MT tea party removes leader after Facebook post appears to condone violence against gaysBy AP
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
MT tea party removes leader after anti-gay post
HELENA, Mont. — The president of a Montana tea party group has been kicked out of the organization for an exchange on his Facebook page that appeared to condone violence against homosexuals.
The Big Sky Tea Party Association’s board of directors voted Sunday to remove Tim Ravndal as president after members learned of the online conversation in July that began with a comment about an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit over rights for same-sex couples.
Ravndal apologized over the weekend after being contacted by The Great Falls Tribune, which first reported the story, but that didn’t halt the board’s decision. Chairman Jim Walker called the comments “unacceptable.”
“The discussion in that Facebook conversation is entirely outside the position of the Big Sky Tea Party,” Walker said in a statement. “We continually make it known that we will not tolerate bigoted dialogue, behavior or messages at our functions, our meetings or within our ranks.”
The July 23 Facebook comment and subsequent exchange has been removed, but a screen-shot showed it originated with Ravndal posting that “Marriage is between a man and a woman period! By giving rights to those otherwise would be a violation of the Constitution and my own rights.”
That post prompted a response from another Facebook user, who wrote: “I think fruits are decorative. Hang up where they can be seen and appreciated. Call Wyoming for display instructions.”
To that, Ravndal responded: “Where can I get that Wyoming printed instruction manual?”
The conversation appears to reference the 1998 death of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was beaten and tied to a fence post. Police said Shepard was attacked because he was gay.
Montana Human Rights Network organizers said they became aware of the Facebook posting on Friday after a couple of Montana political blogs reprinted the exchange. Organizer Kim Abbott said her organization immediately called for Ravndal’s removal and for the Big Sky Tea Party Association to clarify its position.
Two days later, Ravndal was gone.
“We think that they moved swiftly, they condemned the anti-gay rhetoric,” Abbott told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “We’re especially happy about the unequivocal statements that the tea party will not welcome this type of inflammatory, bigoted behavior into their party, and we hope they stick to it.”
Ravndal did not return calls and e-mail requests for comment on Tuesday.
Ravndal told the Tribune on Friday that he was sorry for the post but told the Tribune he “never made the connection” to Shepard’s murder.
He also apologized on his Facebook page that said “I made a mistake and commented on a post that implied that I condone violence against another human being.
“NOthing could be farther from the truth. Those that know me understand and that is all that matters!” Ravndal wrote.