A West Virginia newspaper has raised eyebrows and ire by publishing a transcript of a reader's racist and homophobic rant that critics are calling hate speech.
The controversial anonymous commentary was published in the 'Gripes and Gratitudes' section of Wednesday's Lincoln Journal. At issue was the termination of Kelli Burns, a lesbian who taught at Guyan Valley Middle School in Branchland until she accused school board officials of forcing students to lodge complaints against her claiming she attempted to "turn them gay."
One local left a voicemail to the Journal expressing his approval of Burns' firing, and the paper printed a transcript of the hateful message:
"We were really glad to hear that School Board is getting rid of them queers. The next thing is we need to get rid of all the niggers, the spicks, the kikes and the wops. You know, even them Catholics, they are wrong as baby eaters. We need to clear them people out and have good, white, God-fearing Christians and everybody else needs to be put to death for their abominations. We'll keep Lincoln County white and right. Thank you."
WCHS interviewed Lincoln County residents, most-- but not all-- of whom expressed their disgust at the shocking bigotry published in their local paper.
"It's just sad and it's stupid, really... I don't know why somebody would put something like that on paper," Shelby Hixson of Hamlin said.
"That's not nice. I support the gays, and I'm not racist at all," Hamlin resident Melissa Rogers said.
But Leroy Ramey, also of Hamlin, said he approved of the racist rant.
"I don't have to read it all, I already agree with that," he told a WCHS reporter. "Get rid of 'em."
Janet Dooley, interim dean of the journalism school at Marshall University in Huntington, told WCHS that the Lincoln Journal crossed a line by publishing the commentary, which she says goes beyond offensive and into the realm of hate speech.
"If you look at hate speech, it does hit several of the markers of hate speech," Dooley said. "It is not only offensive, but it goes beyond that to threaten certain groups of people."
Journal managing editor Sean O'Donoghue defended the paper's decision to print the commentary.
"We felt it was the right call to publish it, given the ongoing story we covered over the past three weeks," O'Donoghue told WCHS, referring to Kelli Burns' firing. The editor agreed that the message was hateful.
"The comments are very, very hateful and, as a Roman Catholic, I'm very offended," he said.
Opinions such as those expressed in the reader's message are not uncommon in many parts of the United States, and public figures regularly make bigoted statements that have made national, even international, headlines.
Last May, Kansas pastor Curtis Knapp delivered an hour-long sermon titled "The Curse of Homosexuality" in which he called on the US government to kill gays in accordance with the teachings of the Bible.
Earlier that month, North Carolina pastor Charles L. Worley expressed similar sentiments, urging authorities to imprison gays and lesbians in concentration camps until they all die off.