The Southern Baptist Convention became the victim of an elaborate hoax Tuesday when a group distributed a fake online news release claiming support of gay marriage.
In a subsequent online news release, the group, calling itself the Center for Responsible Christian Living, based in Nashville, Tenn., claimed responsibility for the “friendly prank,” which included the fake news announcement and a related sham phone number and website.
“Our hope was to offer a vision of what might be possible,” the Center for Responsible Christian Living said in its statement.
Tuesday, a news release was distributed to an unknown number of media outlets stating that the Southern Baptist Convention's Executive Committee had met in an “extraordinary emergency session” to draft a proposed “welcoming and affirming” resolution to be voted on at the convention's 2012 annual meeting.
The Southern Baptist Convention has long held the position that homosexuality is a sin.
The denomination states its position on sexuality on its official website at www.sbc.net:
“We affirm God's plan for marriage and sexual intimacy — one man, and one woman, for life. Homosexuality is not a ‘valid alternative lifestyle.' The Bible condemns it as sin. It is not, however, unforgivable sin. The same redemption available to all sinners is available to homo
The existence of the Center for Responsible Christian Living could not be substantiated Tuesday. In its statement, the center is described as a Christian think tank on theology and social ethics.
The group, in its online statement claiming responsibility for the hoax, said it was designed to point out that the Southern Baptist's Convention's “anti-gay stance is both irresponsible and unchristian.” The center's statement also recommended that people call the “real” Southern Baptist Convention to ask them to “make this vision (support for gay marriage) real.”
Roger Oldham, a spokesman for the official Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, said Tuesday the statement was “clearly not an action of the Southern Baptist Convention or the Executive Committee.”
Oldham said he initially found out about the bogus news announcement when a reporter called to ask him about it about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday.
“It's false witness, spreading lies,” he said.
Gay rights activists met in an unprecedented meeting with convention President Bryant Wright during the Southern Baptists' recent annual convention in Phoenix. They reportedly had a civil discussion, but Wright maintained the Baptists' stance that homosexuality is a sin.
Brent Childers, executive director of Faith in America, one of the groups that met with Wright, said his organization had nothing to do with the hoax.
Childers called the hoax “not very productive.”
Brian Hobbs, director of communications for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said the Oklahoma affiliate of the Southern Baptist Convention did not have anything specific to say about the hoax.
“This can serve as a good reminder for writers and bloggers everywhere to verify a source prior to putting anything in print or on pixels,” Hobbs said. “In this age of 24-hour news and the Internet, it is easy for false information to travel around the world before truth has had a chance even to wake up in the morning.”
Read more religion news on “know it: Religion and faith.”
This can serve as a good reminder for writers and bloggers everywhere
to verify a source prior
to putting anything in print or on pixels.”