Last year, members of the Mitchell County Gay Straight Alliance met in Spruce Pine with teachers, social workers and a juvenile parole officer to discuss a support group for LGBTQ youth. When a Baptist leader found out, he emailed a warning to area churches.
“The brochure stated that mission health would be present in the youth meetings to offer ‘relevant and appropriate’ health education,” Pastor Daniel Whetstine, director of missions for the Mitchell Baptist Association, wrote. “It doesn’t take much imagination to know what that means. It sounds to me and many others that it may be a ‘How to’ class.’ ”
He also advised the churches to alert families that Alliance members would be handing out candy at Halloween, an annual Spruce Pine tradition involving many community groups.
“Please warn the parents to steer their children clear of these people,” Whetstine wrote. “Better still tell them to go with their children if they are going to Spruce Pine and not to accept anything from this group .... Remember, they can’t reproduce, so they have to recruit.”
Whetstine’s email prompted the Christian Action League to post a story headlined, “Warning: LGBT Groups in Mitchell and other Western Counties Peddling Their Poison.”
Allison Bovée, who co-founded the Alliance, said all its members did was hand out candy. “We do it every year,” she said. In a written response on Facebook, Bovée and co-founder Amy Waller said Halloween is about “costumes and candy and fun. Period.”
“We participate in events like this because too many LGBT youth are met with rejection or outright abuse from their families and communities. We believe being visible is important for the well-being of LGBT youth and adults and allies, to know they are not alone and we are all part of our community.”
The community as a whole, Bovée said, was supportive. Except for one man. “He jerked his little kid away, and said something about not taking candy from ‘homos.’ ”