A gay activist group has taken credit for an elaborate online hoax attacking the Southern Baptist Convention for its opposition to gay marriage, calling the nation's largest Protestant denomination "irresponsible and unchristian."
A group calling itself the Center for Responsible Christian Living created a phony website, a fake telephone number along with a press release that was sent to members of the national media.
The Nashville-based, pro-gay activists said they wanted their attack to coincide with New York's legalization of same-sex marriage and the 42nd anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, long believed to be a turning point in the history of the gay rights movement.
"The SBC's intolerant and even hateful stance toward homosexuals directly leads to violence nationwide, and is in direct opposition to the Good News as demonstrated by Jesus Christ," the group wrote in a press release. They called their attack a "friendly prank."
However, executives with the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee were not amused and they are looking into possibly taking legal action against the attackers.
"It is a concern whenever anybody does anything that is false and gives a false impression to the public about who we are," said Roger Oldham, vice president for communication and convention relations for the SBC Executive Committee.
The release falsely announced that the Southern Baptists had met in "extraordinary emergency session" to affirm gay rights and repent "of any past homophobia that not only hurt gay people but kept them ostracized from the church."
The release included phony quotes and comments affirming homosexuality from real denominational leaders, including Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright.
Wright said he suspected the culprits were those in opposition to the denomination's stance on homosexuality and same sex marriage.
"We can't apologize for teaching what Scripture says about sexual purity," Wright said. "That's true for heterosexual sex or homosexual sex."
Wright denied charges from gay rights groups that the denomination's opposition to homosexuality is hate speech.
"When I preach on adultery, I'm sure there are people in the congregation that are involved in the sin of adultery, but I don't hate them," he said. "I'm just teaching what the Bible says. When I talk to teenagers on premarital sex, I'm sure some of them are not abstaining, but I don't hate them. I'm just sharing with them what God's word says about sexual purity."