With his revealing shorts, bright pink hair and a shirt that read “The Flying Spaghetti Monster Is Gay,” anti-gay activist Bill Whatcott successfully slipped into Vancouver’s Pride parade on Aug 3.
Whatcott and four of his conservative evangelical Christian supporters marched in the parade under the banner of the fictitious Calgary Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to distribute anti-gay leaflets disguised as condoms.
“I want homosexuals to turn to Jesus and I believe that people can leave that lifestyle behind,” Whatcott says. “I made this Pride parade way more diverse. It’s not all leather men and naked dudes. Now it includes Christian people with diverse messages on homosexuality. True diversity.”
In the “gospel condom” that he distributed to parade-goers, Whatcott claims that everyone is “anatomically heterosexual” and that gay people “suffer grievously because of their sin.”
“In spite of billions of dollars being spent fighting sexually transmitted diseases ravaging the homosexual subculture, homosexuals are still suffering and dying from AIDS and other homosexually acquired diseases,” writes Whatcott, who believes that Jesus Christ can free gay people from the “bondage of homosexuality or any other sexual addiction.”
But rather than openly protest homosexuality at the parade, Whatcott and his party deliberately posed as gay and gay-friendly participants and invented a fake ministry under whose name they applied to participate. Whatcott signed the parade application using a pseudonym, Matthew Davidson.
“They pulled a very well-orchestrated con, and that’s how I look at it in my books,” says Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) general manager Ray Lam. “They were very friendly people and hugged parade marshals and volunteers and seemed very excited to be there posing for pictures with people along the way. On the surface, if you didn’t see the package or associate the package with this entry, you wouldn’t be able to identify which organization did it just by how they were acting in the parade.”
Whatcott tells Xtra that he and several volunteers across Canada spent a year preparing for the operation. In total, he says, it cost more than $4,000 to pay for gas, gospel condom production, the banner and T-shirts.
“A number of Christians across the country donated small amounts of money,” he says. “Even though I live well below the poverty line and I got court judgments up my yin yang unpaid, I am still willing to use some of my money for this. I chipped in about $1,000 of my own money.”
In 2013 the Supreme Court of Canada upheld part of a 2005 Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal ruling against Whatcott for distributing anti-gay flyers. The high court unanimously ruled that two of the four flyers that Whatcott published and distributed violated the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code by promoting hatred and discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Lam says the VPS was taken completely off guard because a legitimate branch of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a parody religion that opposes the teaching of intelligent design and creationism in public schools, had participated in the parade in previous years.
“When the application came in, a lot of our team members were excited because we were familiar with the organization,” Lam says. “They have a reputation for being fun and animated, and we were very excited to have them — and then this happened.”
Whatcott set up a fake phone number and website to support his ruse.
Lam says all parade applicants undergo a very rigorous screening process to determine whether they’re legitimate organizations that support the LGBT community.
“It’s a bit difficult to prevent something like this when people go to such elaborate lengths to hide their identity,” he says. “There was nothing we, as organizers, could do to catch them, other than contacting head office asking if they had a Calgary section. But this isn’t something someone would reasonably do when you receive an application with a website, phone number and credentials that don’t raise any red flags.”
Whatcott says that his participation in the parade was part of a larger battle and that deception was necessary to get his message across. “The Supreme Court found me guilty of hate speech and I have been breaking that ruling ever since, and this is part of it,” he explains. “I’m still out there. I’m loud and not ashamed of my moral and theological protest. This is spiritual warfare. This is a war against the Supreme Court of Canada and the homosexual agenda. Using deception to get there is okay as long as it’s not malicious.”
Whatcott has previously participated in Pride marches in Alberta and Saskatchewan without hiding his identity but says that his presence at these events was not always welcomed by parade participants.
“Vancouver Pride loved me 100 percent, and it was positive from beginning to end,” he says. “I really liked all the hugs and the hands reaching out to get my gospel condoms. I really liked getting thumbs-up from traffic cops, and I liked the transvestites and lesbians reading my ditty about the Flying Spaghetti Monster. They had no idea that it was written by Bill Whatcott!”
Lam says the VPS is considering its options. “Right now we’re talking to affected parties, like actual Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, to see what we can do in this situation,” he says. “It’s very complicated because it appears that this individual does not care about the law. That’s what makes it so difficult. If they don’t care about the law and legal process, then what do we have as a mechanism to hold them accountable for what they did?”