Highlighting the Importance of Transparency and Importance of Freedom of Speech
Updated: Sep 27, 2022
As members of this community, we find that action must be taken to highlight the importance of transparency, and our right to freedom of speech. We believe in the Constitution of the United States and its importance to all members of this community at large. Recently, however, many things have occurred that have highlighted biases against groups of people in this town. In addition, the lack of transparency by a community geared news source.
We understand that the individuals who donate their time to various boards and committees are putting in long hours, and that such endeavors are a thankless job. We acknowledge the right to freedom of speech in all committees, and respect that this is a firm foundation that we hold dear. It allows us to all have a voice, and it allows all individuals to be heard without fear of being silenced. It allows diversity of thoughts to be expressed, and for all individuals to feel included by being able to speak freely.
We also acknowledge that speaking freely means the reality of dissenting opinions. If it is done so respectfully, it ensures that we can have neighborly and friendly discourse. Instead, however some members of the DEI committee have been picked apart on various social media platforms, and have been misquoted or taken out of context to further a divide. While we understand these reactions are also part of freedom of speech, there must be some higher standard that sitting members of the select board should be adhering to in regard to their usage of social media. Thoughts and feelings shared on personal pages are entirely acceptable, but utilizing a select board member’s page is far from being neutral and representative of all New Gloucester residents. This is especially true when the post itself is taken out of context and labeled harmful.
Our question is harmful to whom? It certainly is harmful to the speaker who was taken out of context, and it’s harmful for many constituents in this town who heard and agreed with the full context of the DEI committee members comments.
Mrs. Gilles read a letter, which can be found on newgloucestergop.org, to the town select board meeting expressing how disheartening it was for a select board member to use his select board page to insinuate claims against the committee member, and also requesting that an apology be given to the DEI committee member. The select board member apologized that evening for his actions. This same letter was submitted to a volunteer led independent new source for New Gloucester that prides itself on being a gathering place for the New Gloucester community. That letter was denied being published.
We must ask ourselves why such a letter would be denied, given the factual incident that occurred? This is not the first time such issues have been occurring in denial of submissions, and the lack of diverse thoughts taken up upon that news source. In addition any coverage as it pertained to that select board meeting did not include any mention of the inappropriate actions that occurred via Facebook, and subsequently the apology to a sitting DEI committee member.
Below we have included the full quote from the committee member that was deemed harmful to folks in New Gloucester to be transparent about our cause, and transparent about what it means to uphold the values of this country.
One thing I would personally like to do is I would like to share, kind of like…We haven’t had an opportunity to really share our core beliefs. We have talked about our definitions, right? But sometimes I feel a hesitancy at some interpretations and applications of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Where it elevates itself above the laws of the United States. And in some spheres of our society, we are seeing it kind of manifest in a way that I think infringes on the Civil Rights of American citizens. So… Free speech. Oh, let me give you another example. Where people are, in some circles of our society, and maybe in some businesses where they are mandated to take implicit bias training. Where they have to...where DEI compels speech or restricts speech. Of course, we’re not talking about harassment, ok? But I’m just talking about where it compels speech or causes people to walk that they feel like they can’t even breathe in society because they’re going to offend somebody. I think we’re losing the freedoms in this country when we move in that direction. OR, if we begin to cancel people because they inadvertently said something. Or demand that they be taken off positions. (Beth Ellingson)
We also are including the apology by the sitting select board member, as pertains to the letter read aloud by Mrs. Gilles.
Yeah. Let me first say I want to thank Karen Gilles for stepping up and providing her statement. It takes a lot of courage to be able to do that and call someone out. So I appreciate that. If you would give me two minutes to address the comments that she made. I think it's highly important that when we talk issues of DEI, we're talking issues of humanity and identity. And I feel that some of the statements made in many of the DEI committee meetings of which I tried to be separate from have veered towards dehumanization and discrimination. And so I felt for those who identify differently, but it is tough to see our town make some of those statements. So I think it is a larger conversation about what we're saying and how it can have consequences and ripple effects. I do want to apologize for the sharing caused context to be slanderous and feelings of negative feedback that is never my intent. So I do apologize for that. I think it is important that I call out harmful rhetoric, especially harmful to those who do not identify as we may think they're supposed to. And so as part of the work that I do as the racial equity, I have to call out harmful and questionable discriminatory dehumanizing language. But that does not mean we cannot have good conversations about this. And I hope that this would be a call for good education on why the things that we say can be dehumanizing but allow us to work towards learning more. So in part I would just hope that the DEI committee begins to educate, educate why these could be seen as harmful. I could be hurtful to those who identify differently. And I hope that we'll continue to share those words again, their public words, everybody can see the DEI committee meetings, I would encourage you to do so. But it'd be important as we move forward, to be better educated on the words that we say how they can be harmful. But I apologize to those members who feel they've taken my post in my share as slanderous so I hope that will allow us some reconciliation to move forward. (Selectman Dustin Ward)
It may seem that we are pushing a non-issue in reference to the incident that occurred on a Select Board Member’s Facebook Story, however we feel that the protections of United States citizens is not something to be taken lightly. Especially when the original sharing of the DEI committee members comments were regarding freedom of speech, and how we should not be elevating anything above the laws and constitution of the United States of America. So, we want to ask again, is this harmful? But harmful to whom?
What we find harmful is the erosion of American freedoms, and the lack of transparency regarding these issues. We are talking about issues regarding the ability to express an opinion that runs counter to the mainstream narrative. It appears that it is becoming okay to identify differently, but not to think differently. What is most disheartening about this series of events is that we have lost the capacity for civil discourse and that has now affected the ability to clearly cover issues that affect all the residents of New Gloucester, and not just a select few.
Signed by New Gloucester Residents
*This is a guest post by the above New Gloucester residents. The views expressed are those of the above residents, and not endorsed by the New Gloucester GOP. The New Gloucester GOP supports the right of individuals to submit guest blog posts freely, and without censorship. If you are interested in sharing an article, or post please send all submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org