Tensions erupt between T.O. church group, neighbours
Published Tuesday, August 24, 2010 9:26PM EDT
Tensions have erupted between residents of an east-Toronto neighbourhood and a church group accused of preaching hate outside the home of a local same-sex couple.
Over the weekend about a dozen parishioners were confronted by about 10 residents of the street.
Local resident Geoff Skelding captured the moment on video and posted it to YouTube -- allegedly after the group prayed outside the home of the gay couple and condemned them as sinners.
"We have a right to call the police," says one of the residents in the video. "We don't want your kind of people on the street, you're hateful people, that's what you are, you're hateful."
The confrontation took place in the Leslieville neighbourhood near Dundas Street East and Greenwood Avenue. It's the same community where the church, Highfield Road Gospel Hall, is located.
The video shows only the confrontation and not the alleged actions that led up to it. In it the parishioners, wearing suits and dresses and carrying Bibles, defend their right to express their beliefs.
"Freedom of speech," says one woman. "If you don't want to hear, go in your house, close the door."
"We have the authority to preach the gospel," says another man. He adds: "We've been doing this for 70 years."
One of the residents quickly responds: "And we've hated it for the whole time! Because we'll have a nice night and there will be people yelling."
Two of the parishioners appear to act as spokespeople for the group, while the others stand on the sidewalk watching the debate.
Eventually the church group leaves, sent on their way with a chorus of parting shots from residents:
"We don't go to your house and tell you what to believe," says one.
Another shouts: "You don't know what love means."
Another yells: "Stay the hell out of my neighbourhood."
"You are not welcome," says another.
In the description of the video he posted to YouTube, Skelding said the parishioners have been active in the area for years.
"Apparently they have been grouping in front of a couple's house and reading their bible loudly for the past 7 years," he wrote.
"They may have also driven another couple from the area as well by doing the same thing. Tonight most of our neighbours came out and were successful in getting them to leave. The people who go to that church don't even live in our area!"
Attempts by CTV News to contact representatives of Highfield Road Gospel Hall on Tuesday were unsuccessful.