Oak Park trustee Ray Johnson backs up gay pressure on the little coffee shop that would schedule a book author to talk about therapy to make gay people straight.
With no Oak Park village board meeting this Monday, trustee Ray Johnson, who is gay, was at the Buzz. “I did not want the Buzz Café to give a forum to this gentleman who is espousing bigotry and hatred,” Johnson said, noting that Williams stood to profit from the event.
Restaurateur Dennis Murphy, on the other hand, called the pressure tactics (by gays, in this case), “un-American.”
Dennis Murphy, 67, an Oak Park resident and owner of Poor Phil’s, heard about the book discussion through a local political party’s e-mail group. Murphy says he’s not familiar with the specifics of Williams’ stance but said he’s disappointed that the man wasn’t given a chance to speak.
“No matter how distasteful, he still has the legitimate right to express his view,” Murphy said. “And I didn’t like this mob mentality, ganging up on Laura [Maychruk, Buzz proprietor] and preventing something from happening, simply because they disagreed with what the talk would be about. I just found it very un-American.”
The author is Cornelius Williams, who used to live in Oak Park and is a regular at Buzz, which is on Harrison Street in the Arts District. The book is Transition: From Homosexual to Preacher. He published it through Author House, an on-line service.
The book at Amazon.com
Murphy is right. He refers to our accepted ideals of open conversation and free exchange of ideas. When a popular elected official endorses the opposite, something’s rotten in our village.
This is very serious stuff — a perhaps hurried and offhand approval by a village official, one elected village-wide for all its citizens. It is only tangentially, if at all, concerned with gay rights or even gay sensibilities.
Another politically active Oak Parker talked the same way, Ann Armstrong, a longtime or at least long ago pillar of the Village Manager Association (VMA), our rarely defeated semi-political party.
People at the café Monday said reparative therapy isn’t worth discussing. They suggested topics where the public could help effect change: civil unions and the military’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy. “Issues where information is useful,” said Ann Armstrong, 67, a straight Oak Parker who has fought for gay rights. “It’s a fool’s errand to think reparative treatment is anything but hypocrisy or snake oil.”
Here is the essence of zeal for an arguably liberal cause gone overboard in violation of liberal principles. In that respect, it’s not a principled position but a decidedly narrow-scope view of rights.
The whole business deals a harsh setback to the gay-rights movement in Oak Park, which has hitherto enjoyed wide support.