Letters policy to be re-examined

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The Daily Inter Lake has found itself at the center of a controversy during the past week as the result of our publishing a guest opinion that many readers found offensive.

Frankly, many of us here at the Inter Lake found it offensive as well. The letter by Tim Adams used a biblical point of view to question the morality of a support group for LGBTQ+ teens. His letter was a response to a front-page story the Inter Lake published in April called “Flathead LGBTQ+ Alliance offers safe space for gay, trans and questioning youth.” That story was a sympathetic look at the challenges faced by young people coming to grips with their sexual identity that’s “not under the heterosexual umbrella,” as one supportive parent described it.

One middle school student said, “there could be some people who don’t allow that [acceptance] because of their Christianity, and saying that oh if you’re gay you’re going to be a sin to this world. I put it on social media that I’m bisexual and a lot of people started unfollowing me.”

Tim Adams was one such Christian who believes that LGBTQ sexuality is indeed sinful. In response to the story we wrote, he wrote a letter to the Inter Lake expressing his religious-based concerns about the children in the LGBTQ+ Alliance and why he feels they risk “the sure destruction of [their] souls.” He also said that he is “not suggesting that these children be ostracized or verbally abused for their difficulty; that is cruel. They need to be educated, counseled, and loved as normal human beings needing to resist the temptations of the flesh…”

That didn’t give comfort to the people in the LGBTQ+ community or their supporters. They felt like the letter was hate speech and should not have run at all.

At the Inter Lake, we have made a commitment to publish letters from all points of view — even on topics of extreme sensitivity. In particular, we feel we have an obligation to allow readers to comment on the content of our newspaper, whether it is Tim Adams commenting about the LGBTQ+ Alliance story we ran in April, or readers complaining about the Adams op-ed itself.

Certainly, all Christians do not agree with Tim Adams in his interpretation of the Bible or his views of sexuality, but others do. Should those voices of traditional morality be shut out of the Inter Lake? Some say yes — if they criticize the lives or morality of other people. The question for us, as a newspaper, is how do we include as many voices from the community as possible. We publish letters to the editor on a regular basis that we do not agree with, but if those letters debate topics of general interest, we have always been happy to stand out of the way and publish them so that all of us can hear from our neighbors about what matters to them and how they make their decisions.

It should be understood that the Daily Inter Lake has always made an effort to publish all the letters we receive from local residents. We have striven not to be an arbiter of what our readers should and should not read about topics of general interest. In other words, we let the readers decide what they like and don’t like rather than have an editor decide what they should or should not see. But that may have to change now. We can’t avoid hurt feelings caused when people express their opinions, but we can minimize the damage. Therefore, the Inter Lake will re-examine our policy in the coming weeks to determine whether more safeguards should be in place.

In the meantime, in today’s paper we feature nearly a dozen responses to the Adams op-ed. Read them and see what you think.

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