COLUMBIA — Amid the hundreds of books in the Rev. Dick Blount's home office sit two photographs. One is of the white shaggy dog he and his wife, Sue, whom he calls his "60-year-plus soul mate," rescued from the pound. The other is of Blount, standing at the Boone County Courthouse Square in November 2008.
Printed over the photograph in the frame are the words Blount said at that fall rally for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer and questioning community.
An alternative to the Westboro Baptist Church demonstration will be held at Missouri United Methodist Church, 204 S. 9th St., at noon Thursday.
There will also be a community discussion held from 7 to 9 p.m. May 19 at Missouri United Methodist Church.
He recites the words: "These are our children. These are our families. These are our fellow citizens. We need to know them as people of worth."
It's this respect for the equal rights of all, and his comments at an April Columbia City Council meeting, that have put Blount, a retired United Methodist minister, in an unusual spotlight.
Members of the Westboro Baptist Church, an organization that is recognized as a hate group by civil rights law firm Southern Poverty Law Center, plan to protest Blount and the city's approval of a domestic partnership registry on Thursday.
The group will protest from noon to 12:30 p.m. at the Daniel Boone City Building, 701 E. Broadway, and then make their way to Missouri United Methodist Church, 204 S. Ninth St., to picket Blount and his support of the registry and the LGBTQ community.
“We cannot be Christians and be silent in a time of injustice,” Blount said.
Blount attends Missouri United Methodist Church and leads a Bible study there. He is not a member of the paid church staff, however.
Blount left full-time, paid ministry in the 1970s. In 1972, he took a sabbatical and started working for the Missouri Department of Health. He never went back to a paid ministry job. He's been a social justice advocate ever since and didn't want to compromise any ministry with his personal opinions.
“When you speak out too much you begin to make some people uneasy,” Blount said.
That's part of the reason he left ministry.
But it was during an international youth conference in Oslo, Norway, in 1947, that Blount said he first recognized the need for the church to fight against injustice. He said a speech by the leader of a Confessing Church during the Nazi regime reminded him how important it is for people of faith to speak out.
“I didn’t like the idea of making people uncomfortable and being paid by them, so I thought I ought to support myself,” he said. In 1996 he retired and moved to Columbia where he became a member of Missouri United Methodist Church. There, he taught a Bible study class that led to the creation of the church’s Open Door Ministry.
Open Door Ministry is a program for people who have family members and friends in the LGBTQ community. The group meets regularly and has recently watched a film about the Westboro Church, called "Fall from Grace."
Mary Ann Shaw, co-chair of the Open Door Ministry, said Blount is “a very socially conscious person and has a deep sense of justice.” She said several of the founding members of the church’s ministry had gay sons and daughters. Even though Blount does not, he was a driving force in the formation of the group, Shaw said.
Blount said he believes his church is one of the most open, and "that's what brought Fred Phelps to come say hello to us." Phelps is the founder of Westboro Baptist Church.
During the planned Westboro protest, Blount will be attending an alternative event hosted by the church, the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services and the City of Columbia Human Rights Commission. A community discussion is also planned for May 19.
“It’s a human rights issue pure and simple,” said Marie Glaze, Columbia Human Rights Specialist. I just believe that Columbia is a good place and we want all of our citizens to feel that this is a safe place."