little hope left for the world when little country churches can't sit down and worship the same God for an hour once a year. Everyone, everyone has a personal cross to bare - while we should try hard to support people and pray for people to be closer to God, we should try equally as hard not to judge them in the mean time. Mind you, this is coming from a closed-minded, judgmental, opinionated jerk - it's easier to say it than to actually do it.

Sep 2, 2009, 5:08pm Permalink
william tapp

the church preaches the bible, gays is a ageist the bible.
if gays want to get married go to a judge and it is state approved.not church approved.

Sep 2, 2009, 5:20pm Permalink
Jason Murray

so william what about all the gay pastors that has slept with young boys. you dont have a problem with that. pastors are the voice of the church arent they

Sep 2, 2009, 8:11pm Permalink
Beth Kinsley

William says: the church preaches the bible, gays is a ageist the bible.
if gays want to get married go to a judge and it is state approved.not church approved.

You see William - that is the problem. Gays in NYS cannot go to a judge and get married. Are you missing that? If your church refuses to perform gay marriages, fine. If my pastor wants to perform gay marriages, that should also be fine. In any event, gays should be allowed to, as you put it "go to a judge and it is state approved".

Sep 2, 2009, 10:49pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

"People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids?...It’s just not right. It’s not right. It’s not, it’s not going to change anything. We’ll, we’ll get our justice....Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to work it out."

Sep 2, 2009, 11:28pm Permalink
C. M. Barons

This is a clear example of why church and state must be separate.

So often in presumed Judeo-Christian sanctimony, comfort levels are defined by an insider vs. outsider mentality. Here is a case where the lines are not as plainly drawn. This isn't atheists opposed to public prayer or Wiccans wanting a pentacle on a soldier's grave. Here we have a difference of opinion within the Christian milieu on a political issue. What does a Labor Day festival have to do with arguments over gay marriage? Nothing. And it should stay that way.

Next question: why schedule a religious service as an event in a community celebration of Labor Day?

Religious beliefs are important to the individuals that hold them. When you disconnect beliefs from the holders of those beliefs and attach them to secular events they are no longer beliefs- they become slogans and semantics; they dry up and die, deprived of the faith that nurtures them.

If church A, B, or C chooses to have a Labor Day service, so be it. Communities should conduct events that embrace all their members without necessary subscription to a particular faith or view on gay marriage. Endorsing a particular view- whether it be one church's interpretation of Biblical morality or one political slant only serves to divide and alienate.

Our labor force includes different races, ethnic groups, genders, sexual persuasions and creeds- despite quaint traditions, we are a diverse nation- even little-old Oakfield, NY. Why exclude participation in a Labor Day event by dividing people over politics and religion?

Sep 3, 2009, 12:51am Permalink
Howard B. Owens

Church life and community life are strongly tied together, and the sociological research would show the importance of how community involvement and church involevment often go hand in hand. I'm not saying, per se, it must be that way, but there is a strong history in this country of community and church being tied together.

I think you could make the case that on a community day, religious differences should be set aside. There's plenty of time to debate theology, creed and belief without trampling on community tradition.

Sep 3, 2009, 12:58am Permalink
Janice Stenman

Found at:

In looking around the internet for some interesting stuff, I came across this letter written to Dr. Laura about how the Bible’s laws and how they relate to our every day life. Who knows if the letter is real or not, it probably just is some urban legend…but every point in here shows why you shouldnt take the Bible literally. Enjoy!

Dear Dr. Laura,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.

a) When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

b) I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

c) I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

d) Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?

e) I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

f) A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an Abomination (Lev 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?

g) Lev 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

h) Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev 19:27. How should they die?

i) I know from Lev 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

j) My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? (Lev 24:10-16) Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Your devoted disciple and adoring fan.

Found at:

Sep 3, 2009, 1:17am Permalink
Sean Valdes

Answers below:

A. No, see below
B. Give the neighbors the daughter in return for not calling the cops about the smell of the burning bull.
C. They'll get over it. Keep asking.
D. With the current economy, Canadians are too costly to purchase. Wait for the CFC plan (cash for Canadians)
E. No, have your daughter do it, then she can come back home.
F. They're equal - both give me a rash.
G. That's why God gave us lasik.
H. They shall be required to remove the asbestos from the Masse Mall without masks.
I. No, just use a Dollar Store football that has a protective lead coating over it.
J. Yes, you must stone him as a village, isn't that how Labor Daze started in the first place?

Why do people always go to Leviticus? This post isn't about gay rights so much, it's more about a community that needs to decide their faith and beliefs.

Sep 3, 2009, 1:48am Permalink
Bea McManis

West Wing Skewers Laura Schlessinger
On October 18, 2000, NBC aired an episode of the Emmy winning television show The West Wing in which the character President Josiah Bartlet, played beyond description by Martin Sheen, absolutely skewers a character, named "Dr. Jenna Jacobs," who bears striking similarities to our very own, dear, Laura Schlessinger, in a dialogue very similar in theme to the "Dear Dr. Laura" letter which was wending its way about the net not that many months ago.

President Josiah Bartlet: You're Dr. Jenna Jacobs, right?

Jenna Jacobs: Yes, sir.

Bartlet: ...Forgive me, Dr. Jacobs. Are you an M.D.?

Jacobs: A Ph.D.

Bartlet: A Ph.D.

Jacobs: Yes, sir.

Bartlet: Psychology?

Jacobs: No, sir.

Bartlet: Theology?

Jacobs: No.

Bartlet: Social work?

Jacobs: I have a Ph.D. in English literature.

Bartlet: I'm asking because on your show, people call in for advice and you go by the name Dr. Jacobs on your show, and I didn't know if maybe your listeners were confused by that and assumed you had advanced training in psychology, theology or health care.

Jacobs: I don't believe they are confused, no, sir.

Bartlet: Good. I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality an abomination.

Jacobs: I don't say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President, the Bible does.

Bartlet: Yes, it does. Leviticus.

Jacobs: 18:22.

Bartlet: Chapter and verse. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I had you here.

I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She's a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be?

While thinking about that, can I ask another? My chief of staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or is it okay to call the police?

Here's one that's really important because we've got a lot of sports fans in this town. Touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point?

Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side-by-side?

Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads?

Think about those questions, would you? One last thing, while you may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of the Ignorant Tight-Ass Club, in this building, when the President stands, nobody sits.

Sep 3, 2009, 2:08am Permalink
C. M. Barons

I'm not sure what you are saying. Yes, religion is an aspect of community. But the inverse is not true; community is not an aspect of religion. Religion is divisive. You won't find a community (outside of Utah) where everyone belongs to the same religious group. The United States (nevermind revisionists and theocrats) is a pluralistic society. Religious affiliation (except for snake handlers and peyote eaters) is unrestricted. In any community, religious affiliation runs the gamut: Catholic, Mormon, Scientology, Baptist, Eckankar, Hindu, Zen Buddhist, neopagan Druid... The list is extensive. The most eccumenical efforts would fall short of universality. Up to 8% of the population is non-religious and wouldn't fit any religious gathering. Still more wouldn't tolerate the mixed-message of non-denominational gatherings.

Are you sure you're not a Utopian Libertarian? For a guy who waves the banner of freedom, you sure advocate some fundamentalist religious notions.

I suppose one could make a case for alienating members of the Assembly of God to keep the Methodists, Presbyterians and Baptists happy. That's the popular solution: appease the majority and ridicule the desenters.

Sep 3, 2009, 3:04am Permalink
Dave Olsen

Thanks for that Ms Stenman, I enjoyed reading your post. Ignorance is no longer bliss I guess, they want to impose it on others.

I'm with Mayor Pastecki

"The mayor finds the whole thing ugly.

"My personal feeling is that it just saddens me down to my soul," Pastecki said."

Sep 3, 2009, 8:18am Permalink
Keri Majors

Politics and Religion aside when will people understand that the growth or lack there of in a community is what shows the character of the individuals living in it. In the same way that before my time, Race was an issue. One that bred hatred for a simple difference in skin color. The community around us is breeding hatred for something as simple as sexuality. You may condemn a man of religious authority for speaking out about a changing community, I commend him. I would hope that regardless of your beliefs in God or which side of the political fence you sit on, that you would believe first and foremost hate damages sometimes beyond repair. I say congratulations to someone who recognizes the fact that at some point if we do not begin to grow and adjust to the times, we are setting our children up to deal with the same type of prejudice that we did. Wouldn’t it be amazing if our children could truly look at all people that believe with 100% of their heart that they were all equal? Reality is that in 50 years my grandchildren will be reading in there history books about a generation so close-minded they tried to stop gay people from getting married. Will they look at this issue with the same shock that I did when I learned that so many Americans fought to let women vote? Here is my political/religious thought for the day. Why don’t we grow with the times in the hopes that we can all grow as better, more open minded people who just want others to be as happy as we hope to be?

Sep 3, 2009, 10:35am Permalink
Janice Stenman

Thank you for the comments. I am no religious fanatic as you have probably guessed. But I do have a pretty fair knowledge and understanding of the Bible.

I've noticed that people want to pick and choose what laws to follow when it comes to the Bible. It is cited constantly as the never changing word of God when discussing homosexuality, but no one would seriously condemn someone for planting two crops in one field, would they? Isn't that the never changing word of God, too?

I don't think we can have it both ways. Either follow the teachings of the Bible word-for-word, down to the last burning and stoning, or use common sense and show love for our fellow man. And remember who Jesus chose to hang out with.

Sep 3, 2009, 2:11pm Permalink
Peter O'Brien

Until the gays stop acting like they are special with their parades, weird dress, and odd behavior and start joining society by acting in a normal fashion, then you will see some of the vitriol go away. Melting pot mean you change a lot and society changes little.

Sep 3, 2009, 2:17pm Permalink
C. M. Barons

Not fundamentalist as in theology, Howard; fundamentalist in the view that there is some common religious theme that defines America. It's a provincial or romantic notion that hearkens to a time when Americans could pretend to be homogeneous in their social and political ideals- pretending as in ignoring the disenfranchised racial, gender, ethnic and economic elements that didn't share in the prevailing rose-tinted glasses vision. I just watched Gangs of New York last night. The film illustrates one such dismissive period in U. S. history. There are many who insist that the United States was established as a Christian nation- justification for the current trend in religious cleansing (as in ethnic cleansing). I doubt you align with such affrontery- still defending a town's right to sanction a religious event because its nice or harmless or tradition undermines the principal of non-establishment.

Sep 3, 2009, 3:31pm Permalink
Keri Majors

I very seldom post anything on here but you infuriate me. Are you seriously this close-minded or is it just to get people fired up and comment more on your posts? In American we enjoy several freedoms all included in your more recent post. People are allowed to dress, and act to show their freedom of expression. The same way you express yourself on this blog site others do so in ways you are so quick to judge. Would being a gay person be ok if they dressed and acted like you? I Don’t think that would win them any popularity contests either. Are you really going to belittle gay people because they hold a parade in their own honor? Ever been to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade celebrating Irish people MR. O’BRIEN. In areas outside of this small community parades are held to honor about every Heritage I can think of. It’s sad to me that people still exist in this world that would judge others based on their “parades, weird dress, and odd behavior”.
You represent yourself on this site to be very educated, yet you say “the gays”. Do you realize you sound like a very angry, uneducated, prejudice and homophobic man? Are we to now refer to you as “the judgmental”? Wouldn’t that be your general description?

Sep 3, 2009, 3:44pm Permalink
C. M. Barons

Melting pot mean you change a lot and society changes little.

Where did you unearth that bit of drivel?

Melting pot is a naive concept that sprang from 5th grade history texts circa 1955. If you believe that immigrants were changed by American culture to a greater degree than American culture was changed by immigrants, you haven't eaten a souvlaki, tortillas or basmati rice.

Visit Chinatown or Little Italy or the South Bronx and tell me again about meting pots. And what the heck does melting pot have to do with sexual preference?

Sep 3, 2009, 4:03pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

C.M., first I don't any longer consider "provincial" a negative term. If putting local community ahead of nationalism, then I'll fly the provincial banner proudly. If I had the power to change the dictionary meaning of that word to take away its negative meaning, I would. I've thought about getting a bumper sticker: "Provincial and Proud."

But there's no basis for you to say "fundamentalist in the view that there is some common religious theme that defines America." Point to anything I've said that supports that statement.

Sep 3, 2009, 4:56pm Permalink
C. M. Barons

"Church life and community life are strongly tied together, and the sociological research would show the importance of how community involvement and church involevment often go hand in hand. I'm not saying, per se, it must be that way, but there is a strong history in this country of community and church being tied together.

"I think you could make the case that on a community day, religious differences should be set aside. There's plenty of time to debate theology, creed and belief without trampling on community tradition."

If this does not advocate for community sponsored religious activities, then what does it mean? Granted you supplied sufficient vaguery to straddle the fence, but your closing reference to "trampling on community tradition" appears to green-light (at least) this community's sponsored religious events.

If I've misinterpreted your stance, enlighten me.

As to provincialism, I choose to employ its ironic sense.

May 21, 2010, 9:07pm Permalink
Howard B. Owens

C.M., I'm merely saying that traditionally, involvement in religious activity and civic activity have a strong overlap.

As Bill Clinton said, religion belongs in the public square. It can't, shouldn't be shut aside.

I'm not expressing any religious preference. In this day and age, I would include Buddhists as well Baptists, so I don't see that as being fundamentalist.

It's inappropriate to shut religion out of civic life.

That isn't advocacy for state-sponsored religious events, but on the flip side there is nothing wrong with religious-sponsored events in the public square.

Traditionally a strong religious community has coincided with a strong civic community. Can they be separated? I don't know, but you're breaking the bonds of what has traditionally worked well in all countries if you start trying to shove aside religion in favor of a purely secular community.

I'm not advocating religious activity or any particular religion, merely stating the nature of beneficial co-existence.

That's why I found your statement so off-base and I don't see how any reasonable accusation of fundamentalism can be inferred from my previous statement.

Sep 3, 2009, 6:31pm Permalink
C. M. Barons

There is a wide berth between "shutting religion out of civic life" and maintaining a religiously neutral government. Oakfield should encourage its civic organizations including churches to sponsor Labor Day programs and consider those programs part of their official celebration. Religion doesn't have to be discouraged nor advocated.

Instead of attempting to manufacture a one size fits all eccumenical service, let each church participate independently. Those who choose to partake of a religious observance will gravitate to the church of their choice and find suitable communion without controversy.

Herein lies the prime misunderstanding between those who favor separation of church/state and those who oppose it. Separating church and state in a non-establishmentary way does not discourage or suppress religion or its practice. It prevents those in authority from promoting, influencing or endorsing religion. It may require non-traditional approaches to including religion in the program, hence, some dismay to those who find change disconcerting. Ultimately it will make celebrations more attractive to those who might not have felt welcome when the religious theme ran contrary to their own.

The controversy over gay marriage would never have been connected to Oakfield Labor Daze had the pastor not been connected to the celebration.

Sep 3, 2009, 7:14pm Permalink
David Lazik

Thanks for setting the record straight Janice! You done all readers a great service by posting this & laying bare fundamentalist (a.k.a literalist) hypocrisy!

Oct 21, 2009, 12:13pm Permalink

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