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May 8th, 2012
02:02 PM ET

Pastor who sparked outrage over hitting gay children speaks out

By David Mattingly and Eric Marrapodi, CNN

Fayetteville, North Carolina (CNN)– A pastor who advocated hitting boys who display effeminate qualities is expressing regret for the sermon he delivered in the midst of a controversial marriage amendment battle.

"Dads, the second you see your son dropping the limp wrist, you walk over there and crack that wrist," Sean Harris, the pastor of Berean Baptist Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina, told his congregants in his sermon on April 28. He continued, "Man up, give them a good punch, OK. 'You're not going to act like that. You were made by God to be a male and you're going to be a male.'"

This week Harris said, "I was telling them in strong words that were not careful. What did I learn this week? Be more careful with your words."

Harris' comments came in a heated environment in the Tarheel State. On Tuesday, voters will cast ballots on Amendment One, which would amend the state constitution to say that "Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State."

While North Carolina already has a law banning same-sex marriage, the passage of the amendment would effectively ban same-sex civil unions and domestic partnerships.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

Churches across the state have taken opposing sides on the issue. George Reed, the head of the North Carolina Council of Churches, which is opposing the amendment, says the support breaks along traditional battle lines. He says many Catholic and independent evangelical churches support the amendment and many mainline churches oppose it.

On Sunday, a full-page advertisement from the world's most famous evangelist, long-time North Carolina resident Billy Graham, ran in 14 newspapers across the state.

The ad featured the 93-year-old evangelist's picture and read, "I never thought we would have to debate the definition of marriage." It continued, "The Bible is clear - God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman. I want to urge my fellow North Carolinians to vote for the marriage amendment on Tuesday, May 8. God bless you as you vote.”

Graham has shied away from other hot-button political issues in the past. His spokesman, A. Larry Ross, noted he had kept silent when similar ballot issues appeared in 30 other states but felt compelled to speak up this time because the debate was raging in his home state.

“For him it’s a timeless message, not a timely issue. He’s preached this for 60 years. He was reinforcing the positive message he has been preaching," Ross said. “For him it’s not a political issue, it’s a moral issue.”

Harris' controversial sermon was focused on the amendment debate and he is encouraging his members to vote for the marriage amendment.

Harris said he preaches a biblical interpretation at the Berean Baptist Church - that homosexuality is a choice and that the Bible teaches it is sinful behavior.

The church is an independent congregation that began in 1967 after members left Grace Baptist church "in reaction to the liberal influence in the Southern Baptist Convention," its website says.

When Harris' sermon hit the Internet, it became a flashpoint for the statewide debate. Harris says he became the target of angry, hateful messages filled with profanity and multiple death threats after telling parents how to deal with children and effeminate behavior.

"You know, it's amazing how 'punch' has been equated to inciting violence against gay youth. That's not what I meant," the pastor said.

Instead, he said, the reference should be interpreted differently: "A shove, an affirmation. You see coaches give their players a good punch, a good slug. It's a way of affirming the gender distinctions between a male and a female," he said.

Anyone looking for a sweeping apology will be disappointed.

"I was apologizing for failing to say the right thing, for failing to be more careful, to make sure that no one thinks that Sean Harris is suggesting, as was said - although I never said this - ... 'Beat the gay outta children.' Those weren't my words, I didn't even believe there is such a thing as gay children. So I wasn't saying that. I was dealing with effeminate behavior, and instructing parents to affirm the manhood or the womanhood in their children," he said.

Congregants have stood by and supported their pastor. Prior to the service on Sunday, Harris received a standing ovation. Police kept watch outside the church. Demonstrators were kept at a distance.

"He always has a little levity into it and that's why we all laughed. We know our pastor," one member said.

Harris said he won't apologize for for what he called doing his job.

"No, I don't think that I need to apologize for preaching to my people what the word of God says. That's my responsibility."

See the full interview with Harris on Tuesday on "AC360."

Watch Anderson Cooper 360° weeknights 8pm ET. For the latest from AC360° click here.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Baptist • Belief • Billy Graham • Christianity • Church and state • TV-Anderson Cooper 360

soundoff (1,109 Responses)
  1. Hemlock

    This dude knows nothing about Christianity. This kind of behavior didn't work when Nuns were slapping left handed people with rulers and it won't work with perceived feminine activity. It's hard to believe anyone could be this moronic and still be able to dress himself.

    May 8, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • YeahRight

      What's really sad is the brainwashed people that were cheering for him too.

      May 8, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • Ting

      YeahRight,

      Right you are.

      May 8, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • jalek

      You sound like you wouldn't beat a kid that played with a doll. The "action figure" claims don't wash, beat them for those too.
      No kittens around boys, they should be stomping on those, it's dogs or nothing for them.
      Clearly this would result in them liking women, for obvious reasons.

      Gotta love lunatic logic, especially when people make a profession of it.

      May 9, 2012 at 3:54 am |
    • Jerome Horowitz

      I was a lefty who went through that in the early 1960s, until my parents went down and straightened the nuns out. At least as far as that went.

      May 9, 2012 at 11:53 am |
  2. Voice of Reason

    The psychological abuse is the real problem, yes the punching is definitely out of bounds but like someone posted what about the cheering congregation, now that is really, really disturbing. When you start these thought implants at a very early age those people will continue the cycle with their children. If there is an evil this is the epitome of it, period.

    May 8, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • edwardo

      Always glad to see you on here. I am a fan of yours.

      May 8, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
  3. Typical Atheist....

    IS FULL OF SHlT 😦

    May 8, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
    • Huebert

      Oh you hurt my feelings.

      May 8, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Typical Christian

      Darn those full of shit atheists who say that being a homophobe and hitting your children is actually a bad thing. That's so full of shit.

      May 8, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
  4. chelsea

    Is this how Jesus would have instructed us to treat our children?. sounds like this Pastor is serving the other guy!

    May 8, 2012 at 5:45 pm |
    • Ting

      Haven't you heard the song 'Jesus loves the little children'? There is a footnote that says, "unless their gay". Look for it in the hymn book.

      May 8, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Ting

      oops typed too fast. "They're" .

      May 8, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  5. Voice of Reason

    This man needs to be put away, he is dangerous, seriously.

    May 8, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Huebert

      Unfortunately freedom of speech includes really REALLY dumb speech. But on the bright side if this a$$hat of a pastor can speak his mind you know that you are safe.

      May 8, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • Ting

      Even scarier is the congregation. They are the ones that will be going home and beating the crap out of their children. Maybe this pastor will be successful in ruining some families. Rather than being taught to love their children, they are being taught hate by this ignorant individual. Thanks religion. Your're the best.

      May 8, 2012 at 5:49 pm |
  6. God's Oldest Dreamer

    The Acts of S.e.x.i.s.m are many ever younger dreamboats' audascious pleasings! Outside of the marriage boundaries are of gentle unworthiness actions of the Acts wherefrom was once a thing for the now forlorned married sakedness issues! Due in part is that the parental folks cannot indelibly ink the reason with their children the impracticalities of their young seeking moments of serpentine pleasures! Eat, drink and be layed are of today's mantra!

    As liberalisms catch up and outrule and overules the pla.t.i.tudes of religious freedoms,- such liberally minded propensialities will soon become the commoners' sciences of the hippo-critical voterisms' degradations! Eat and Drink and Be layed all without knowing one's Acts in and of illed actions there-from! Eat as a glutton does and drink as an alcoholic does and be layed as do the young so do nowadays! Be liberal and be gay for it is now but the only way!

    I agree that many children do emulate missgivings toward those that are seen as being different! I have no true animosities against a child being or even acting differently than the normalisms prevelancies! There really should be a type of monitorization in all public places to ensure that people do not willfully engage in Acts and actions against others for spieful means! I see no reason for just such athing becoming a reality! Eat therefore too much and drink it all up and be layed wasted upon one's isms' of judgmental Acts and perverted actions!

    Yes I am saying that all public space should be monitored for the welfare of the people's benefits! I am not like those christians who eye one's nation's governement as being the anti-christ! Neither am I complacent among those who see the governemnt as "Big-Brother"! I have no animosity whatsoeer against a control means of monitoring all public spaces where ever possible! Eat like a glutton and drink like an alcoholic and get layed with much frequency for such is the will of the people's egoisms!

    May 8, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • jalek

      Ah, so you've been reading your Islamic Brotherhood pamphlets. Nearly quoted them word for word.
      Don't expect Shariah to take off in the US though, you'd be better off finding a more sympathetic nation.

      May 8, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
  7. Ting

    'Prior to the service on Sunday, Harris received a standing ovation.'

    That's nice. Maybe next Sunday they can have a good old fashioned stoning of a gay person or beat one of their own back to the "straight" and narrow.

    May 8, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  8. Tracey

    Lord God what is this world comming to so many with no faith

    May 8, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • Derke

      Faith has nothing to do with morality or goodness. Some of the most hateful, morally repugnant people I've ever know are filled with faith and some of the most compassionate and intelligent people I've ever known are atheists. What you believe in religiously has nothing to do with your quality as a human being, nor does who you are attracted to.

      May 8, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Ting

      I have faith that humans will eventually stop following ancient books.

      May 8, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
    • Huebert

      Faith dies as Ideas are shared. The internet is poison to religion.

      May 8, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • Ting

      Religion is poison to mankind.

      May 8, 2012 at 6:01 pm |
    • Patty

      Tracey, I know right. Let's pray ok? Dear lord please show these sinners the true way of bigotry and abuse of anyone different then us amen.

      May 8, 2012 at 6:46 pm |
    • Doodlebug2222

      Derke – BINGO – The ones that do the worst, act the worst and generally the same ones reading their bible, having bible studies, and saying AMEN every few minutes ....

      May 23, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
  9. *frank*

    Dear Mr Pastor
    Fuck off and die in a large fire.
    Thanks, me

    May 8, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      You forgot slowly.

      May 8, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • momoya

      On a pile of bullet ants.

      May 8, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Step 1 – Take a railroad spike and nail his pĕcker to a tree stump.
      Step 2 – Light tree stump on fire.
      Step 3 – Hand him a dull butter knife.
      Step 4 – Step back and enjoy.

      May 8, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  10. God's Oldest Dreamer

    As liberalisms catch up and outrule and overules the pla.t.i.tudes of religious freedoms such liberally minded propensialities will soon becomes the commoners' sciences of the hippo-critical voteurisms degradations! Eat and Drink and Be layed all without knowing one's Acts in actions there-from! Eat as a gltton does and drink as an alcoholic does and be layed as do the young so do nowadays! Be liberal and be gay for it is now but the only way!

    May 8, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • just sayin

      Your a spunk guzzler. God bless.

      May 8, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Sunni Parker

      I apologize if I am being ignorant, but, what in the heck are you talking about?

      May 8, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Ummmm OK

      Interjecting big fancy words in your disjointed nonsensical ramblings does not make them make sense. Just makes them even more nonsensical..

      Better hurry, you're going to miss your bus back home to crazy-town..

      May 14, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  11. Mikee

    Gay children and people committ suicide because they are messed up mentally...That is a FACT!

    May 8, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Any chance they commit suicide because of the hatred of and treatment by others, many of whom claim they are doing god's work by continuing to condemn and withhold equal rights?

      May 8, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • God's Oldest Dreamer

      Lets use ra pe as a weapon just like the Africans do!

      May 8, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • God's Oldest Dreamer

      Mikee et al,,,,,,,,,,,, ,

      The above labelled as being my namesakes is of fraudulent workings from a name stealer! Note well the blue color and my name sake color as being black!

      May 8, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • God's Oldest Dreamer

      HotAirAce,,,,,,,,,,,, ,

      I agree that many children do emulate missgivings toward those that are seen as being different! I have no true animosities against a child being or even acting differently than the normalisms prevelancies! There really should be a type of monitorization in all public places to ensure that people do not willfully engage in Acts and actions against others for spieful means! I see no reason for just such athing becoming a reality! Eat therefore too much and drink it all up and be layed wasted upon one's isms' of judgmental Acts and perverted actions!

      May 8, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • Beelzebub

      ..and certainly not because of the unending torture they receive at the hands of conflicted, sadistic, closeted gays in denial like yourself.

      May 8, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • Huebert

      @Dreamer

      So your saying that you are for all public places being constantly monitored?

      May 8, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
    • God's Oldest Dreamer

      Huebert,,,,,,,,,,,, ,

      Yes I am saying that all public space should be monited for the welfare of the people's benefits! I am not like those christians who eye one's nation's governement as being the anti-christ! Neither am I complacent among those who see the governemnt as "Big-Brother"! I ahve no animosity whatsoeer against a control means of monitoring all public spaces where ever possible! Eat like a glutton and drink like an alcoholic and get layed with much frequency for such is the will of the people's egoisms!

      May 8, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Huebert

      @Dreamer

      ...............................wow, good bye dreamer.

      May 8, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • YeahRight

      "Gay children and people committ suicide because they are messed up mentally...That is a FACT!"

      Your opinion isn't fact idiot. The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Counseling Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of SocialWorkers, together representing more than 480,000 mental health professionals, have all taken the position that homosexuality is not a mental disorder and thus is not something that needs to or can be “cured."

      Notice the last sentence. DUH!

      May 8, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
    • Ashamed to be a christian

      @ dreamer......
      thank you for killing any faith in god i had by opening ur repetative ignorant mouth you sodding git

      May 9, 2012 at 12:24 am |
  12. NORMAL

    – I'm a Christian who is anti-abortion but also anti-death penalty
    – I don't hate or ridicule gays. I could care less if someone's gay. Let the government grant certificates to ALL couples and the church grant marriage certificates to whom it deems fit.
    – I don't shove my religion on anyone. I try to live a good honest life, if someone asks me about my beliefs I'm happy to share. Otherwise I keep it to myself.
    – I am not offended or scared of atheists. I'm confident in my beliefs and they are not made out of ignorance and absence of research.
    – I will help out all people, whether gay/straight, Christian/Muslim/atheist.

    That is me. Now everyone stop with the garbage name calling and go out and do something productive to society.

    May 8, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care

      I am an atheist who is pro-abortion (not just pro-choice) and pro-death penalty

      May 8, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • LinCA

      @NORMAL

      You said, "– I don't hate or ridicule gays. I could care less if someone's gay. Let the government grant certificates to ALL couples and the church grant marriage certificates to whom it deems fit."
      Marriage predates all currently dominant religions. The religious don't own the term. If the believers don't want to participate they can form their own religious unions. Civil marriage should be open to all consenting adults.

      As far as I'm concerned, churches can set up their own rules for who can enter into their form of religious union. They are free to keep calling it "marriage", as long as it is understood that they don't have exclusive use of the term.

      The only involvement that the government has to have is in their role as protector of those that can't protect themselves. Restrictions on the religious union should include minors, animals and mentally handicapped people, as they can't provide informed consent. Close relatives should be excluded because of the high medical risks associated with such relationships. But, as long as the relationship isn't abusive, and all concerned enter into it of their own free will, even polygamy should be allowed.

      The government need not care if these religious unions are restricted to opposite sex couples, or same race couples, or even if they allow people to join their mail box, or other inanimate objects, in holy matrimony.

      If the union meets the requirements under the law, they can be eligible for recognition as a civil marriage. That should be the only way these unions are eligible for the rights and protections provided to civil marriages.

      May 8, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • Voice of Reason

      @LinCA

      Thank you for that but unfortunately they just don't get it.

      May 8, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  13. Turbokat

    Stupidity and ignorance go hand in hand.....and, sadly, there is no getting through to people like Sean Harris!

    May 8, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • unknown

      This is hilarious. The more and more antigays try to stand by there arguments the more they become there own worst enemies. I am a lesbian and I just sit back and watch these silly arguments on the issue.. Its the same old stuff now and days. " Marriage is only between an man and a woman. Wow really. Come on now.. I cant wait for an argument to actually make some sense. If I actually find one I might just stop being gay. Because ya know what If im convinced enough maybe I will reach deep down in my soul and realize... hey they are right this is a decision that I have " chosen" to make...( oh my god im cracking myself up). Like honestly come up with a better arguement and maybe us gays will give this fight up so we can start working on the economy.. UNTIL THEN WE WILL CONTINUE TO FIGHT AND DIVERT ATTENTION AWAY FROM THE ECONOMY UNTIL WE GET THE RIGHTS DUE TO US. playing with someone elses life if not some game. If people dont like gays dont be gay. If people dont wanna see it stop thinking about our bedrooms and mind your own business.. This country does the most rediculous things to keep people from having basic rights.. WE ARE MAKING ISSUES MORE COMPLEX..

      May 11, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Doodlebug2222

      Unknown – Didn't you get the Memo? People like this only want ALL of us to have the same, loving, married, relationships straight couples have. With the husband beating the wife regularly, sometimes the son, and of course let's not forge impregnanting or molesting the young daughters. ALL males and females should be able to have loving straight-marriages exactly like this..

      May 23, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
  14. Sherry

    I wonder what Christ would say to that. The only thing close to violence or physical rebuke by him was always aimed at the religious community. I think Jesus would be ashamed.

    May 8, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  15. FACT!!!

    FACT.......atheists have no real basis in morals. They can have morals, but they have no real basis. I understand that this sort of philosophical thinking is abhorrent to atheists but it's true.

    Go ahead and tell me how I'm wrong, dumb, etc. Your words which are so often lies have no basis in reality, no matter how many times you insist otherwise

    May 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      You are wrong...

      I trust the collective wisdom of duly elected persons, working within agreed to processes, to set standards, and punishments, for the society I live in.

      History has shown the various of forms of democracy have outperformed The Babble in terms of "doing the right thing." One only has to look at slavery as an example.

      Do you really want to live 100% according to The Babble? 100%???

      May 8, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Huebert

      You're wrong. I could waste time explaining how and why you are wrong but you've already made up your mind so why bother.

      May 8, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • Eeesh

      Mind learning what the word "fact" means before you go using it incorrectly?

      Thanks

      May 8, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Snow

      @Fact, Answer this question then: Do you do good and be moral because it is the right thing to do? or because your god commanded you to do and you are afraid you will burn in hell if you do not follow the rule?

      May 8, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • Ting

      Here's a fact. You don't get your morals from the Bible. If you did, you would find yourself locked up.

      May 8, 2012 at 5:39 pm |
    • asdf

      As humans, we can either base our morals on the ethic of reciprocity (rehashed by Christians as the "golden rule") by what we see and observe and glean from talking to people, or based on what some manipulative humans wrote down two millennia ago, which was subsequently passed through numerous translations and corrupted.

      I choose to think for myself than have someone (read: another, long dead person) think for me.

      May 8, 2012 at 6:51 pm |
    • Wanda

      I have a basis for my morality they are the two tenents of my moral compass.

      1. Do nothing to put yourself or another person in danger
      2. My civil rights end where another person's civil rights start.

      Fact.... you don't know what you are talking about.

      May 9, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • Doodlebug2222

      So it hurts you for them to NOT believe? Do you think it hurts them for you TO believe? Live and let live...

      May 23, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
  16. scotty501

    How many more teens will commit suicide because of this ignorant outdated thinking? It directly contradicts the AMA APA. The gay stereotype that people have limo wrists is from the 1950s. I gay and could flatten that minister with one punch

    May 8, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  17. Primewonk

    Did a Junior High school let out a few minutes ago? Is that the reason all these stupid ignorant îdiotic môronic sockpuppets showed up here?

    May 8, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Sunni Parker

      My thoughts exactly; well said.

      May 8, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  18. Tom Paine

    They left the Southern Baptist Convention in 1967 for its liberalism? Oh the Southern Baptist Church is such a hotbed of liberalism now, one can only imagine how liberal it was in 1967. 😉

    May 8, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  19. Doc Vestibule

    He broke the 11th commandment – Thou Shalt Not Get Caught

    May 8, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  20. Steve

    There is no kind way to say this man is a looser.

    May 8, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Gods goo

      A dong blazer for sure. He dreams of stuffing his butt full of meat.

      May 8, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.