Last Saturday morning, Evan Anderson, a young queer activist in Anchorage, Alaska, along with two of his friends from the city’s LGBT community, hit the streets looking for Steven Anderson, the pastor of Tempe, Arizona-based anti-LGBT hate group Faithful Word Baptist Church.
Steven Anderson had announced a “soul-winning” event in Anchorage on Facebook, and “we got tipped off that something was happening,” Evan says. “I wasn’t super familiar with his work, but after a quick search on Google it was pretty apparent he’s a pretty bad actor.”
“Bad actor” is an understatement when it comes to Steven Anderson and the Faithful Word Baptist Church. He has repeatedly called for LGBT people to be executed, and after the tragic 2016 massacre of 48 people at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, jubilantly celebrated “50 less pedophiles in this world.”
Besides advocating for the death of LGBT people, Steven Anderson also made an antisemitic film and promoted Holocaust denial, saying the Jews lied about the Holocaust in order to create the state of Israel, and that slave laborers at Auschwitz were compensated for their work and could buy items at a commissary.
Evan Anderson and his fellow activists were concerned Steven Anderson was coming to Anchorage — at the very least, the “soul-winning mega-marathon” was promised to take place at a local cafe, on the streets of Anchorage, and at a cheesesteak lunch joint.
The “soul-winning” event was happening just three days before today’s Anchorage’s municipal election, where an anti-transgender “bathroom bill” sponsored by Christian far-right extremists is on the ballot, as Proposition 1.
“We honestly feared a connection with Prop 1,” Evan Anderson says. “We were super concerned.”
Anderson belongs to an activist collective called Alaska Rising Tide, a local chapter of an international network that formed around climate change activism, but since the 2016 election of Donald Trump, Evan Anderson says, they began expanding their causes, including opposing Proposition 1. “I’m a queer man, and we have several other folks who identify as queer or as LGBTQ, so this Prop 1 issue was especially important to us.”
Weeks before, at an Iditarod sled dog race event, Alaska Rising Tide had dropped a banner with a huge poop emoji reading, “Flush Jim Minnery; No on Prop 1.” (Minnery is head of the far-right Alaska Family Council, and he and his wife Kim are the primary forces behind the anti-transgender “bathroom bill”; both have long been involved in anti-LGBT equality campaigns in Anchorage.)
So Evan and two LGBT friends from Alaska Rising Tide went in search of Steven Anderson, armed with a photo of the hatemonger to try to identify him in the Saturday morning breakfast crowd at a popular local cafe.
They wouldn’t find Steven Anderson -- the event in Anchorage was one of many across the country, in all 50 states, the Faithful Word Baptist Church website claims, where Steven Anderson supporters proselytized -- “soul-winning,” in their vernacular. Anderson appears to have remained in Arizona for the event, issuing “live results” on YouTube and Twitter announcing how many “souls” were “won.”
What they found — and what’s featured in a short video posted to Alaska Rising Tide’s Facebook page — were five people sitting at a table with two Bibles, none of them Steven Anderson, but one who Evan says identified himself as Robert Alcorta, the organizer of the Alaska event according to its Facebook page. (Alcorta did not respond to a message from Hatewatch left on his cell phone.)
Evan Anderson says his female friend, who has kept anonymous and does not appear in the video, approached their table alone and asked if they were connected with the “soul-winning;” when they answered in the affirmative, she attempted to read them a letter she’d written to Jim and Kim Minnery detailing her experience growing up Catholic, and dealing with the internalized homophobia and conflict that resulted.
“They pretty immediately, forcefully and violently told her she was not welcome at their table because of her sexual orientation,” Evan says. He and his male friend approached the table then, and the conversation, caught on video, went as follows:
“You homos! You long-haired hippies, get out of here!”
“Why are you worshipping with people that hate and think gay and trans people need to be executed?” Evan asks them.
“It’s what the Bible says,” a man Evan identifies as Alcorta, the organizer, replies.
Both groups were quickly kicked out by the management of the building housing the cafe, Evan says. But later in the day, Evan traveled to their lunch meetup at the cheesesteak restaurant. “I just wanted to have a lower-key conversation with them,” he says.
“Lower-key” was not to be, as shown in the second part of the Facebook video.
“If you guys have a congregation around, I’d love to come worship sometime,” Evan says.
“Yeah, no, you’re not welcome,” an unidentified member of Alcorta’s group replies.
“I’m not welcome?”
“No. No homos allowed.”
“No homos allowed in your church… I’ve never heard of a church like that.”
“Well, now you have. No homos allowed. We don’t let in pedophiles and murderers.”
“I’m not a pedophile.”
“You’re so full of shit.”
“I’m full of shit?”
“Yeah — I know you’re a pedophile. You’re full of murder, you asshole.”
“Murder? Who’s been murdered?” Evan asks. “You guys are the ones talking about murdering gays.”
“Just go, we don’t want to talk to you.”
Evan and his friends were denied the opportunity to confront Steven Anderson himself this past Saturday, but apparently found his flock in Anchorage, Alaska, which left Evan a bit shocked, despite what he’d read about Faithful Word Baptist Church on the internet.
“I grew up in a church, I still consider myself a Christian, I went to Easter worship,” Evan says. “And I’ve legitimately never met someone who possessed those kinds of beliefs and then also drawn this weird bizarre connection to faith — that’s privilege on my part, of course, that I’d not dealt with that yet, but I was just genuinely searching for more layers or more information because I truly cannot understand these people’s perspective.”
Photo Illustration by SPLC