Published on November 21st, 2017 | by Josiah Batten

Fairmont City Council Member Labels Us “Idiotic”

On October 5th, I published an article regarding Fairmont City Manger Robin Gomez’s inflammatory and uninformed statements about biblical Christianity. You can read that article here. The motive behind that article (and this one) has to do with the biblical convictions we have regarding the roles of government as outlined in Romans 13, coupled with biblical wisdom such as Proverbs 29:12 (HCSB) “If a ruler listens to lies, all his officials will be wicked.”

In light of Robin Gomez’s statements regarding Christianity as well as his reputation for being more condescending and divisive than friendly and unifying, I suspected there might be more evidence of anti-Christian bias among city officials. Earlier this month, I filed a Freedom of Information Act with the City of Fairmont. My goal was simply to see if this suspicion would be confirmed or denied, because people have both a right and duty to hold their government accountable to standards of decency and justice.

On Monday, November 20th, I received my copy of the Freedom of Information Act request. There were 92 pages that met my criteria, with 8 more pages the city could not release due to them being exempted under WV Code 29B. Having looked through the information I must say that my suspicions were confirmed in spectacular fashion.

There is too much information to detail in one post, so there will be more posts in this series. But to start, I want to share two emails regarding my original post titled “Fairmont City Manager Says Christianity is Hateful.

The first email is from City Manger Robin Gomez, he sent it on October 6th at 11:32 AM (notice, he presumably wrote this on the taxpayer’s dime):

“Mayor and Council,

Thought I’d share the below article and comments promulgated by a Josiah Batten (I believe George Batten’s son), which are also being widely circulated by the Family Policy Council of WV. Unfortunately, we cannot change how folks understand and interpret comments, but I do stand behind my comments that folks are promoting hate by telling others that their same gender relationships and/or their religion if it happens to be something other than Christianity, is wrong, evil, an abomination, or other damaging/disparaging comments. Batten makes those statements below. Just because hate speech is/can be protected speech, does not make it right. The below and many opposed to the HRC ordinance still do not, and probably never will, understand the HRC ordinance’s purpose.”

Gomez’s email than contained a copy of my original post linked above. Council member Marianne Moran then responded to Gomez with the following:

“Idiotic. At best. Sorry Robin for these people harassing you. And Tom and me! Very God like of them.”

There you have it folks. I presented, in very accurate detail, a list of things the city manager said that were by his own definition hateful, and what does Council member Moran think of that? That I’m idiotic, and that sharing such information (that the city manager himself had already shared publicly) is harassment. This is the new Fairmont, where dissent is hate speech and exposing hypocrisy is harassment.

The concern among Fairmont Evangelicals all along has been that the HRC would become a partisan tool used to bully those with dissenting views into silence. Well, we need not worry about the HRC doing that. Because City Manager Robin Gomez and Council member Marianne Moran will do that all on their own by using labels and insults to dismiss those with whom they disagree without actually engaging the arguments.

Every supporter of free speech in the City of Fairmont has reason to be wary when the City Manager takes it upon himself to define “hate speech” according to his own personal opinions and views (not, as it turns out, supported by the law). We then have even more cause for concern when members of the City Council, who are to hold the City Manager accountable, join the attack on free speech by labeling it as “idiotic” and “harassing.” And then not a single person on a council of 9 says another word. No one questioned it (if they did, it did not show up in my FOIA; and to the city’s credit it seems they gave me every email in a chain related to a certain topic, so I assume any response would have been included).

I should like to know, from every member of Fairmont City Council, if they agree that WV4G is “hate speech.” Do our city officials think everyone professing historic biblical Christianity is idiotic? And that expressing our views publicly is harassment?

For as much as city officials have made of “misinformation” regarding the HRC ordinance, it requires no misinformation whatsoever to be wary of the direction in which our city leadership is headed. I can, based entirely on demonstrable facts supported by official documentation from the City of Fairmont, say that the city manager labeled expressions of biblical Christianity as “hate speech” probably while on the taxpayer dime. I can also say a member of the council labeled this same expression as “idiotic” and “harassing.”

Mr. Gomez and Councilwoman Moran, if you read this article, you can change how I understand and interpret your comments. I am amenable to reason, as many supporters of the HRC ordinance can attest. You could change how I understand and interpret your comments by taking seriously the concerns I raised instead of dismissing them with divisive labels and insults. Or if you really believe my arguments to be idiotic, I will happily engage in a public debate. If my arguments are idiotic you should have no trouble exposing them as such and silencing me publicly in a satisfying fashion. But so long as you continue to say the sorts of things I’ve documented, especially when the other side has no chance to respond, you will only breed mistrust and further division.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Josiah Batten

P. S. – I do intend to make copies of the FOIA request I have publicly available once I find an appropriate venue for doing so. Stay tuned for that.

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