The divisive decision by Mayor Amundson to bring Focus on Family’s H.B. London to Arcadia in March is having some significant repercussion in the community.
During Tuesday’s regular City Council meeting, nine area residents spoke passionately and powerfully about Mayor Amundson’s decision to have city funds pay for a speaker from the anti-gay organization such as Focus on Family at the community breakfast in March. Their statements were both honest and moving, and two speakers got choked up to the point of tears during their statements. The Arcadia GSA showed up in force with a number of students, two of whom gave passionate statements.
Arcadia resident and junior at Arcadia High School Willa Zhang made the following statement Tuesday night…
“My concern tonight is regarding the proposed keynote speaker at this year’s Mayor’s Community Breakfast, Mr. H.B. London, Jr. As vice president of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, Mr. London represents an organization with a marked intolerance towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in both their homes and communities.
One of Focus on the Family’s most harmful and hateful campaigns is their continual fight against the prevention of bullying.1 Why is it that Focus on the Family would aggressively condemn school policies that try to protect children and promote tolerance? This group defines anti-bullying programs as “gay activism in disguise” and accuses LGBTQ advocacy groups of wishing to promote political agendas.1 While 90% of LGBTQ students experience either physical or verbal harassment, Focus on the Family maintains the stance that intolerance for homosexuality will promote their “100% zero tolerance for bullying.”
Though Focus on the Family may have been founded in Arcadia, I believe that its views are not the best representation of the community’s views. Our schools teach and our community embraces diversity, but this group’s rhetoric threatens people such as myself and others.
The Mayor’s breakfast always represents a “wonderful celebration of community spirit, inspiration and friendship.” Wiping tears away from her eyes Zhang cooncluded by saying… “In respect to the community, I ask that you reconsider your invitation to Mr. H.B. London to speak at the Mayor’s Breakfast.”
Another speaker was a tear filled mother whose son is gay and has been bullyed and harrassed at Arcadia High school. Marsha Aizumi also sent an e-mail to Arcadia Weekly and other media as well as to the mayor and council asking Amundson to reconsider.
Aizumi said her son faced “harassment and bullying” at Arcadia high as a result of being gay. She felt the matter very serious said she and her husband are deeply upset by Mayor Amundson’s choice and felt a more tolerant speaker would have made a better choice.
Rick Eisenlord, M. Div., Good Shepherd Church Pasadena – was another speaker who said he found it objectionable that the Mayor chose H.B. London to speak. Attempting to make a final point during his alloted time, the Mayor abruptly cut Eisenlord off at exactly 3 minutes.
When S Debra Evans, from the Lationo Quality Alliance, concluded her remarks during public comment, Mayor Amundson asked Evans where she had heard of his support for an organization called NOM- National Organization for Marriage. Denying he knew anything of the organization, Evans pointed out that, in fact, Mayor Amundson has a link to that organization on his Facebook page. The Mayor then uttered something that was indecipherable. A check on Facebook Wednesday morning confirmed that Amundson does, in fact, support the National Organization of Marriage or NOM which has strong conservative ideas of conventional marriage and does not support gay marriage.
No member of the public spoke in support for the Mayor’s choice during this council meeting
Mark Potok of the Southern Povery Law Center told Beacon Media that they have classified Focus on Family and NOM as “Hard Core Anti-Gay” groups.
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM), which is dedicated to fighting same-sex marriage in state legislatures, was organized in 2007 by conservative syndicated columnist Maggie Gallagher and Princeton University politics professor Robert George. George is an influential Christian thinker who co-authored the 2009 “Manhattan Declaration,” a manifesto developed after a New York meeting of conservative church leaders that “promises resistance to the point of civil disobedience against any legislation that might implicate their churches or charities in abortion, embryo-destructive research or same sex marriage.”
Speaking to media after the meeting, S Debra Evans said she beileves Mayor Amundson twice illegally interrupted two speakers (the agenda states quite clearly that state law prohibits the City Council from discussing topics or issues unless they appear on the posted Agenda). Evans said the students and other speakers who were there to oppose Amundson’s Focus on Family choice were extremely respectful and courteous and felt the Mayor was not equally respectful. According to Evans, during the “Reports” portion of the meeting, the Mayor “lashed out against the brave speakers, insulting them and accusing them of “hate speech” and “intolerance”.” “Quite simply, Mayor Peter Amundson demonstrated last night that he is an embarrasment — both to himself and to all of Arcadia.” Evans told Beacon Media.
Councilmen Robert Harbicht Gary Kovacic advised the audience that the Mayor was free to choose whomever he wished to speak at the Community Breakfast, and that just because Focus on the Family stands for a few things with which some people might disagree, that is not a reason to prevent Mr. London from speaking at a City-funded event.
In a recent statement sent to this newspaper, Mayor Amundson said:
“The theme for my Mayor’s Breakfast is “Celebrate Family.”
Arcadia is a Community of Homes, a community of families.
Focus on the Family was founded in Arcadia, by Dr.James Dobson.
I, like thousands of parents, found Dr. Dobson’s books like “Dare to Disciple”, “The Strong Willed Child” and “Bringing up Boys” very helpful to raise my family.
No organization in the world has done more to support the American family than Focus on the Family.”
Organizers opposed to Mayor Amundson’s choice are planning their own community event on the afternoon of Sunday, February 27. They are also in the planning stages of protest on the morning of Friday, March 4 prior to the Community Breakfast.