By Amos Bridges, Springfield News-Leader
A Springfield pastor's comments from a City Council meeting in August have gone viral, bringing a city debate over gay rights to the national stage.
Recorded during the City Council meeting Aug. 13, the comments by Rev. Phil Snider were posted to YouTube.com on Aug. 20. The video received a relatively scant number of views initially, but took off Friday when it was shared by online news agencies and former Star Trek actor George Takei.
As of this (Tuesday) afternoon, the video had been viewed more than 2.4 million times.
Snider, the pastor of Brentwood Christian Church, was one of more than 60 people to speak during a three-hour public hearing on a proposed ordinance adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the city's non-discrimination ordinance.
Initially, he appeared to oppose the ordinance, which would have made it illegal for businesses and landlords to discriminate against gay, lesbian or transgender employees, customers and tenants.
"Any accurate reading of the Bible should make it clear that gay rights goes against the plain truth of the word of God ...," Snider said. "It's not that we don't care about homosexuals, but it's that our rights will be taken away and un-Christian views will be forced on us and our children for we will be forced to go against our personal morals."
The speech went on, with Snider asserting that "(t)he right of segregation is clearly established by the Holy Scriptures, both by precept and example." Then came a twist.
"I'm sorry, I brought the wrong notes with me this evening," Snider said. "I borrowed my argument from the wrong century. It turns out, what I have been reading to you this whole time are direct quotes from white preachers in the 1950s and the 1960s, all in support of racial segregation.
"All I have done is simply take out the phrase 'racial integration' and substituted it with the phrase 'gay rights.'"
Snider then urged council members to "stand on the right side of history" by supporting the ordinance, which has since been tabled indefinitely so it can be reviewed by an as-yet-unappointed task force.
In a post on his blog, Snider said he was surprised by the popularity of the video but appreciates "the kind words of affirmation and support" he has received since it began circulating online.
The post includes links to sermons and other resources related to Biblical teachings and homosexuality, as well as denominations supportive of gay rights.
"A lot of people ask, 'How can a pastor who values the Bible take this kind of stance?' Truth be told, there are a bunch of pastors and people of faith across the country who are open and affirming - not in spite of their faith, but precisely because of it," Snider wrote. " ... We may not be big churches or fancy churches, but we are there."