A congregation gathers every week at Asbury Baptist Church where conservative speakers, including North Carolina’s own Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson, preaches sermons about the downfall of society and the end of morality itself.
These homilies often include anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, often demonizing queer and trans-identifying persons, and a call to action to bring the wrath of God to heretics and those they deem “filth.” At the center of this congregation is its pastor — J. Allen Mashburn, who has announced his candidacy to be North Carolina’s next lieutenant governor.
Mashburn’s announcement read:
“Allen Mashburn is running to be the 36th Lt Governor of North Carolina.
“He is bold in his convictions that our country is only as great as our families. For more than twenty-five years, he has been a pastor, business leader, and outspoken public speaker—standing for liberty, values, and families.
“In the last few years, his profile has elevated as he has boldly spoken out against leftist policies that have crippled our nation in every aspect.”
Mashburn’s start in politics came when Robinson, who was a friend of his at the time, decided to run for the lieutenant governor seat. Mashburn worked on the campaign, and shortly thereafter, he co-launched the Carolina Conservatives Podcast where he and other pastors “aimed to address the rising concerns of inappropriate content in public education.”
However, most of Mashburn’s concerns mirror other self-identifying conservatives’ — they believe conversations about LGBTQ+ history and queer people don’t belong in public schools.
“We are in a moral dilemma,” he said in an interview with Jenna Ellis, one of President Donald Trump’s lawyers who was recently indicted in Georgia for attempting to block President Joe Biden from becoming president. “I tell my people all the time, ‘Sin will make you stupid,’ and we have gone into that area of insanity.”
Mashburn’s ‘fight against filth:’ anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric throughout the campaign
Throughout the month of June, Mashburn was featured in several news publications and interviews criticizing events sponsored by government bodies, including this year’s Pride celebration at the White House.
In an editorial to The Tennessee Star, Mashburn wrote about how he believed Pride had “devolved into a manifestation of moral decay,” and that trans-identifying persons and their allies have “descended into a state of utter madness.”
“The decision to dedicate an entire month to celebrate moral degradation is a step too far,” Mashburn wrote. “While I am not advanced in years, I never envisioned a day where transvestites would lecture us on human biology, or sterilizers would pose as health professionals advocating for human rights. It seems that our nation has descended into a state of utter madness, where men can now claim pregnancy and the number of genders rivals the alphabet.”
In the same editorial, Mashburn argued the United States’s downfall would be because of the “surrender [of] their moral foundations, such as the nuclear family, in favor of self-indulgence and moral decline,” comparing the increased exposure of queer and trans history to the prevelance of pedophilia in ancient civilizations including the Greeks and Romans.
“Ancient Greek civilization, for instance, not only tolerated but even celebrated moral discrepancies and pedophilia,” Mashburn wrote. “Similarly, the decline of the Roman Empire can be attributed to the abandonment of strong familial bonds and moral values in favor of weakness and laxity. The striking parallels between the final years of ancient Rome and present-day America are alarming, serving as a stark reminder that history tends to repeat itself if we allow it to.”
Scholars have agreed the reason behind the fall of the Greek and Roman empires had nothing to do with culture wars or “moral degradation,” as Mashburn states. Ancient Greek society’s downfall has been attributed to the constant wars between city-states and their differing governments, as well as a 300-year-long drought. In fact, Greek society was at its highest when Alexander the Great — who has since been confirmed as bisexual by many scholars and historians based on letters and documents from Alexander himself — was its ruler. It was after his death the empire was split up, and that’s when the Romans came and took over. The fall of the Roman Empire doesn’t have a singular cause. Overexpansion, overreliance on slave labor, invasions from the Huns and Germanic tribes, and even the rise of Christianity have been attributed by historians as possible reasons for the empire’s fall from grace.
“Christianity displaced the polytheistic Roman religion, which viewed the emperor as having a divine status … popes and other church leaders took an increased role in political affairs, further complicating governance,” according to Evan Andrews, one of the History Channel’s featured Roman Empire experts. “While the spread of Christianity may have played a small role in curbing Roman civic virtue, most scholars now argue that its influence paled in comparison to military, economic and administrative factors.”
In the interview with Ellis, Mashburn continued to bash on what he calls “transgenderism,” (which he uses to describe trans people and drag performers) and that he believes the government should step in and not allow “that filth” to be shown to North Carolina’s kids.
“There’s a reason why they don’t have drag queen story hour in nursing homes — they want to groom children,” Mashburn said. “We must have laws set up through the legal system … if you want to take your children to that, constitutionally, we can’t do anything about it. But you will not put that in front of my child or anyone else’s … and by that I’m talking about the trans movement.”
Mashburn has continued to insinuate drag queens and trans-identifying individuals are groomers who go after the innocent children of North Carolina. However, in his own small town of Seagrove, there are five registered sex offenders, three who are less than three miles from his church, according to the North Carolina Sex Offender Registry. None of the offenders were trans or drag queens, according to the files available on the registry.
Attacking journalists on social media
In July, then Chatham News + Record sports editor Jeremy Vernon shared his concerns regarding the publication of an editorial from the local Moms For Liberty chapter founder. Vernon’s tweets shared concerns about the real goals of the organization, which has been deemed an extremist organization by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“The worst fear of Moms for Liberty seems to be that their own children might grow up to become independent thinkers,” Vernon wrote. “If you are a parent, understand that it is unhealthy to project your insecurities on your children and expect them not to form their own opinions on issues. You are being selfish and are actively working against their development toward becoming an empathetic person.”
Vernon’s thread soon filled with replies from conservatives across North Carolina, including Mashburn. Mashburn retweeted Vernon’s post, expressing his support for Moms For Liberty and his disdain for this “butt-hurt leftist.”
“I am proud of @ChathamNR for running this editorial. I would ask the editor and owners of the paper to educate their sports writer on editorial content and the purpose of free press. So he disagrees with the article and @Moms4Liberty, so what!? Stick to writing sports and allow people their First Amendment rights.”
The paper had just been purchased by North State Media — a media publishing company founded by former appointees and administration members of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory — which resulted in the News + Record’s sudden shift in coverage. Mashburn urged the News + Record to fire Vernon after he “defamed” the paper’s reputation.
“@ChathamNR perhaps you need to raise the maturity expectation on your applicants… And if an employee of mine came out and publicly made a statement against one of my company’s decisions, it may be time for us to part ways. Mr. Vernon is certainly entitled to his opinion, but that’s all he’s entitled to… He is not entitled to defame your well-established reputation simply because you are inclusive to a different point of view than his, that is quite obvious the opposite of @Moms4Liberty and Amy Kappleman.”
Defamation has to prove four criteria in order to be considered: a false statement purporting to be fact, publication or communication of that statement to a third person, fault amounting to at least negligence and damages or some harm caused to the reputation of the person or entity who is the subject. Vernon’s four tweet thread only mentioned his place of employment in the first post, and he cited reputable organizations such as the Southern Poverty Law Center to form his argument for his opinion.
However, Mashburn got his wish — Vernon was fired from the paper less than a week after the exchange.
Before Vernon’s termination, he responded to Mashburn’s tweet:
“I have not asked anyone to take this editorial down. I am allowed to state my opinion on the issue, just like what you’re doing with your tweet Allen! Now what if I asked you to stick to preaching and let us handle our business on our own?”
Editor’s note: Taylor Heeden is a former employee of the Chatham News + Record and worked with Vernon for almost a year.