NEW PORT RICHEY — The public comment portion of the Nov. 1 city council meeting got a little rowdy when a controversial preacher drew a chorus of boos and angry comments from others in attendance.
Victor McLeskey, pastor of the KVJ Baptist Church, came to the council to defend his congregation’s practice from what critics say publicly heckles and harasses those they consider sinners. More recently, that has included protests outside of a drag queen story hour, warning parents of children they’re going to hell and positioning themselves outside downtown bar The Social during a performance of drag queen, shouting at people who went there that they were hell-bound abominations.
Councilman Peter Altman told Suncoast News he received a personal phone call about this latest situation and went to the site to try to calm things down, but the police told him that there was nothing he could do about it.
Not only does his herd have the right to protest under the First Amendment, McLeskey told the council, but the amendment actually requires them to “call out the evils of society.” He said those in the audience who opposed him “have a communist mentality; they want to silence those who speak out against their sins.
McLeskey also claimed that the United States is one of two countries in the world, the other being Israel, that were founded on the Bible. He then randomly noted that Darwin’s book and the Quran were each written by one man while the Bible, he said, was written by 40 men over a period of 2,000 years. Then he and his entourage left the rooms before others could comment.
Although the governing body traditionally listens and does not comment during the open session, Altman decided to respond.
“I’ve seen very bad behavior from people who want to call others sinners,” he said. “Freedom of expression applies to everyone.
“To say that you are going to rely on religion to address other people in the street is very harmful; it’s very hurtful to our LGBTQ community and others.
In other news
• Citizens Academy has graduated its Fall 2022 class. The academy is a nine-week, interactive program where members of the public learn about city government by touring its facilities and services.
• Council also heard a presentation from Stroud Engineering on North River Road improvement plans. This would include realigning the road, narrowing it, grading improvements for drainage, sidewalks, improving curbs, landscaping and lighting.
• The Board also appointed Kimberly Brust and Beth Fregger to the Cultural Affairs Committee.