A local pastor at a tiny church in Hood River, Oregon, a small town on the banks of the Columbia River, is taking on the world’s fastest growing religion and not backing down.
The Rev. Michael Harrington, 74, leads the Belmont Drive Missionary Baptist Church in a rural outpost along I-84 about an hour and 10 minutes east of Portland.
The church is so small it doesn’t even have a website.
It’s main method of communicating with the outside world is its outdoor marquee sitting out front of its building along a highway that few travel.
Harrington posted messages last month on the board that read: “Wake up Christians. Allah is not our God. Muhammad not greater than Jesus.”
The other side of the marque stated “Only the Bible is God’s Word. Koran is just another book.”
In a matter of days word spread to Muslim groups and their left-leaning supporters well beyond Hood River. About a dozen protesters descended on the small church with signs saying “take down this sign.”
This church is so small it often can’t muster more than a dozen members for a Sunday service.
“There may be, on a good day, 30 cars go by and see our sign,” said Pastor Harrington. “My intent was anybody who agrees with that come on in, and anyone who disagrees with it, come in and we’ll talk about it.”
But that wasn’t the case.
This simple expression of religious conviction was too “controversial” for some to tolerate.
One man, Eric Cohn, was riding his bike by the church one day and said he “could not believe” what he was seeing. He stopped and told the pastor he wept because he was so offended by the message on the reader-board.
“I literally had to stop and back up and make sure I saw what I saw, and I was profoundly offended and upset by it,” Eric Cohn told KomoNews.com.
Cohn was so offended he wrote a letter to the editor in the local newspaper that Harrington says painted him “as a terrorist almost.”
The big-city paper, the Oregonian in Portland, also filed a report lecturing the pastor on what is “appropriate Christian behavior.”
Then the local mayor intervened with comments that helped stoke the controversy.
“I was really annoyed and sad. I am annoyed that in this political season there’s a solid case of ugly going on,” Mayor Paul Blackburn told KATU in an effort to smear the pastor of the tiny church. “I think it norms up this kind of behavior like ‘oh, it’s okay to be a bigot now.'”
The pastor was forced to defend himself in the local and national media.
“I’m not politically correct. I’ve never been politically correct, but I think I’m biblically correct, and that’s what matters to me,” Harrington told KATU. “It isn’t against any particular denomination. It’s just the fact that I have taught and will continue to teach that I have one God, one way of salvation and one Bible that’s holy.”
Fair enough, right? We all have freedom of religion and freedom of speech, and Americans are generally tolerant folks, right? Not for some, such as the Raw Story, which called the pastor out as a bigot.
One can’t help but wonder what type of penalty the good mayor would like to impose upon free speech that he considers “annoying,” said Carl Gallups, who pastors a Baptist church in Florida, much larger than Harrington’s but similar in theology.
“I find it amusing that the ‘progressives’ are always screaming about bullying and tolerance, so here’s an American pastor who has a reader-board on his property with a message that states nothing but clear, 100 percent biblical truth and his First Amendment rights are summarily dismissed by haters who are calling him a ‘hater,'” said Gallups, author of “Be Thou Prepared” and “Final Warning.”
“The hypocrisy is astounding,” he said.
But the story doesn’t end there.