“Two U.S. citizens were arrested at a New York airport as they tried to leave the country to join an Islamic terrorist group in Somalia and plot attacks against American troops abroad, authorities said Sunday.”

So begins an article in the Los Angeles Times, dated June 7, 2010.  The story goes on to talk about the two men, US citizens in their early 20s.  The paragraph that caught my attention says:

It was unclear how they became radicalized, authorities said. But according to a 17-page criminal complaint, they periodically listened to Anwar Awlaki, a U.S.-born, Yemen-based Islamic cleric who preaches jihad and is suspected of inspiring the accused Ft. Hood shooter and the failed Christmas Day airline plot.

As I read about Anwar Awlaki, I thought about Christian clerics who preach hatred toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people – and the violence that results from that religious rhetoric.  I debated yesterday whether or not to blog on this, and decided not to.  Then, today, I was pointed to this story in the Seattle Times.

“[A] brutal assault in the boys’ locker room is raising questions about the climate for gay students at the school [Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie] and whether administrators are doing enough to respond to bullying.”

The administrators need to do more.  They need to do more to respond to the bullying.  And they need to do more to prevent bullying!  Bullying has roots.  Yes, some of it comes from the adolescent anxieties about “differentness.”  But it needs societal support; it needs a degree of cultural acceptance to flourish.

In the case of the violence at Mount Si High School, the radical religious rhetoric of the Rev. Ken Hutcherson has been on important way bullies have found a sufficient degree of cultural acceptance to justify their actions.  As you’ll read in the Seattle Times article, Hutcherson led a major anti-gay protest at Mount Si High School in 2008 and has had it daughter monitor the Gay-Straight Alliance club at the high school.

I used to live in Carnation, Washington, just down the valley from Snoqualmie.  I had youth from my church who attended Mount Si High School and adults who worked there in that school district.  I feel a personal connection to this story and am deeply disturbed by the events it describes.

And I am convinced that the religious rhetoric of Ken Hutcherson contributed to this violence.  I would like to find a way to hold him accountable for actions that does not violate his First Amendment rights.

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Update:  According to an article in the Snoqualmie Valley Record, a local newspaper, “Snoqualmie police investigated the beating, and the 16-year-old suspect was charged with second-degree assault in King County Juvenile Court. A trial is planned for late June.”

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