In one video of a sermon at Truth Baptist Church, according to LGBTQ Nation, Fowler reportedly says, “Our world hates God, hates Christians, and hates the Bible.” In a video posted to the church’s Facebook page, Fowler also suggests that Pride parades foreshadow accepting pedophilia and suggests gay people are “vile.”
During a virtual meeting on Tuesday, students and faculty spoke with the college’s president, Cynthia Pemberton, who stressed that the school couldn’t do anything because Fowler wasn’t at work when he made the remarks. She explained that the college backs workers’ First Amendment rights.
But people are worried about how Fowler’s rhetoric makes the school look, as well as what the comments could do when it comes to trust, community, and support between staff and students.
“When we have an administrator who speaks in contrast to what we say we believe as an institution,” Lauren Connolly, an associate professor in the English department, said at the meeting. “How do we develop trust between the community and the college?”
“I am a Christian who believes the Bible is true,” Fowler told the Lewiston Tribune in an interview. “I believe sin is real and so is the Savior Jesus Christ. I will not be bullied into relinquishing my First Amendment rights to practice my religion and exercise free speech as a private citizen and as a pastor in my place of worship … Those who say Bible believers like me no longer have a place in a public institution are the intolerant ones. Sadly, the rights of Bible believers are under assault, even in America, even in Idaho.”
Fowler did not participate in the Tuesday Zoom call, but on July 16, Fowler shared a video on the church’s YouTube channel addressing the allegations. He said he was charged as being “intolerant,” and that folks were slandering and threatening him, and accused others of being intolerant of him as a Christian and Bible-believer. “Now, Bible believers have no place to co-exist in this world,” he says in the video.
Ultimately, in the Tuesday open meeting (which is a regularly scheduled event), Pemberton said she values that people have First Amendment rights, and told those concerned on the call, “All the beliefs that you’re sharing, the sentiments that you’re sharing, there are people who believe very differently — and we do coexist.” But that sentiment isn’t enough of a comfort to all concerned.
In the same meeting, the president of the college’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA), Kason Seward, said he loves his school and believes it’s put him on the right path for everything he’s wanted in life. According to Seward, however, Fowler’s rhetoric is the sort of speech used to hurt LGBTQ+ people throughout history.
“I feel betrayed, honestly,” Seward said, adding that he’s now wondering if the school’s support for nondiscrimination policies is anything more than words.