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Rabid Christian activists swarm city council meeting to get Pride canceled because of “Satan”

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Pride came to the small town of Franklin, Tennessee for the first time two years ago.

And now it might be leaving.

A city council meeting two weeks ago in the Nashville suburb was overwhelmed by angry residents protesting a permit for the third annual Franklin Pride Festival, where about 5000 attendees enjoyed music and entertainment, food trucks, and arts and crafts vendors in the city’s public park for two years — as well as a drag show that could be considered obscene if the state’s ban on public drag performance survives a court challenge.

Festival organizers dropped the drag show from this year’s lineup — video of last year’s performance recorded what detractors called “gyrating” in the presence of a child — but that didn’t placate dozens of Franklin residents who showed up to denounce the celebration as Satanic.

Emotions ran hot a day after three children and three teachers were gunned down at the Christian Covenant School in Nashville, just miles away, by a possibly transgender former student of that school.

“You think you are doing things based on laws,” one woman told the meeting through sobs. “But you are letting Satan in. He will not take an inch. I promise you. He will take everything, and it will not stop.”

Satan was on the mind as well of Robin Steenman, leader of the local chapter of Moms for Liberty, the online collection of Christian nationalists and MAGA mothers responsible for whipping up anti-LGBTQ+ outrage at local school board and council meetings across the country over the last two years.

She described the permit fight as a battle of good vs. evil.

“It is part of a social change agenda that wants to come to Franklin, and we are seeing it play out all over the country,” Steenman said, wearing a sour expression and a large “Choose Decency” sticker passed out among permit opponents. “That agenda is not pro-religion, pro-community, pro-Christianity, pro-family, or pro-America. Rather, it seeks the destruction of all of those elements.” 

Local Pride organizers were clearly not prepared for the onslaught. Just six supporters spoke in favor of granting the permit, versus more than 30 in rabid opposition.

One proponent was local high school student Spencer Lyst, 17, who shared that he and other members of his Pride club marched in the school’s Homecoming parade last fall — and were booed by a group of parents.

“I’m here on my own volition,” Lyst said to the crowd before walking away. “Satan is not getting at me.”

Speaker Trisha Lucente wore a black t-shirt that read, “OK, Groomer.”

Tom Rice, a 71-year-old retired art teacher who attended the council meeting with his husband, said the anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric in the area had reached a fever pitch.

“I was most concerned with how vicious some of those people were,” Rice told NBC News after the meeting. “Basically, they think homosexuals are sexual perverts and we’re out to get their kids, and we’re doomed to hell. They wish we didn’t exist.”

The meeting ended without a decision on the Pride Festival permit. Instead, the board voted to first take up a new “community decency” proposal, which would ban “sexually suggestive behavior” and excessive “displays of affection” from public spaces.

Votes on both issues are scheduled for today.

“This has nothing to do with First Amendment rights, constitutional rights,” said Beverly Burger, the alderman sponsoring the “community decency” proposal.

“There needs to be consequences for bad behavior.”

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