They come every year to Fantasy Fest in Key West, with a list of people they say are bound for hell.
The preachers, often holding large signs with a roster of sinners, which this year included gays, porn watchers, drug users, smokers and “abortionists,” roam Duval Street among the body-painted breasts and floppy beer bellies to loudly denounce — sometimes via a megaphone — those who don’t meet their criteria.
“They were berating people for having a good time, letting their hair down,” said Clayton Chelley, who owns the wine bar Vino’s on Duval. He said he saw one shout at a woman that she was a horrible mother for bringing her child to Duval during Fantasy Fest.
“Fantasy Fest is acceptance of everybody,” Chelley said. “This is the opposite of Fantasy Fest.”
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So on Oct. 26, the Friday night of Fantasy Fest, one of the street preachers rolled into the 800 block of Duval.
“They decided to set up camp right in front of my bar and you could even hear it inside the bar and I was starting to lose customers,” said Chelley, 53, of Key West, who has owned the bar with his wife, Valerie, for eight years. “I was starting to lose customers.”
Chelley says he went outside twice to ask the preacher to move it along but didn’t get anywhere.
“They completely ignored me,” he said.
Then, police said, Chelley came out a third time with a pair of scissors and did what a lot of Key Westers have thought about doing: He cut the cord.
“Cut cord to preacher’s megaphone,” states the summons issued by a Key West police officer.
Police were called and Chelley was cited for misdemeanor criminal mischief. He was not arrested, but instead ordered to appear at the Monroe County Courthouse next month.
Police spokeswoman Alyson Crean released a police report Monday but the preacher wasn’t identified and no details were released. Chelley said he didn’t catch the name.
Chelley, who at the time was dressed up in a costume — a 1970s type rocker with platform boots — said the preacher turned around and shoved him at one point.
“Which is battery,” he said.
Adam LaCroix says he is the preacher who was holding what he called a bullhorn on Duval Street the night of Oct. 26 when his cord was cut.
LaCroix said Chelley did not approach him but instead approached a woman who was in the group. The woman told Chelley she was not in charge and couldn’t make the decision to move the preacher and his group, LaCroix said, in an email this week.
“And instead of going to the preacher to ask him, Mr. Chelley instead decided to cut the cord on the preacher’s $250 bullhorn,” LaCroix wrote in a statement in which he referred to himself as the preacher.
“I pulled the bullhorn away from him and pushed and pushed him off of me defending my equipment,” LaCroix wrote in a follow-up email in which he provided videos of the incident.
In the video, a man wearing 1970s-type clothing and a curly wig approaches LaCroix very closely and then walks back to his bar. While close, Chelley snipped the bullhorn’s cord, LaCroix says.
Chelley offered no apologies.
“The point is you’ve got to respect other people,” Chelley said. “When does it come to the point of public nuisance?”
Some revelers have become used to the preachers.
“Their presence was weak this year,” said Kevin Assam, a writer who had his picture taken in front of one young preacher. “They’re expected every year because of the First Amendment.”
Assam, who is gay, said he is more offended at the grammar and presentation of the preachers than their messages.
“Their signs are too big and there’s too much print on them,” Assam said. “No one’s going to read all that. They don’t know basic marketing.”
LaCroix said the preachers preach “at such vile events” because they are Christians who care for the lost souls of their neighbors “who practice lewd and lascivious acts in public.
“The preachers have even witnessed people having sex in public at this very event last year, just like it happened in Sodom and Gomorrah before God rained down fire and brimstone on the wicked men of these cities and destroyed them all.”
LaCroix added, “The holy Bible says that one day, it won’t be cords that sinners will be cutting off, but the heads of Christians.”