Members of Western New York's gay and lesbian community and their supporters Sunday picketed services at the South Side Baptist Church of the Rev. Daren M. Drzymala.
Drzymala, pastor of the storefront church on Southside Avenue in South Buffalo, is an activist in the local anti-abortion movement and speaks out against homosexual lifestyles.
About 15 persons arrived shortly after services had begun at 11 a.m. They marched and carried pickets with messages such as "Jesus preached love. Why does Daren preach hate?" They remained at the scene for about an hour.
A "support group" of nine others waited in a vacant parking lot across the street. Most left before the parishioners came out.
Michael Rogers, the group's spokesman, said the protest was designed to show Mr. Drzymala and his congregation that there are many people who disagree with his beliefs.
"Those people have a right to know that a lot of people disagree with Daren (Drzymala)," he said.
Mr. Drzymala is the coordinator of such anti-abortion groups as Project Jericho and Project House Call. He has led picket lines at the homes of area doctors, abortion clinics and gay bars. He was one of 16 Western New Yorkers arrested in abortion protests in Atlanta last October.
Mr. Drzymala, emerging from the church to confront Rogers, invited the pickets inside for "Bible study and singing."
There were no takers.
Then, he stood in the middle of Southside Avenue, shouting Bible passages and vowing to continue his campaign against homosexual lifestyles.
Rogers and the pickets appeared not to be flustered.
"They're only out here to stand up for their immoral lifestyle," Mr. Drzymala charged. "This kind of stuff has brought our nation down to the pits of hell. If God wanted men to be gay, he would have created Adam and Steve."
"I would defend your right to the end for freedom of speech," Rogers replied.
Mr. Drzymala said he would continue to wage war against homosexuality, abortion, secular humanism and pornography. He added that he has been in contact with Rev. Jerry Falwell, the outspoken leader of the Moral Majority, and that Falwell supports him in his actions.
The Defenders of the Faith Ministry, a new Christian ministry group founded by Drzymala, will continue to put pressure on bars that cater to homosexuals until they are forced to close, he said, adding that one such action was successful in forcing seven persons to leave the establishment.
Susan Smith, one of the protesters, said the group will continue to respond to Drzymala's attacks and "escalate" its efforts if necessary.
Despite the presence of the pickets, the group drawing the most attention was probably the neighbors of the church.
As the pickets arrived, residents of one house opened the windows and began playing heavy-metal music, which lasted throughout the protest. Some residents also appeared briefly to shout obscenities and anti-homosexual slurs.
Members of the congregation reacted to the protests.
"If they want to protest, they have every right to," Gary Higgins said. "That's what it says in our constitution."
"They didn't cause trouble," Jim Nixon said. "But I don't think they accomplished anything, I'll tell you that."
Rogers said the site was chosen because it is Mr. Drzymala's church and because it is located in South Buffalo.
"It is important to note that in recent years, there has been nothing in South Buffalo," Rogers said. "It is not a hotbed of liberalism."