The president of Montana's Big Sky Tea Party Association has been fired from his leadership position following remarks made online that implied his support for the public hanging of homosexuals.
Tim 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."
Tim Ravndal: "@Kieth, OOPS I forgot this aint 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 ten years."
The conversation was posted as a reaction to a recent ACLU lawsuit filed against the state of Montana in order to secure greater rights for same-sex couples and their families, and appears to allude to the gruesome murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was tortured and tied to fencepost in Laramie in 1998. He later died from his injuries.
Ravndal later apologized for his part in this dialogue, telling the Great Falls Tribune that he "wasn't even thinking about the tragedy that happened in Wyoming," and that he does "not condone violence to any human being," but Big Sky Tea Party Chairman Jim Walker did not fully accept, and calls for Ravndal's ouster were eventually heard.
"We are extremely disappointed by Mr. Ravndal's commentary," wrote Walker in a statement explaining Ravndal's firing. "The discussion in that Facebook conversation is entirely outside the position of the Big Sky Tea Party. Even though Mr. Ravndal was having a personal conversation and made no reference to our group, we felt strongly that swift and decisive action was required as we cannot accept that sort of behavior from within our membership, let alone from an officer of the corporation."
"We continually make it known that we will not tolerate bigoted dialog, behavior or messages at our functions, our meetings or within our ranks," Walker continued. "If a person demonstrates bigotry relative to race, sex, ethnicity, etc. they are not welcome in our organization. The Tea Party movement is about standing up for individual freedom for everyone."