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Profile: Big Sky Tea Party Association
Big Sky Tea Party Association was a participant or observer in the following events:
Tim Ravndal, the head of the Big Sky Tea Party Association, makes comments on his Facebook page that many interpret as condoning the murder of homosexuals. Ravndal will apologize for the comments (see September 4-7, 2010), which he makes in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of same-sex couples by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). He will also remove the comments, but they will be preserved in a screenshot and documented by the Great Falls Tribune. Ravndal is described by the Tribune as “a prominent figure in [Montana]‘s tea party movement since its early days.” In an exchange with two others, Ravndal says the following:
Ravndal: “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.”
Keith Baker: “How dare you exercise your First Amendment rights?”
Dennis Scranton: “I think fruits are decorative. Hang up where they can be seen and appreciated. Call Wyoming for display instructions.”
Ravndal: ”@Kieth, OOPS I forgot this aint (sic) America no more! @ Dennis, Where can I get that Wyoming printed instruction manual?”
Dennis Scranton: “Should be able to get info Gazette archives. Maybe even an illustration. Go back a bit over 10 years.”
According to the Tribune, Ravndal and Scranton are apparently referring to the 1998 murder of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was beaten, tied to a fencepost, and left to die (see October 9, 1998 and After). During the trial of Shepard’s murderers, testimony proved that Shepard was killed because he was gay. [Great Falls Tribune, 9/4/2010]
Tim Ravndal, the head of the Big Sky Tea Party Association, apologizes for comments he made on his Facebook page that many interpreted as condoning the murder of homosexuals (see July 23, 2010). Ravndal later removed the comments, but they were preserved in a screenshot and published in the Great Falls Tribune. In the original comments, Ravndal seemed to approve of the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming college student targeted for being gay. Ravndal says he “never made the connection” to Shepard’s murder until after it became the focus of blog posts and comments in recent days. “I wasn’t even thinking about the tragedy that happened in Wyoming,” he says. “I made a mistake and I apologize to anyone I offended. I do not condone violence to any human being.” Ravndal adds that his Facebook page is personal, and has nothing to do with the Big Sky Tea Party Association. Montana human rights organizer Kim Abbott is unimpressed by Ravndal’s apology. “Mr. Ravndal’s comments are outrageous,” she says. “He is a public figure, in the public sphere, condoning and making light of violence against gay people. It’s actually pretty frightening.” [Great Falls Tribune, 9/4/2010] Apparently Ravndal’s apology is insufficient; within days of his apology, he will be fired from his leadership post. [Associated Press, 9/8/2010] The organization’s secretary, Kristi Allen-Gailushas, who is a Republican candidate for the Montana state senate, defends Ravndal in a post to his Facebook page, writing: “No matter what you guys say, ’Tim is a great American and patriot.’ He does have a right to say what he wants. I know that he didn’t mean it, but in the heat of his anger with the ACLU might not have realized what he was saying. The people who are in the TEA party movement are called names all of the time. Racist, extremist… you name it. Tolerance needs to be done on both sides, especially the homosexual side. ’There isn’t any tolerance for people who have a different opinion than yours.’ If we say yes to gay marriage, where does it stop? The people who want to have more than one spouse will be next and that is against the law. The definition of marriage is between a man and a woman, are we now going to change the definition?” (All emphases from the original.) Allen-Gailushas will later post on Facebook, “The Gay community wants a war… they’ve got one!!” She later adds a clarification: “I didn’t mean a literal gun war, but a war of the truth and the hypocrisy they espouse.” [Think Progress, 9/7/2010]
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