Hangin' with the Church Lady

This soldier of God is on a South Florida crusade

In the same year as the divorce, she ran for City Council in Plantation and lost. She was also instrumental in founding Heritage Park on Fig Tree Road and was appointed to the county's land-use planning board by Anne Kolb, Broward's first female commissioner.

In 1983, she met a man at a Bible study group. Chemicals catalyzed, and she quickly remarried. "We learned in Realtor school that there are four types of people: sensors, thinkers, feelers, and intuitives," she said. "I'm a sensor, and the symbol for that is a lightning rod. I make quick decisions. And we were busy, busy, busy and had a child that same year."

The birth of her son, who is now 20, slowed down her political work. The second marriage didn't work out, and she divorced him in 2000. A second broken family. Curious, I asked her point-blank if she'd ever fornicated, if she had ever been one of those dreaded people Dozier won't allow in his choir.

Sympathetic and true to her calling
Colby Katz
Sympathetic and true to her calling

"Oh, you're not going to write that, are you?" she said. "God doesn't expect me to be perfect. I'm not Jesus. But I definitely need forgiveness."

Free from marriage, she returned full-tilt to the political circuit, and the Boy Scout controversy of 2001 put her squarely back into the game. Hostetter lobbied the School Board to reinstate the Scouts. While she made headway with some members like Darla Carter and Judie Budnick, others (Lois Wexler, Carole Andrews, and Beverly Gallagher) so despised her message that they wouldn't even meet with her.

She lost the Boy Scout issue, but it didn't dissuade her. God again spoke to her, only this time through Pearl Harbor, the overdrawn war and romance bomb starring Ben Affleck, which she saw on June 10, 2001, her 55th birthday. God told her that she was in a war and that she must be a steadfast soldier. The Japanese attacks represented "pornography, sexuality, the school situation, abortion, the breakdown of family -- not that I'm perfect by any means," she said. "We've got the ammunition. We've got the truth. We need to organize and get these planes off the ground. We need to get the Christian worldview out there to save our culture and our nation."

In October 2001, she began firing her ammo at the proposed GLSEN partnership. Hostetter did everything she could to stop it, enlisting right-wing radio host Steve Kane to rant about it, helping to get fundamentalists like TV preacher D. James Kennedy involved, and drumming up lots of media coverage.

The board defeated the measure by a 6-3 vote. "It was a shock," she says of her success, "but it was wonderful."

And short-lived. Despite her frenetic efforts, a new GLSEN contract, which excluded the counseling of students, was approved in April 2002.

Bitter from the defeat, Hostetter, who now lives in Davie, ran for the School Board in September. By that time, she had gotten newspaper ink. "Whenever a reporter needs an antigay Christian bigot, they call Margaret," she explained with a laugh.

Despite the publicity, Hostetter finished next to last among five contenders, gaining only 17 percent of the vote. But in another race, Darla Carter pulled off an upset win over incumbent Paul Eichner, who supported GLSEN. To Hostetter, Carter was a friend and sympathetic soul; the board member once compared GLSEN to Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan.

Hostetter said she remarked to Carter at her victory party that the diversity committee was so diverse that there were no WASPs on it. "I want to be that WASP," she told Carter.

They had a "good laugh" about it, Hostetter recalled, and Carter agreed with her. In December, Carter appointed the WASP to the committee, causing much controversy in the papers. In a recent edition of the GLSEN newsletter, Co-chairman Michael Record wrote that Hostetter and fellow appointee Kane had "derailed" his group's mission.

Hostetter laughs when she hears this. "He gives me a lot of credit, doesn't he?"

As 1 a.m. passed at Denny's, I began to challenge some of her ideas about homosexuality. Hostetter stopped laughing. Her face tightened with anger. Her eyes glared at me as she spoke about sin. I asked her why she was so preoccupied with what consensual adults do in their homes. Looking as if she might burst into tears, she spoke of sex crimes and murders committed by gay men. They are destroying America, she cried, especially when they enlist youth on their side. They need to come to God and renounce their decision, she said, repeating her mantra that homosexuality is not a genetic trait.

Though it's not very constructive to go too far down this road, the truth is there are lots of respectable scientific studies that suggest that homosexuality is, in fact, rooted in genes. She writes those off as "illegitimate" and contends there is no proof.

I asked her, as we walked to our cars, how she can be so sure she's right. After all, there is certainly no scientific proof that it's not genetic. "If God condemns something," she said, "then he wouldn't have made them that way."

And that was that. One can't argue with the Inerrant Word. I thought of all the contradictions and cruelties in the Bible and how it was no wonder she sometimes looked as if she wanted to explode. All that considerable drive and passion -- the sensor mentality of hers -- was trapped in the rigid framework of the Christian Right that had been hammered into her during childhood.

But I didn't say any of that. I just thanked her and told her that I'd had a good time.

As Hostetter opened her car door, I smiled and nodded. Then the Church Lady drove away, surely planning another day of service in the Army of the Lord.

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