NEWTON, NC (WBTV) - More than a thousand people rallied outside the Catawba County Justice Center to protest and support a Maiden preacher whose anti-gay sermon on Mother's Day went viral on YouTube.
WBTV reporter Kay Johnson attended Sunday morning services at Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, where Pastor Charles Worley received a standing ovation when he stepped to the pulpit.
Worley thanked the crowd for their support and said "I thought I was in this alone." He spoke about a death threat but told congregants that he has preached for 53 years and "can't turn back now." In Sunday's sermon Worley said "I love America but we're on a toboggan slide to Hell."
Worley was extended the offer to speak with WBTV but said his lawyers advised against it.
Police were present both inside and outside the church. One man had to be quieted down for standing up in support of Worley during the service but it was the only minor disturbance.
At the Justice Center in Newton, more than 50 officers patrolled the area. Sheriff Coy Reid estimated the crowd – both for and against Worley - at 1,300. A few skirmishes were reported, but for the most part, the crowd was peaceful.
"I saw that he was promoting putting people in what I consider a concentration camp and I thought to myself didn't people learn from the last world war how horrible this is," Charlotte protestor Lisa Dickinson said.
"Even when we voice our disagreement of their lifestyle..[it] can be confused as hate...we are here to warn people," Robbie Carter said.
The sheriff also confirmed to WBTV that someone try to set fire to the church Friday night, but it burned itself out before any damage was done. It involved power lines and a power box to the church, but no visible damage. Investigators are still looking into the arson attempt.