Attempt to burn down church of anti-gay pastor failed

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MAIDEN, N.C. —

The Catawba County sheriff confirmed to Eyewitness News, someone made a failed attempt to burn down the Maiden church of an anti-gay pastor overnight. 

The sheriff said there was no visible damage to the church building, but power lines and a power box outside the church were damaged. 

Eyewitness News has also learned today's protest against Pastor Worley has sparked a new battle. 

Some Catawba County residents launched an email campaign Saturday, demanding any elected or appointed county official who endorsed today's protest to step down.  According to the email, the residents believe the county unfairly bent the rules on public demonstration to allow today's rally.

Thousands of protestors and dozens of deputies are expected to gather at the Justice Center in Newton today.   The organizers of the protest against Pastor Charles Worley, met with Catawba County sheriff’s deputies Friday afternoon to crowd control and protest guidelines for today's rally.

Two thousand people are expected to converge on the town of Newton, just miles from where the Maiden pastor told his congregation on Mother’s Day that gays should be isolated from the rest of society so they can die off.  He also called President Barack Obama a “baby killer” and a “homosexual lover.”

The sermon sparked national outrage after it was posted on the Internet.

On Thursday night, county leaders decided to allow the protest even though ordinances require a 14-day notice to protest. The American Civil Liberties Union said it would file an injunction to allow the protest.

Organizers said they look forward to a peaceful demonstration.

“I have confidence in the group that has supported us that it will be a peaceful protest,” said Laura Tipton. “People know what our message is about and know that it will be counterproductive to come out and start a yelling match.”

Catawba County Sheriff Coy Reid warned protesters Friday of taking the protest to Worley's church. 

"Nobody's going to be allowed on church property. They'll be arrested for trespassing if they are," he said. 

Reid said one-third of his staff would be working Sunday morning to help with the protest. He said he had to scramble to gather enough officers to protect the streets, the protesters and the congregation.

Highway Patrol officers will also be on the road that passes in front of Providence Road Baptist Church. They will be handing out citations to anyone trying to impede traffic. 

Officers said they would be inside the church as well. A group of counter-protesters from Primrose, Ga., are supposed to also attend the service as a sign of support for Worley.

While a few members of Worley’s congregation have spoken out in his defense, Worley has yet to make a public comment on the outrage or the planned protest.

He reportedly clarified his Mother’s Day message the following week, but did not rescind his comments on gays or Obama.

The rally is scheduled to take place at the Newton Government Center at 11 a.m. Sunday.