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Commissioners – Showing their Autocratic Sides

May 17 2023 Commission Business Meeting

Josephine County Commissioners have suddenly become very interested in children. Feeding on information from Commission regular Judy Ahrens, whose social concerns come from right-wing conspiracy theory sources and religious media, Commissioners regularly blast schools for teaching too much sex and not enough history. Commissioner Herman Baertschiger tells people from the dais to get a second job so they can put their kids into private schools. Commissioner Dan DeYoung, in his 70s now, launches into long-winded “when I was a kid” stories as lessons for how things ought to be. At their May 17 Weekly Business meeting, a week after lashing out at 4H personnel for brainwashing kids with Biden Administration wokeness, they tore into a commenter for having the audacity to be among the 2 percent of people they think don’t agree with their incredibly rude behavior toward people trying to run a federally-funded agriculture-based youth development program.

Commissioner John West believes he and his fellow board members were right to ream out 4H leaders as they made a routine presentation about what they do because “I will say that I feel like we got about a 98 percent response that we are sitting on the right side of the 4H program on, on what we said.” West didn’t reveal the algebraic formula he used to come up with 98 percent or the variables he used to express his calculation.

When Rebecca Anderson stepped up to the podium during the public comment section of the board meeting to say, “sometimes I think all of us need to set our personal beliefs aside and respect the space of other people.” She said she isn’t involved in 4H but understands it’s a nationwide organization that can’t afford to let one group’s religion be on display, pressuring other children to join or feel left out. She said nothing about Commissioners’ rant the week before but her quiet opposition of their view that the 4H fracas is a religious prosecution issue set all three of them off on an embarrassing castigation of a citizen who stepped up to express an opinion.

DeYoung went first, spending nearly 5 minutes going through his disapproval of “woke” school agendas and how in his day it was left up to parents to provide education about the “birds and the bees.” He wrapped it up by saying “we had a pretty hearty discussion last week and I don’t think we’ve, any one of us, have changed our mind about that. We’re not going to be intimidated and say you shouldn’t have done that because guess what? It’s just like the turning the t-shirts inside out and the gentleman said he was offended by that. Well, seeing having happened to have a kid turn his t-shirt inside out because it has a cross on it, that offends me and it offended the parents and offended a lot of people in that crowd or obviously none of this would be happening today. And of course that’s stuff that we had got involved because we are, this board of directors, for 4H.” (The Commissioners are also on the 4H Board of Directors)

According to the May 14 edition of the Grants Pass Daily Courier the 4H leader accused of telling a youth to turn his t-shirt inside out because it said Faithful Farmers with the symbol of a cross as the “t” in Faithful, said that didn’t happen and that 4H members can wear religious jewelry, or have Jesus embroidered on their pants but during events they should be wearing 4H shirts that don’t relate religion to 4H.

West retaliated by saying if people aren’t supposed to impose their belief on others than why did the 4H hold a virtual Rainbow Summit in April? “I call that trying to impose someone’s else beliefs,” he said. (The Rainbow Summit wasn’t imposed on clubs, it was a free conference to provide resources and networking opportunities to benefit the overall health and wellness of individuals in the LGBTQ community, according to the OSU website https://extension.oregonstate.edu/4h/events/virtual-rainbow-summit-2023-navigating-resistance-celebrating-resilience because 4H does have LGBTQ members.)

Commission Chair Herman Baertschiger appeared to be waiting for an opportunity to express his self-righteous indignation about Anderson’s comments. With raised voice he said we have In God We Trust on our money and say it in the pledge of allegiance so why is a t-shirt imposing religion on you?

“Just because you don’t like something, then it’s imposing. No, imposing is when you’re forced to wear some kind of religious symbol or you’re forced to wear something. When it comes to 4H, they had to turn their shirts in because it said Faithful Farmers and the “t” in Faithful was enlarged like a crucifix. That’s not imposing. Imposing is if you come in the fairgrounds, you gotta wear that t-shirt. That’s imposing,” said Baertschiger.

All three Commissioners started their comments thanking Judy Ahrens, who usually speaks first during nearly every public comment session, for bringing them needed information every week. Some of the information she brought to the May 17 meeting was about how Bill Gates is promoting a poisonous coating for fruits and vegetables.