To the Municipal Council for Monday December 19th
I am Rene Schmidt, director of The Beacon Youth centre. Municipal Council has our Grant-In-Aid request and Councilor Ostrander expressed concerns about The Beacon. There are many worthy causes to support, and our youth centre is just one, but concerns could mislead people about us. He suggested that Brighton youth with same sex or bisexual attraction or transgender youth would not feel welcome at The Beacon because of the Community Commitment statement our volunteers agree to uphold. Please consider the following points before you make a decision on our grant application.
1) The Beacon provides and faithfully maintains a welcome environment for all youth. Kids of all shapes, sizes, genders, moral values and abilities are found there. Our three rules: Respect Yourself, Respect Others and Respect The Place are the only behavior criteria we insist on. Students who make others feel unwelcome are corrected. No bullying is allowed. Teasing, name-calling, or insults based on someone’s sexual orientation are out of place. Just like our schools we have zero tolerance for bullying. With our small size behaviors like these are easy to spot and correct.
2) Our volunteers would never start conversations about sexuality or gender identity with our underage youths, who are mostly from 10 to 16 years old. To do so would be inappropriate. Having said that, among the 30 or so average daily visitors there are likely students who come to The Beacon who will self-identify as gay or lesbian or bisexual. Certainly there have been in the past, and they were as welcome as everyone else. There are no statements on the wall, signs, symbols or other indicators that any group or person or type of person is unwelcome. We care about spirituality not sexuality. We make every effort to listen to youth, learn their names and accept them in whatever situation they are in.
3) We are and remain a Christian organization. We are supported generously by five local churches, and it would be hypocritical of us to deny the same Biblical principles that govern those five churches. There is nothing new or unusual about YFC Community Commitments. They were in place ten years ago when Brighton Council agreed our Youth Centre was necessary and that YFC would organize it. The commitments are for adult volunteers, and have nothing to do with the youth we welcome to the Beacon or their beliefs. Our commitments ensure parents, churches, and the community that our adult volunteers are accountable to high moral standards.
4) There is an unfortunate caricature of fundamentalist Christians being small-minded folks who say hateful things about gay people, Jews, visible minorities, or anyone else they don’t like. This caricature is unworthy of the caring Christians in Brighton and in the rest of Canada. Such hurtful attitudes contradict the teachings of Jesus, who healed the sick and fed the hungry without asking them if they had obeyed all the rules and laws or even if they were Jewish. Jesus taught us to love our neighbors and that when we judge others we invite strict judgment against ourselves.
5) I would not buy a car I haven’t driven. I would not purchase land I have not visited, and if I were on this council I certainly would not vote for or against a budget item I had no first-hand knowledge of, especially if that knowledge is easy to obtain. Council members may visit The Beacon youth centre tomorrow or any weekday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. or Tuesday to Friday nights from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. It is right across the street beside the China King restaurant. See for yourselves why this is an important place for Brighton youth. You may be challenged to shoot a game of pool or to play foosball, or maybe just talk with a teenager who has not enough caring adults in his or her life. This is the only youth centre in town. Besides the arena, for kids who can afford hockey, there is no other safe place like this open regularly. Over 30 visits a day, five days a week, prove its value to our community. Before deciding on our grant-in-aid request for the benefit of these children, please see for yourself who we really are!