Both Sides Claim Faith Basis in Shop Owner's Vow to Not Serve 'Overt' Gays
Brian Klawiter doesn’t have a problem with gays who act straight. It’s the flamers who set off smoke alarms that he doesn’t want to patronize his auto shop southwest of Grand Rapids, Mich., in the suburban community of Grandville.
“No, I’m not going to inquire into every secret, personal sin of my customers,” Klawiter wrote recently on his Facebook page. “What I meant by my original statement was that I am drawing a line in the sand: where someone is engaging in overt displays of homosexual behavior, I don’t have to tolerate it in my place of business, just like I don’t have to tolerate overt displays of immoral heterosexual behavior in my shop (hypothetically speaking).”
That isn’t good enough for the Rev. Robert Teszlewicz of the Catholic Apostolic Church in the Lake Michigan shoreline community of Muskegon, Mich.
“He misunderstands what it means to be a Christian. It is almost comical. How can you take something so purely based in love and turn it into hate?” said Teszlewicz.
“How do you take God, Jesus, who is totally about love and acceptance and then you are going to say, ‘I am following this man but he would have hated you guys so you can’t be involved in anything I am involved in.’ That would have never happened. It didn’t ever happen,” he added.
Klawiter learned the impact a single Facebook post can have when he told the world in mid-April that he would reserve the right to decline service to gays.
“I had no idea my voice would be so powerful,” he said.
Klawiter has also learned other voices have power, too.
The world has been banging on his door through social media. Klawiter has been deluged with support messages, true enough. But hate messages -- threats to kill him, his family and burn down his business -- have also become a part of Klawiter’s new life as a man who just wants to exercise what he sees as his religious freedom.
The worldwide cacophony of social media attention Klawiter has received because of that first Facebook post also prompted an attempted attack on his business by a self-proclaimed bisexual man with a carton of eggs.
The man, who said he was angered by stories published in the Grand Rapids Press about the anti-gay Facebook post, tried to throw an egg at Klawiter’s business, Dieseltec. But one of Klawiter’s customers kicked the eggs out of his hand.
The police were called. The thwarted egg-thrower was ticketed for littering and went home, telling reporters he was satisfied.
Rev. Teszlewicz led a protest of approximately 100 people, by his count, 35 by the Grandville Police Department’s count, outside Dieseltec, while Klawiter was behind the building holding a barbecue for dozens of his supporters to celebrate “God and Guns.”
There were some loud exchanges of Biblical verses for and against the gay lifestyle shouted between the two sides, along with a few personal insults. But not a punch was thrown, or a rock or bottle tossed, by either team.
However, not all of the reaction to Klawiter’s Facebook posts has been peaceful. Some of it has spun ugly. Klawiter said vandals spray-painted the outside of the Dieseltec building and vehicles in the business’ parking lot with phrases like “I (heart sign) Nuts!”
He spent a night at his business with a loaded gun by his side.
The Grandville Police Department has not posted an officer at Dieseltec, but the police chief said they are paying extra attention to the business by increasing the number of patrols.
Unfortunately for Klawiter, his newfound notoriety has brought with it some other problems besides the backlash of the gay community.