A Houston gallery owner has taken his beef with a nearby church public, posting a sign in his parking lot that reads “Parking only for gay conversion therapy.”
Hiram Butler, the owner of Hiram Butler Gallery on Blossom Street in Magnolia Grove, put the banner up because visitors to River Pointe Church’s west end campus keep parking on his property.
“We tried reason, we tried anger — and neither of those things worked” Butler told ABC 13. “So we’re trying humor.” Robert Rosenberg, an artist who dreamed up the sign with Butler, added, “Hopefully people get it and it’s meant to be ironic.”
They also made bumper stickers that read “follow me to the Blossom Gay Conversion Therapy Center where we pray the straight away.”
River Pointe is across the street from the gallery and the parking drama has reportedly gone on for years. Butler says the street fills up with church visitors three to five times a week.
“They’ve had events. They’ve continued to occupy all the parking spaces on the south side of the street and all of the parking spaces on the north side of the street,” Butler, who says he’s not ready to have congregants’ cars towed, explained. “We would not care if they park in our parking spaces one night a week. three to five nights a week where you can’t park? It’s not acceptable.”
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” he added. “The Golden Rule.”
Rosenberg insists sometimes you need to go over the top to get your message across: “I like to think of alternative solutions to problems that embarrass people and force them into behaving better. Apparently, it has bothered the people across the street which it was meant to. I’m a provocateur.”
But Butler maintains the sign isn’t actually endorsing conversion therapy. “I’m as gay as goose and Robert is a gay as a goose. It’s not anti-gay.”
It’s not clear if River Pointe actually practices gay conversion therapy, which is being banned in an increasing number of states. But at least one Yelp reviewer claimed senior pastor Patrick Kelley preaches against homosexuality.
“Patrick preaches diversity and inclusion. HOWEVER you should be aware that if you are gay—yes, even a gay Christian—you are not allowed to become a member of this church,” they write. “I have talked to Patrick a number of times over the years. You can be a child abuser, drug addict, participate in any or all of the seven deadly sins and still become a member… even lead a ministry team. However, you can NOT be gay… Jesus accepted even those who didn’t accept Him. Too bad River Pointe Church doesn’t.”
The writer claimed several parishioners they spoke to were unaware of the church’s policy.
“I say this with great love and respect for what Patrick and his ministry team are doing. I know they believe that the Bible tells them to discriminate and we are all lucky to live in a country that allows him and River Pointe Church to express his beliefs as he and the leaders so chose. I am not trying to take that right away from them. I just simply wish and pray that it were different.”
River Pointe hasn’t addressed the banner, but pastor Kelly apologized for usurping his parking spots.
“We are sorry to have inconvenienced Mr. Butler because we want to be the best neighbors possible,” he said in a statement. “We host a Bible study across the street from Mr. Butler’s property, in our private residence, and will continue to be diligent to prevent our guests from using Mr. Butler’s four parking spaces.”
Butler, who put the sign up August 20, says he plans to keep it up for two months.