Hypocrisy on both sides of park protest issue

The decision to allow Brian Johnson to "protest" in Loring Park during this weekend's Twin Cities Pride festival ("Judge: Evangelist can hand out Bibles at Pride festival," June 25) makes one wonder: Would the judge and the Park Board be as tolerant if Johnson's "differing view" were directed at people of color or women?


• • •

The feud over Johnson smacks of hypocrisy. The Pride festival touts, on its website, that "nearly 400 vendors and exhibitors set up at the Pride Festival each year. From food and beverage to arts and crafts, employee groups and local nonprofit organizations, you can find just about anything you're looking for at the Pride Festival." But if the judge had not ruled, you would not have been able to find Brian Johnson.

Where did the tolerance, diversity and compassion go with Pride organizers? Jim Kelley, Pride festival manager, stated in the Star Tribune that "free speech and liberty belong to everyone. We are leasing this space, and if someone came into your home and started telling you what an awful family you have, [they] can have that opinion; [they] just can't have it in your house."

Again, where is the tolerance? What better place to discuss, openly, the topics concerning the community than at Pride? Or is tolerance of others only saved for the oppressed, downtrodden and castoffs of society?


Lavender and the pastor

Clerics: Apologize for unethical journalism

For many years we have been saddened and frustrated by the public comments of Lutheran Pastor Tom Brock regarding his stridently negative opinions regarding lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. His comments have been based on his interpretation of certain verses in the Bible and his belief that the church must not allow gay and lesbian persons to be ordained pastors. Brock's public condemnation has been hurtful to many.

Nevertheless, we are also frustrated that Lavender magazine has released an article, "Antigay Lutheran Pastor Protests Too Much" by John Townsend, in which he outs Pastor Brock. The magazine sent Townsend, undercover, to a confidential meeting of Courage, a Roman Catholic organization ministering to those with same-sex attractions and their loved ones. Courage meetings are understood to be confidential.

We believe that outing someone in this manner is abhorrent. We certainly believe that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons will be spiritually and physically healthier if they can come out of the closet.

What is especially unethical on the part of Lavender magazine was to "out" Pastor Brock based on having someone attend a confidential meeting under false pretenses, a meeting where participants would expect to be safe in discussing their lives.

We call on Lavender and John Townsend to issue an apology for their journalistically unethical action so that GLBT persons can feel safe in working through their personal lives in a way that is best for themselves, their families and friends.

We wish Pastor Brock God's blessing as he works through this difficult time in his life. We hope that he will come to a more welcoming, Gospel-based understanding of God's love for himself and for all GLBT people.

THE REV. anita c. hill, the Rev. keith olstad and the Rev. PAUL A. TIDEMANN

Hill and Olstad are copastors at St. Paul-Reformation Lutheran Church. Tideman is a member of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in St. Paul. This letter also was signed by 19 other clergy members.


Modernize outreach to reach at-risk youth

As Pride weekend arrives once again, we remember the shocking news that came out of last year: The Hennepin County Public Health Clinic identified six new HIV-positive people, five of whom were under 30. This was a number that hadn't been seen in years.

A few months later, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) issued a startling letter to service providers identifying a large increase in newly diagnosed HIV cases, with a bulk of them in the metro area. MDH then released preliminary 2009 data to much media fanfare.

HIV in men under 25 increased 83 percent in the last year and 300 percent since 2001, to a level not seen since 1986.

The story came and went.

Locally, Hennepin County's Ryan White Program answered this startling news by organizing just a few sparsely attended youth events.

Its use of this dated and financially wasteful tactic was against the strong and early advice from those of us who work within these affected communities. MDH points to the Internet as a cause of the increase in HIV, yet none of this funding was spent online.

Now we're back to the same HIV-prevention activities from the past decade; politically safe and of apparent decreasing effectiveness. Yet, with few exceptions, HIV-prevention activities have yet to truly utilize the Internet.

So what's the impact? In the last five years, 222 young men have been infected with HIV in Minnesota. This is 132 young men beyond our endemic 2001 levels. It translates to $137 million dollars in lifetime medical costs, much of which will be paid for by state and federal programs.

For every $1 spent on HIV prevention, $7 are saved in future medical costs. It is imperative from both a fiscal and humanitarian standpoint that we take immediate action.

Increased funding alone is not going to solve this problem. Rather, we need to support new and innovative ideas, critically reevaluate our current prevention activities, support culturally competent partner services staff and meet youths where they are. That's something that the governmental leadership in the HIV community has refused to do.

It's time to talk prevention in the 21st century. It's time to stop playing politics on the backs of our youth. And it's time for new leadership.


Prins is executive director of District 202, a Minneapolis-based organization for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youths. Schrom is a member of the Minnesota HIV Services Planning Council.