Up until Sunday, Tim Ravndal was the president of the The Big Sky Tea Party Association, a prominent Montana Tea Party group. He was removed from that position, however, after apparently endorsing violence against gays and citing the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard on his Facebook page.
On July 23, Ravndal declared his opposition to gay marriage in a Facebook status update. Another user replied: “I think fruits are decorative. Hang up where they can be seen and appreciated. Call Wyoming for display instructions.” Ravndal then responded: “Where can I get that Wyoming printed instruction manual?”
The post was deleted, but here is a screenshot of their exchange:
In 1998, University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was beaten and tied to a fence post. Police said Shepard was attacked because he was gay. The almost inescapable conclusion is that Ravndal and the other user were referencing that murder, especially when the other user replies to Ravndal that he should be able to find Wyoming’s “manual” in newspaper archives “a bit over ten years” ago.
Ravndal now says he “never made the connection” between the Wyoming reference and Shepard’s murder. Nevertheless, the Big Sky Tea Party Association’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to remove him. However, the organization’s secretary, Kristi Allen-Gailushas — who is also a Republican candidate for Montana’s state senate — continues to back Ravndal, and defended his comments. On Sept. 3, she posted this to his Facebook page:
No matter what you guys say, Tim is a great American and Patriot. He does have a right to say what he wants. I know that he didn’t mean it, but in the heat of his anger with the ACLU might not have realized what he was saying. The people who are in the TEA party movement are called names all of the time. Racist, extreimest….you name it. Tolerance needs to be done on both sides especially the homosexual side. There isn’t any tolerance for people who have a different opinion than yours. If we say yes to gay marriage where does it stop? The people who want to have more than one spouse will be next and that is against the law. The definition of marriage is between a man and a woman, are we now going to change the definition?
Allen-Gailushas subsequently wrote on Facebook, “The Gay community wants a war….they’ve got one!!” Clarifying later, she added, “I didn’t mean a literal gun war, but a war of the truth and the hypocrisy they espouse.”
The AP reports today that several members and officers of the Big Sky Tea Party Assocation still back Ravndal. Allen-Gailushas and one board member are resigning over the decision to boot Ravndal from the organization, and many members are calling for a new Board of Directors.