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FLINT JOURNAL – Park sting has Pickell in middle of gay issue

June 15, 2005

“In the other ear is the American Family Association of Michigan, which has supported the sweeps to keep the park family-friendly. …The sheriff had originally reported nine men were arrested (for soliciting homosexual activity) in a two-day sting at the county park, including a teacher and assistant school principal. The AFA is suggesting that two educators arrested in the sting be suspended from their jobs and removed from ‘positions of proximity to and authority over young children.’ …Gary Glenn, president of the AFA-Michigan, said he planned to bring pastors and others to his meeting this morning with the sheriff. ‘We want to express our deep gratitude … for his not being intimidated by politically correct demands from a homosexual action group from Detroit.’ …Glenn said the AFA is involved because it has compassion and wants to protect people from the public health hazard of anonymous sex. ‘If we didn’t care, we would just be quiet about it,’ he said.”


FLINT JOURNAL
Flint, Michigan
June 15, 2005

Park sting has Pickell in middle of gay issue
by Ron Fonger
QUICK TAKE

Making their case

Genesee County Sheriff Robert J. Pickell is meeting this week with the Triangle Foundation, an advocate for men accused of soliciting sex in Richfield Park, and the American Family Association of Michigan, a conservative group that has cheered the sheriff’s sting operations in the park. About each group:

# THE TRIANGLE FOUNDATION: It describes itself as “Michigan’s leading organization serving the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and allied communities.”

# THE AMERICAN FAMILY ASSOCIA-TION OF MICHIGAN: An affiliate of the American Family Association, it says it “stands for traditional family values, focusing primarily on the influence of television and other media – including pornography – on our society.”

GENESEE TWP. — Genesee County Sheriff Robert J. Pickell is getting plenty of free advice about sending undercover police into Richfield County Park to investigate complaints it had become a meeting place for no-hassle gay sex.

In one ear is the Triangle Foundation, which has fought against similar same-sex sting operations in public places. In the other ear is the American Family Association of Michigan, which has supported the sweeps to keep the park family-friendly.

Triangle got its time with Pickell on Tuesday, while the AFA was expected to take its turn this morning. Like it or not, the sheriff is in the middle of two groups that fight regularly over gay rights issues in Michigan.

“I think this Jeff Montgomery (executive director of Triangle) understands I’m not after gays. I’m not bashing gays,” Pickell said. “I’m dealing with a crime.”

Pickell hasn’t released the names of eight men charged with being a disorderly person in the park. The Flint Journal identified a former county Health Department worker, who was ticketed while using a county car, after he was fired from his job last week.

The sheriff had originally reported nine men were arrested in a two-day sting at the county park, including a teacher and assistant school principal.

The AFA is suggesting that two educators arrested in the sting be suspended from their jobs and removed from “positions of proximity to and authority over young children.” Pickell has said he will contact the school districts where the men work if they are convicted.

Montgomery and Pickell said their meeting Tuesday was productive.

“We had a chance to be pretty clear and aware of where each of us stood and what our motivations are,” Montgomery said. “In our case, it’s advocating for some of these men.

“We certainly came away with a level of respect for where he’s coming from on this and what his motivation is. I take him at his word that he’s been responding to some citizens’ concerns.”

In general, Montgomery said, he thinks Pickell has “made an appropriate, moderate response to the situation.”

That might be one of the few things Triangle and AFA-Michigan agree on, and it likely won’t last long.

Gary Glenn, president of the AFA-Michigan, said he planned to bring pastors and others to his meeting this morning with the sheriff.

“We want to express our deep gratitude … for (the sheriff) not being intimidated by politically correct demands from a homosexual action group from Detroit,” Glenn said.

The AFA wants to support the sheriff, not pressure him, Glenn said.

Pickell said he has received mostly positive comments from people he’s talked to about the sting, and he will do more if complaints continue.

Deputies and park rangers in plainclothes waited in the park until they were propositioned for sex by those ticketed, Pickell has said.

Nickolas C. Hoffman, the fired county employee, has said he will fight his ticket for soliciting a deputy, claiming the sting amounted to entrapment.

Montgomery said Glenn’s involvement in the Richfield Park sting is disturbing because he’s shown a desire “to humiliate, embarrass and destroy people who differ from him.”

Glenn said the AFA is involved because it has compassion and wants to protect people from the public health hazard of anonymous sex.

“If we didn’t care, we would just be quiet about it,” he said.
http://www.mlive.com/news/fljournal/index.ssf?/base/news-29/111884888676480.xml

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