I must respectfully disagree with Ken Trainor’s editorial opinion that gay community members who objected to controversial preacher Cornelius Williams’ appearance at the Buzz Café were fighting “intolerance with intolerance.” [Don’t fight intolerance with intolerance, Ken Trainor, Aug. 19]
In his column Trainor states he is “extremely proud that Oak Park provides a safe, welcoming refuge for gays and lesbians.” I wholeheartedly agree with that sentiment. But I do not believe Oak Park can be such a community when a public café that many LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) residents patronize invites a speaker to espouse self-hatred and denial of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. This is not a welcoming act! Imagine if Cornelius Williams did show up at the Buzz as initially intended, and a family with gay members or a couple of LGBT teenagers showed up simply to have dinner or a snack. What are they to think when they overhear a presentation at the friendly Buzz Café that assures them that LGBT people can be cured from sinful behavior that is likely to send them to hell? Does that sound like a welcoming, safe environment? Not to me.
While I did not e-mail the Buzz to cancel the speaker, I was happy Williams’ appearance was canceled. I had intended to come to his presentation as a straight ally and witness against his perspective. I would not want the Buzz to extend an invitation for such racist hate-speak. Just as I would find a white supremacist speaking at the Buzz in favor of reinstating Jim Crow laws in Oak Park a vicious and disgusting presentation. I am pleased that Williams was not given a platform to share a similar kind of hate mongering.
There are other ways to explore the topic of reparative therapy and religious perspectives that are intolerant toward LGBT individuals and their behavior. There could be a screening at the library of a wonderful film they own called For the Bible Tells Me So (which deals with the issue that the Bible says homosexuality is an abomination) and an audience discussion afterward. There could be a panel discussion at one of Oak Park’s many welcoming churches of national and community efforts aimed at reaching out to LGBT individuals (and their family members) struggling with questions of faith and loving self-acceptance.
There are many ways for human rights advocates to fight against intolerance. So rather than criticize some in the gay community as having “overreached” in their efforts to derail Williams’ Buzz Café presentation, I applaud my neighbors for being citizen activists who mobilized against hate speech and homophobia.
Denise Rose, a long-time Oak Parker, has two graduate research studies available at the Oak Park Public Library on issues of racial diversity. Her dissertation, “Racial Roadblocks: Pursuing Successful Long-Term Racial Diversity In Oak Park, Illinois, A Metropolitan Chicago Community,” was completed in 2007.