What happens when you speak out in America today? Unfortunately, it has an awful lot to do with what you chose to speak out about, or more so, from what side of the aisle you speak from. Some of you are aware of the story of Dieseltec in the news and the Owner of that shop taking his stance on traditional marriage and other Christian principles. Nice to meet you, per-say, I am writing to you now.
When I wrote my views on my Facebook page, I had no idea what was about to happen. I spoke about the Second Amendment and offered a discount to customers who came in with their firearms. I spoke about how I will not tolerate immoral behavior in my shop and clarified it be providing such examples as dishonesty and thievery. I focused on open displays of homosexuality and how this, as I consider it to be, would be an immoral behavior as well. Therefore, since it is my place of business and I don’t tolerate such behavior in it, participants would be asked to leave. My original comment can be seen on my company Facebook page.
The morning after posting my comments, I found myself in front of news cameras defending my position. The story aired on every news station that evening and went national and even to parts of the world within another 24 hours. Having been an information consumer for all of my life, I never truly understood the media bias until now. A conservative news outlet would offer a headline; “Christian business owner stands on principles” while a liberal outlet would read, “Anti-gay shop owner refuses to service homosexuals.” I will let you soak that in for your own opinion, but I will add that I find it interesting the left didn’t refer to me as anti-thief or anti-liar or pro-gun.
My business was immediately disrupted with harassing phone calls, death threats to me, my family and employees and emails inundated with gay pornography. I thought that the peak had been reached and all will calm down in a couple of days. Wrong. A Catholic minister from a town north of me organized a protest in opposition to my views for the upcoming Saturday. I thought it wise to fight fire with fire and invited people to join me in support for a barbecue and to exercise their rights, which are protected under the 2nd Amendment.
The local Police Department contacted me and begged me to not have my barbecue with all the guns around. I responded with the fact that we were not the ones they had to worry about. A little over $472 later, my wife, with some help, brought in the hotdogs and hamburgers to be cooked up for the crowd. It was Saturday at noon. While the protesters on the sidewalk stood with their “God loves all” and “equality” etc. signs, they were outnumbered 3 to 1 by conservative Americans proudly bearing their sidearms. There were 8 news cameras on site, 7 of them pointed at us and 1 at the protesters. The first batch of fresh burgers and hotdogs rolled off the grill and onto a table that was carried out to our guests on the sidewalk. Not a single news camera captured the “evil Christians” feeding the protesters before themselves. The day ended with little more significance.
The following Tuesday morning, I rolled in to work to find customer vehicles had been spray painted, the building covered in graffiti, and windows smashed out. The local authorities took no interest, no pictures, no look around, just gave a business card with a report number and instructed me to turn it in to the insurance company. We posted armed security on the building from that point forward and thwarted dozens of would be attackers. Unknown vehicles would pull in the parking lot in the middle of the night and we would chase them off before they had a chance to do any more damage.
Due to continued threats and harassment from the sodomites and their supporters, I decided to host an event where I would explain my position to the community and how I had been maligned by the press. Our first attempt at this was postponed due to a considerable threat to my already vulnerable business, where I was going to hold the event. We thought it better to host the event off-site and began looking for venues.
My local public school district recently built a tax-payer funded facility for performing arts. It seats in excess of 1,200 people and is available for rent. I called to inquire and received a reservation confirmation before ending the phone call. Within two hours, I received a call from the facility manager stating that he had spoken with the Superintendent Tom Tenbrink and that Tom had said, “I don’t feel that an event of this type would be appropriate for our facility” and was thereby canceling our reservation.
To keep this brief, I can simply say that the Superintendent was reminded of the 1st Amendment and how it applies to public facility use (that same place they have had church services at on multiple occasions) and we needed our reservation re-instated. After a bit of back-and-forth, the District reluctantly accepted our rights and confirmed a new date.
This past Friday, May 29, 2015, I received a call from the Jenison Public Schools asking me to take down the name of their facility and its address on my event notification because they were receiving threatening phone calls from those who oppose me. I asked them for an alternative way to notify would-be attenders of where the event would be located and the District simply repeated their request to have the address removed. I then asked if it would be more appropriate for us to work together and hold the harassers responsible for their criminal activity rather than continuing at odds with each other. Again, the request to remove their name was repeated. Within hours of ending that call, the District took advantage of their emergency alert system (the system that is reserved for school closings, emergencies, and dangerous threats) to send this message, via mass email, sms, social media, and instant messaging to every parent in the entire school district:
Dear Families of JPS,
As you know, we are blessed to have been gifted an amazing Performing Arts Center by our community. Part of the function of that facility is outside use. You may be aware of, or soon become aware of, a potentially controversial event that will be hosted following the conclusion of the school year by Dieseltec of Grandville at the JCA on June 11. The First Amendment and Board Policy prevent the District from restricting this group or other community groups from using our facility based on the content of the views to be expressed. In short, we cannot by law suppress their free speech. However, the district does not endorse the views of Dieseltec or any other community group that rents our facility. As a school district, we work to assure that any controversial event in one of our facilities be scheduled so that there is no disruption to our main mission, which is serving the educational needs of your son or daughter.
We would request that if you, as a member of the public, wish to express concern about the time, energy and financial obligation JPS is undertaking to mitigate the negative publicity toward the District associated with this event that you direct your concern directly to Dieseltec. Dieseltec is the sole sponsor of the event. JPS in no way endorses this event, but does respect the rule of law and the expression of divergent views consistent with the First Amendment. On the advice of legal counsel, we have no statement other than that we are allowing facility use under obligation of law.
JPS official statement on event:
“Diverse groups which express diverse political and religious views utilize District facilities. This District, however, does not endorse nor necessarily agree with all views expressed. Permitted use of a District facility should not be misinterpreted as the District’s endorsement of views expressed by the users. Upon advice from the District’s legal counsel, and consistent with the First Amendment, the District does not (and cannot lawfully) censor use based on the views expected to be expressed even if offensive to members in our community. We respect free speech and the rule of law even when we object to the content of that speech.”
Can you say, “Wow”? I had just finished an on camera interview with my local news as they were sending a letter consisting of the same message from Jenison Public Schools. Upon the completion of that interview I sat down to draft this for all of you readers. To be continued…