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. Fallacy Spotting 101

    Atheists seem so hateful. I pity and feel bad for you all. May God have mercy on you.

    May 8, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Jessica

      Yes they do. It doesn't matter what they say, the truth is painfully obvious. I'm not even speaking of the atheists on these comments, although they seem to also fit the bill, but I'm speaking of the ones I know in real life.

      Peace be to all, stop the hate.

      May 8, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Gods goo

      fvck you

      May 8, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Cq

      Yup, not so "hateful" as someone who speaks out against child abuse.

      May 8, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      I challenge you to find a single hateful comment that I have posted on these boards.

      May 8, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • HawaiiGuest

      And if you want to see hateful, go take a look at pervet alert's posts. That's where you'll see hateful.

      May 8, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Huebert

      Everyone is hateful at times. Especially when provoked by a self-righteous bigot.

      May 8, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • You must shop at Clichés R Us

      'They seem so hateful" – that's just what the white southerners used to say about the blacks during Civil Rights, and what the Nazis said about the Jews as they hunted them down, and what the Turks said about the Armenians as they exterminated them, and what the Bolsheviks said about all the various groups they went after, and what the Catholic Church says about the abuse victims, etc, etc, etc

      Interesting pattern.

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

      You must shop at Clichés R Us, it called demonetization, the religious fanatics are good at it. It gives them an excuse to do harm.

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

      Demonetizing means they are either no longer backing their currency with gold. Did you perhaps mean demonization?

      May 8, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • mandarax

      Yeah, stop the hate and come join us in beating down those filthy gays. (give me a break)

      May 8, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
    • Cq

      Their scriptures say that they will be hated, but it's hard to play the victim card when you're the ones doing the victimizing. So, they have to demonize all who oppose what they do. That way, they can believe that they have the moral high ground necessary to justify doing what they want to do.

      May 8, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Harry the Hat

      @Cq It's really cool that they codified their persecution complex right into their scripture! Whoever wrote that book was one fine grifter – he had all the angles down on deceptively overcoming legitimate criticism!

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

      pot meet kettle, kettle meet pot. That log in your eye is huge!

      May 8, 2012 at 6:43 pm |
    • BadPolitx

      Some perhaps, I however do not hate Christians. I think it's delusional but MOST of the time it's pretty harmless.
      I was raised as such, but this "hitting" remark from this guy is to point: Religion can be dangerous!
      Some people don't think, they just do as the preacher tells them too.
      It's sad but true.

      May 23, 2012 at 6:47 pm |
  2. Doc Vestibule

    Cap'n Sayin Atheism Isn't an Angry Pervert Sue Neumann is back on the trolling job!

    May 8, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • captain america

      Show your proofs or keep your bull sh it to yourself. Unneeded foreigner, unneeded there as well. There's your sign

      May 8, 2012 at 6:42 pm |
  3. Nonimus

    I see that I have raise the ire of just sayin/no god/et al. and shall now bear the torrent of abusive name jackings.

    Good bye and peace to all.

    May 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Except f age. I hate f age.

      May 8, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Huebert

      @fake Nonimus

      Did you really just misspell a three letter word...TWICE!?!?!?

      May 8, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Nonimus

      What is a "f age"? just curious.

      May 8, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Huebert


      I think the fake you meant f@g but apparently that is to complex of a word for their little troll brain.

      May 8, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • fred

      Hell awiats those who deny the love of naked children.

      May 8, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • The Four Fluffy Kittens of the Apocalypse Get Jealous

      Hey, why does everyone else get a troll! I want a troll too! And I want one who is just as stupid as this one! You guys all get the best morons as your trolls!

      Hey just sayin! While you are doing all those other troll imitations, could you do me too?

      May 8, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  4. JohnQuest

    Does anyone else see what wrong with his "apology"? He thinks his only error were the words he used, not the fact that he thinks it's okay to abuse\murder people. Sad, another reason I'm not a Christian.

    May 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Gods goo

      His back pedaling is very common among Christians. Rather than accept responsibility for his actions he trys to twist and worm his way out. Typical.

      May 8, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Tex Gritter

      if I had to guess, I would say that "goo" probably knows more than he lets on about "worming his way out."

      May 8, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
  5. Honey Badger Dont Care

    Backpeadling like a mofracky!!

    That guy needs to go to jail for something. I think that next time I go to Fayettenam I'm going to go and look that guy up.

    May 8, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Yeah just google image "male docking" and you will understand what Honey Badger is talking about.

      May 8, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I see that I have raise the ire of just sayin/no god/et al. and shall now bear the torrent of abusive name jackings.

      Good bye and peace to all

      May 8, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Gods goo

      What's the deal with all the "Nonimus" posts?

      May 8, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  6. Nonimus

    Sounds like he's in-line with the bible:
    "And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee:" Matthew 5:30

    Although, I wonder what should happen if the Bible itself were to "offend thee"?

    May 8, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • just sayin

      cut it off

      May 8, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Nii

      The god of the bible would cut your face off and shove it up your butt.

      May 8, 2012 at 3:33 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I would ra pe his mouth with a pick axe after slitting his neck a shooting my hot man milk in the bloody wound.

      May 8, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • GodPot

      So if a Christian has a child that turns out to be gay, shouldn't the Christian cut off his penis? It obviously offended him...

      May 8, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • GodPot

      Or maybe on the chance that their future child could might turn out gay, they should just preemptively cut off their penises before having a baby...

      May 8, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • fred

      Ouch, you guys bring new meaning the term sin which is an offense against God.

      May 8, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Honey Badger Dont Care


      To be biblicly accurate you should kiII the kid on the spot.

      May 8, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • sam stone

      fred: and you bring an expanded meaning to the term "arrogance" for purporting to speak for god

      May 8, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I see that I have raise the ire of just sayin/no god/et al. and shall now bear the torrent of abusive name jackings.

      Good bye and peace to all..

      May 8, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • fred

      Sam Stone
      How is it I speak for God? If I speak for God then who do you speak for? Perhaps you prefer simple quotes like Genesis 6:
      6 The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. 7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created.
      Now why would a loving God do that based on you, GodPot and the fake Nonimus

      May 8, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • Fred

      I just way to fondle kids. Ist that to much to ask?

      May 8, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  7. just sayin

    "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."
    And he didn't learn a thing. He just proved how hateful and backwards the Christian Taliban really is.

    May 8, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • Nii

      I think we should ra pe his anus with a broken glass bottle. Yeah that's hot! Given myself a hard on just thinking about butt blood!

      May 8, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • GodPot

      "What did I learn this week? Be more careful with your words."

      What he means is he is sorry he was not more sneaky when discussing how he feels Christians should behave. He knows now that being honest is not always the best way to present yourself if you have a hidden agenda of violence towards a certain part of the populace.

      May 8, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • Nonimus

      He just wants to fist kids in the butt hole, that's all.

      May 8, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I see that I have raised the ire of just sayin/no god/et al. and shall now bear the torrent of abusive name jackings.

      Good bye and peace to all .

      May 8, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  8. Rev. Sean Harris

    There is nothing wrong with a little pre-emptive gay-bashing. It's best done on your own children, because they are too small to fight back effectively.

    I did it to my son for years, and no sign of gay at all! And we are hopeful the lawyers can effectively deal with his minor little school shooting incident.

    May 8, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  9. pervert alert

    It would be better to break a pansies limp wrist completely off than to let it become a grown qu -eer and enter hell with two good wrists.

    May 8, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • pervert alert

      I myself am very good with both of my wrists.

      May 8, 2012 at 3:04 pm |
    • Huebert

      A great study came out a few years ago. Straight men where fitted with a device to measure their arousal and where then shown a po.rnographic movie consisting of either a male and a female or two males. The interesting result of this study was that the only group of men that had any...reaction...to the film of two males where men who self identified as ho.mophobes.

      May 8, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
    • pervert alert

      Well, that's how I keep my wrists strong.

      May 8, 2012 at 3:13 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Your study sounds completely made-up.

      May 8, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • Huebert

      I know it does. I'm looking for it at the moment, i'll post the link when i find it.

      May 8, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
    • fred

      You can stop looking as no one has found the missing link

      May 8, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • just sayin

      fred it's you

      May 8, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
    • fred

      The new and evolved me -just sayin

      May 8, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I found the study, it actually says that watching two males "dock" it soft pen!s together gets Christians in a ho mo frenzy.

      May 8, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Primewonk

      The study is: Adams HE, Wright LW, Lohr BA. Is hômophobia associated with hômosèxual arousal? J Abnorm Psychol. 1996 Aug;105(3):440-5.

      Here is the abstract – the full text version is free online via PubMed:

      The authors investigated the role of hômosèxual arousal in exclusively heterosèxual men who admitted negative affect toward hômosèxual individuals. Participants consisted of a group of hômophobic men (n = 35) and a group of nonhômophobic men (n = 29); they were assigned to groups on the basis of their scores on the Index of Hômophobia (W. W. Hudson & W. A. Ricketts, 1980). The men were exposed to sèxually explicit erotic stimuli consisting of heterosèxual, male hômosèxual, and lesbian videotapes, and changes in pènile circûmference were monitored. They also completed an Aggression Questionnaire (A. H. Buss & M. Perry, 1992). Both groups exhibited increases in pènile circûmference to the heterosèxual and female hômosèxual videos. Only the hômophobic men showed an increase in pènile erèction to male hômosèxual stimuli. The groups did not differ in aggression. Hômophobia is apparently associated with hômosèxual arousal that the hômophobic individual is either unaware of or denies.

      May 8, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Huebert

      Thank you primewonk

      May 8, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Very interesting, thanks.

      I stand corrected.

      May 8, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Huebert


      The study did sound made up, you're smart not to trust me, always insist on evidence.

      May 8, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • mandarax

      Skepticism and evidence-based thinking demonstrated in one series of exchanges. Excellent! Way to be!

      Note to the faithful: That's what people are askng for when they request valid evidence and/or sources.

      May 8, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • just sayin

      Don't study studies, studies are misleading... study God. God bless

      May 8, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  10. Jesus Christ

    Truth is if you call yourself a christian and do not agree with his views then you are a hypocrite. Its either you're a christian or not; and these are the ideas that the religion perpetrates. As said before, thankfully religion is becoming extinct.

    May 8, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
  11. Larry from Winnemucca

    Thank you Reverend Harris! I applaud the courage it takes to say something like that and not back down! You are exactly what we need in these tough times – a man who has the guts to alienate others from the darkness of religion, a raving psychoChristian who shows the world the true ugliness of weird ancient scripture.

    Thank you, Rev. Harris! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    May 8, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • Huebert

      Yeah, it takes a real brave man to advocate hitting children.

      May 8, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
    • mandarax

      You make a good point!

      May 8, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  12. jasoncdanforth

    Look, I disagree completely with his religion, his politics, and his message. But this guy is getting crucified over something pretty minor. We all know EXACTLY what he meant. "Give the a little punch... in the arm". He's not telling fathers to beat up their kids. No, we have plenty that do that anyway. He's telling fathers to toughen up their sons.

    No... I'd crucify him for his comments about lesbians. I know plenty of feminine lesbians who smell nice...

    May 8, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • mandarax

      Oh, come on. There's so much more wrong with what he was saying than that one single issue.

      May 8, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
    • WobbleBob

      Most people would think that you might want to say something, instead of going straight for a "little" punch.

      And I'm sorry, but how you hold your freaking wrist has nothing to do with sexual preference (unless you actively choose to affect your choice in that way) – it's not even worth a comment, much less physical force.

      This nutter has revealed his own paranoia, and his violent tendencies. He actually acts like he has a meth problem.

      May 8, 2012 at 2:49 pm |
    • Primewonk

      So, if you have a son who was born gay, toughening him up will make him straight? And how, exactly, do you "toughen him up"?

      May 8, 2012 at 2:53 pm |
    • Huebert


      You're right we do know EXACTLY what he meant and it was most certainly not that fathers should toughen up their children.

      May 8, 2012 at 2:59 pm |
    • Rev. Sean "Fists Of Jesus-Fury" Harris

      And the Lord sayeth, "Do flying crane technique on your childrens' pansy heads!"

      May 8, 2012 at 3:14 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Slu try kids need to tighten up their loose butt holes from fisting.

      May 8, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I see that I have raised the ire of just sayin/no god/et al. and shall now bear the torrent of abusive name jackings.

      Good bye and peace to all ,

      May 8, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • J.W

      Are you related to Mrs. Danforth? She was one of my teachers.

      May 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  13. sam

    "I was dealing with effeminate behavior, and instructing parents to affirm the manhood or the womanhood in their children,"

    Uh...that's supposed to be better? "Make sure your kids are stereotypes." Too bad you can't beat the dumb out of people.

    May 8, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  14. RoyBatty

    This is cerainly not what Jesus would do. Christians picking out the pasages that support thier political beliefs is agaisnt the teaching of Jesus. More hate, intolerance and violent rhetoric from the christians of this nation. No more tax exempt status for any church. They have collectively blown it.
    And for the record the only thing that brings on real change is hard work. Wishing something to be so may make you feel better, but hard work and sweat is how change really occurs. Meditation can calm the mind and allow a person to find a quiet place in themsleves, and you can call it prayer.

    May 8, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
    • Bryant

      No replicants allowed, skin job! This forum is for humans only! Okay, religious people may not be quite human, but they are more human than you, replicant!

      Then again, maybe they aren't.

      May 8, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  15. mandarax

    "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"

    Wow, imagine a world where the Southern Baptists are way too liberal for you. Scary.

    May 8, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • jimjam

      That’d be like the X-Games of Christianity.

      May 8, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • J.W

      I was about to comment and say the same thing. These people must be really, really conservative.

      May 8, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
    • Primewonk

      " These people must be really, really conservative."

      Or batshît crazy.

      May 8, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  16. Primewonk

    WOW! Imagine that. An ignorant, fundiot, môron, trying to spin his way out of what he said and meant.

    Why in the world are people so proud to be ignorant hicks?

    May 8, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Hitchens

      Another ignorant post by primewonk noted.

      May 8, 2012 at 2:25 pm |
    • mandarax

      "Why are people so proud to be ignorant hicks?"

      You might ask Hitchens...

      May 8, 2012 at 2:27 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Apparently Hitchens is proud to be an ignorant hômophobic bigot.

      May 8, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Hitchens

      There was a question by primewonk looking for proof of its ignorance. Just responding to its own request. Is primewonk ignorant? By its own words as evidence,YES !

      May 8, 2012 at 2:34 pm |
    • Primewonk

      How, exactly, am I ignorant Hitchens? What, exactly, am I ignorant about? Please be specific.

      May 8, 2012 at 3:00 pm |
    • Huebert


      What is it like in your world?

      May 8, 2012 at 3:01 pm |
  17. sailor man

    Did he come out of the closet yet?

    May 8, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
    • Huebert

      No, but he filled his closet with male prost.itutes.

      May 8, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  18. Jen

    I wonder if the pastor can be prosecuted for uttering threats of, or instructions to do, violence, even indirect ones. Then again, the bible is full of such instructions, even murder, so really Christian god needs to be sentenced to some serious jail time.

    May 8, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    May 8, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      Apparently not religious child abuse though.

      May 8, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Jesus

      ~Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!.~.

      May 8, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
    • RoyBatty

      OK, lets find out – I pray that you stop trolling these and other on line boards with your useless nonsense about how prayer is always the answer. Let all hold hands and pray...

      May 8, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
  20. SillyRabbit

    What a disgrace. DIS-grace!!! Thankfully, religion is dying a slow death. It poisons everything.

    May 8, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
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About this blog

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.