Controversial Sermon Spurs Protest Plans Outside Local Church

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September 21, 2009

Art Wheeler says he was shocked to hear the sermon coming from the pulpit of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, located on 6th Street NW in Charlottesville. More than a year after the incident, he is still not satisfied with the way his concerns were handled so he plans to protest.

Pastor Ezekiel Best, filling in for the church's regular pastor in July of 2008, gave a sermon that some people in attendance believed was inappropriate. When referring to presidential hopeful John McCain, Best had this to say, "Anybody that votes for him is a first-class idiot."

Best went on to say this about anyone who supports the war or flies the American flag, "You sold out. You've told the whole world your real god is not God, but the red, white, and blue.”

Wheeler was filling in as a pianist at Ebenezer Baptist that day. He was so angry, upset, and dumbfounded by the words that he heard coming from the pulpit that he stood up, raised his hand and waited for Pastor Best to call on him so that he could question what was being preached.

“This is an issue that I cannot let pass by. I will not let a minister call the soldiers in Iraq ‘whores of the beast,’ and I will not let the leader of that congregation not address it,” Wheeler told reporter Mark Tenia on Monday.

CBS19 has tried to get in touch with Pastor Best, who gave that sermon, but we have not heard back.

While church leaders maintain that it was inappropriate for Pastor Best to make those comments, they agree that it was also inappropriate for Wheeler to act that way.

"I am not in any agreement with what he said, but again, we chose to handle it as a regrettable incident," said Pastor Lehman D. Bates II.

Wheeler says he was asked not to return to the church unless he stood in front of the congregation and apologized for his actions, a claim that Reverend Bates refutes.

"I don't want it to come across that we're trying to minimize or muzzle [Mr. Wheeler's] concerns. What we're asking from Mr. Wheeler is that he respect our decision, and that we have it handled in a way we thought best for our congregation," said Pastor Bates.

Now Art Wheeler is planning to protest the church because Pastor Bates refused to condemn the sermon. Wheeler says he plans to protest right outside Ebenezer Baptist Church on Saturday and Sunday this weekend.

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