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'Day of Silence' Met with Protests, Solidarity in Rural Washington

GuestbloggerAs you may know, today is GLSEN's 12th annual Day of Silence. Students from more than 6,800 schools across the nation are expected to take part by taking a vow of silence to raise awareness about anti-LGBT bullying and harassment. One school on which media attention is focused is Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie, Washington. Chris Monsos graduated from Mount Si in 1997. He pens the blog Hunk du Jour and works as a software engineer outside Seattle.

Mountsi_2Around the country, lunch rooms will be a bit quieter and hallways a bit less rowdy as students in over 5,000 schools participate in the annual 'Day of Silence'. The event is designed to draw attention to anti-LGBT bullying in schools and promote learning spaces that are respectful and tolerant of all people.

In rural Snoqualmie, Washington, the Mount Si High School Gay-Straight Alliance will be taking part, but activist pastor Ken Hutcherson aims to protest the event by encircling the school with 1,000 praying Christians. Hutcherson appeared at the school in January of this year, causing controversy after he was selected to be a speaker at the Martin Luther King Jr. assembly. During his appearance a teacher booed him, and another teacher asked him about the disconnect between his message of equality and his intolerance of the GLBT community.

Hutcherson_2After the encounter Rev. Hutcherson called for the firing of the two teachers who spoke out. The school offered an official apology, and the district said in a statement that "appropriate action has been taken with staff and school administration..." The district added that it does not comment on personnel matters.

Protesters of the 'Day of Silence' placed a half-page ad in the local paper, The Snoqualmie Valley Record;. They call the event too disruptive for the learning environment, when organizers attest that it is designed to be as non-disruptive as possible.

Support for the Mount Si GSA has appeared from what might have been considered an unlikely source -- another small church in the Snoqualmie Valley. Tolt Congregational UCC, a church in nearby Carnation, took out a full-page ad in the Record, reading "...we stand in solidarity with these student leaders for their efforts to make our schools safe and welcoming to all."

I spoke to Neil Lequia (below, right), a former student who is returning to Mount Si today to support students and facilitate a news conference. Lequia is the subject of a profile in today's Seattle Times.

Lequia_2"It's overwhelming to know that within the community we have so much encouragement and opposition," says Lequia, who began working with GLSEN when he was a student at Mount Si, helping create the GSA. "Because Tolt UCC is a Christian church, it shows that not all Christians are bad people, and they can accept everyone for their differences."

Adds Lequia: "Gay rights has become so vocally debated in the valley because its an issue that people feel they don't have to deal with. It has always been swept under the rug because there are 'no gays in the valley.'"

GSA Advisor Eric Goldhammer reports that around 200 students have taken part in the required 'Day of Silence' training meetings. Student participants are pledging to "approach the day with dignity, maturity and respect." When asked about what he is proudest of thus far, he sees students realizing that "they can make an impact on the world, even in little Snoqualmie, Washington -- they're getting an idea of what student leadership is all about."

While the protesters stand just outside of school property, what you won't see is a counter-protest. A small group of community supporters will welcome students at the gates and show their support. They intend on being gone before the expected protest crowd even arrives. GLSEN WA (Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network) will also be holding an off-campus press conference to answer questions about the 'Day of Silence' and talk to the media about the importance of GSAs in schools.

Adds Lequia: "The 'Day of Silence' raises awareness of issues. It shows how people have to conceal their identity on the behalf of other people. This whole event is about anti bullying and harassment and those things happen especially in high schools. We are the people who are going to make a difference."

Related
Ex-student returns to Mount Si to support Day of Silence [seattle times]
(neil lequia image - dean rutz, seattle times)

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Comments

  1. The fact that this bastard would protest a movement protesting violence & cruetly against children shows that he is evil. Jesus would describe Hutcherson as unfit to be a follower. Hutcherson is just like Hagee (who backs McCain)--they are hyporcrties and liars. Most of all, these hateful preachers have been whores of Bush Administration. Maybe their "trick money" from Washington (Faith Based Initiative shit) is about to come to an end.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Apr 25, 2008 9:34:03 AM


  2. It is stories like these that give me hope. Not hope for the Christian wing nuts, but hope for the next generation. Kids all over the continent are taking part in a day to show support for those who need it most, the victims of bullying and abuse.

    I, for one, am proud to consider myself part of this generation. The generation that will make change. The generation that will help fix the world.

    Youth have a voice, and when they choose to unify and use it (or not use it in this instance) the world will listen.

    Posted by: Taylor | Apr 25, 2008 9:44:39 AM


  3. If there is a God, He'll have Jesus meet Mr. Hutcherson at the Pearly Gates where He'll force him to blow Him before He throws him down to Hell where Satan gets eternal sloppy seconds.

    Posted by: Rey | Apr 25, 2008 9:54:56 AM


  4. In that pic, Hutcherson totally has GayFace.

    Posted by: BusyTimmy | Apr 25, 2008 10:00:39 AM


  5. Sad when a person who knows discrimination is a bigot himself.

    Posted by: Lu B | Apr 25, 2008 11:51:33 AM


  6. Snoqualmie is where a good deal of the location shooting for TWIN PEAKS was done, and Mount Si High School is where Laura Palmer went to High School. The fun still hasn't stopped round there, evidently.

    Posted by: Roscoe | Apr 25, 2008 12:59:09 PM


  7. I am a born again Christian gay man. And I have been sick for years of what others are doing in the name of Christ. There are those of us who understand that Christ is about love and that ALL are created in the image of God resulting within each of us DIGNITY.
    For those who say I can't be gay and Christian, I ask you, when did you get up on a cross and die for me? Until then, discussion closed.
    Peace to all and I request that everyone please accept and realize not to lump all Christians together the same way in which we as of a homosexual orientation would not all want to be sterotyped as the jock or the limp wristed; we are a wonderful diverse community and have within ourselves the ability to respond to God's graciousness by empowering one another; meaning that we do our part to instill in one another the hope for the betterment of each brother and sister.
    oh, child, you can see it may be a day of silence but honey, I can't do it. I run at the mouth. LOL.
    But thank God for the awareness and the efforts of all of you.
    Peace, Brandon

    Posted by: Brandon | Apr 25, 2008 1:11:16 PM


  8. Pastor Ken Hutcherson in a sermon at Antioch Bible Church Kirkland, WA:
    "God hates soft men" and "God hates effeminate men." He continued, "If I was in a drugstore and some guy opened the door for me, I'd rip his arm off and beat him with the wet end."

    Jesus in the Sermon on the Plain:
    “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

    Posted by: DJSauvage | Apr 25, 2008 2:09:58 PM


  9. Why does this article point to a local UCC church that is standing in solidarity with the Day of Silence as an example of "support from UNEXPECTED places"?

    The author of this piece is clearly unfamiliar with the UCC. If he had been then he would know that a UCC congregation would be the FIRST place that you would expect to find people who loudly and proudly support demonstrations for fairness and equality for gay people.

    Posted by: Zeke | Apr 25, 2008 2:50:55 PM


  10. Zeke: I think I understand where you are coming from but may I suggest you re-read and consider a couple of things. I do believe the author is very aware of UCC and what it stands for. It says support has come from "what might have been considered an unlikely source," and I think the author intends to suggest that the unlikeliness is what may surprise others, not the author himself, but those who lump all Christians together.
    There are undoubtedly Christians who would find a Christian church to be an unlikely source of support for this cause. I am positive the author knows its mission as the author is very credible and has done extensive research regarding other past pieces of which he has penned. I trust him.
    It is only with good intention that I am attemtping to shed what I think is light on what may be misinterpreted. Please accept my intentions. Peace. Brandon

    Posted by: Brandon | Apr 25, 2008 3:40:08 PM


  11. @Zeke:

    First, thanks for your comment. I'm glad to see that you are passionate about this issue.

    I actually grew up going to the Tolt UCC's youth group, where I've made some of the longest-lasting friendships of my life. It was actually an e-mail to us former youth group members that lit the fire under me to write this piece.

    The stance of the UCC is well known (especially since the famous "Bouncer" commercial), and I know firsthand how their love and support of the GLBT community makes their churches safe and welcoming places.

    What suprised me (maybe that's the wrong word -- moved? inspired? unexpectedly delighted?) was their decision to speak out in such a small and rural community -- not because of marching orders from "The UCC," but because they recognized that it was the right thing to do.

    I wouldn't be surprised to see support from the UCC in a national setting. But when it bubbles up in the middle of pastures, berry farms, and the meandering Snoqualmie River from a small congregation? ...it surprises me. It moves me. It inspires me, and I only hope that we see more of it.

    Thank-you,

    - Chris Monsos

    Posted by: Chris Monsos | Apr 25, 2008 3:55:39 PM


  12. It is truly amazing how Rev. Hutcherson (and other-like hypocrites) choose what they believe from the Bible. Surely his church has single mothers who have had children out of wedlock. The Bible clearly condemns such behavior. Do you think he will condemn this behavior and do as the Bible says - stone them to death? Nah. Not as long as these unwed mothers continue to fill his offering plate (i.e., his wallet).

    Posted by: LeeBo | Apr 26, 2008 8:56:27 AM


  13. Hey Chris,
    I am glad you took a break from your the 'Hunk' site and spoke out on this topic. We need to see these types of blogs more. Thanks for standing up for what is right, honest and fair. I am glad that your generation and the younger generation are taking a more positive stand on gay rights than ever before. I wish I had these opportunities when I was your age. My high school years were some of the unhappiest in my life. I did have one friend who accepted me and we remained friends for life.

    Posted by: Al Mize | Apr 27, 2008 8:04:49 PM


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