Shuck and Jive

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Consequences of Johnson City's Morality Play

Yesterday the Johnson City Press published names, photos, and addresses of forty men caught in a sex sting at two local parks. I wrote in my blog that I thought the public shaming seemed excessive. That was an understatement.

In today's paper we read that one of those accused apparently took his own life. Here is the article. One comment on yesterday's post wondered if this amounts to a public stoning. I do not think that is an exaggeration.

What is the penalty for disorderly conduct and indecent exposure? Are these not misdemeanors? One hundred hours of community service? The Johnson City Press decided that these particular misdemeanors were far worse. They deserved a public shaming. A shaming so overwhelming for this one individual that he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

I am ashamed of Johnson City today. They could have handled this issue of sex in parks without ruining lives.

My message to the 40 or so men who were arrested and their families is this:

Please do not do anything rash. It does not seem like it now, but you will get through this. There are some good counselors in this area who will not judge you and can help you get your lives back in order. If you are thinking of taking your life call the national suicide hotline 800-784-2433. If you are reading this blog, contact me at

You don't need to bear this alone.


  1. I believe that is the modern equivalent of throwing them into the stocks, a practice which we long ago abandoned. What adds to the tragedy is that I have no doubt that the editors were publishing the information motivated by their faith.

  2. John; thanks for showing such compassion to these people; the world needs more people like you. I hope this tragic story of suicide will at least curb any potential mob mentality and that we will not see any resultant hate crimes. Unfortunately, Kingsport Times News also ran the story with names, photos and addresses yesterday. Both the Johnson City Press and Kingsport Times News are owned by the same company, Sandusky Newspapers, Inc.

  3. I wish that the newspaper would take responsibility for its actions and part in this tragedy. Alas, they will most probably hide behind their rights to publish news and to be a free press. Like I said, would the newspaper publish the names of young people having sex in cars? I bet there is at least one place in the Johnson City area where this is a popular activity. But I am also sure that the names of those over 18 caught in the act of hetersexual sex in a car will not be on the front page of the newspaper.

  4. Hi David,

    Welcome and I think the stocks is a good image.

    Thanks Bobby and Bob...

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  6. John -

    Thanks for this. It made me cry to think of the lives ruined by this verbal lynching.

    This man left his wife of 51 years and grown children to deal with this tragedy. How has the community benefited from showing these photos and humiliating these men? Wouldn't it have served us all just as well to say "Police Crack Down on Public Indecency in Local Parks"? and then left it at that?

    It is damaging beyond understanding or necessaity not only for the gay community (of which these men did not seem a part - more of a "fetishist community" if you ask me), but for the entire community, inclusive.

    When we moved here three years ago we were struck by how the paper publishes names, addresses, and when sex crimes such as this or prostitution, the photos as well. I have never seen this anywhere else I have lived. I hate it, and I hope this will compel the local papers to change their policy. Their policy is a public indecency, if you ask me.

  7. This has nothing to do with homosexuality or heterosexuality. It has to do with sex addiction, I think. These folks need treatment, not further shame.

    I have heard, but it is not confirmed, that press releases were sent to the media of the towns all these men were from. The media picked it up all over.

    I think a wrongful death suit could be brought up against the police department.

    They way overstepped and I think need to be held accountable.

  8. It is quite sad, but I feel that "freedom of press" is driven by negativity, hate, and destruction. We rarely see positive stories on front pages or headlines (at least where I live in South Florida).

    I am the president of my neighborhood civic association. About 6 months ago, there was a murder in one of the beach hotels. After investigation, it was found that the woman murdered was a prostitute. The news media seemed to focus more on the fact that it was a murdered prostitute, completely missing the point that murder is murder, no matter who, what, when, where, etc.

    The media interviewed me and some community members as to how we felt about a prostitute being murdered "right in our back yard". Well, I along with my neighbors take pride in our neighborhood and do not believe in thriving on negativity. We shared all of the great things about our area, yet saddened about the targedy. Somehow, the news media (TV and papers) managed to quote paragraphs and paragraphs from a couple of people going on and on on how terrible the neighborhood is...full of drug shooting prostitutes running wild and spreading crime everywhere. Yet, my 30+ minute interview received 8 seconds on the 6:00 news, and 7 words in the paper. Sad, very very sad.

    Too many preach about the evil wrongdoings of others, and will judge and condemn others, but very few seem to ever extend their hand to attempt to help....rather than try to make humanity better, they would rather hang it out to dry. The saddest part to me is doing it "in the name of Jesus" as a good Christian.

    I stay confident that one day we will all live in peace.

  9. Thank you, Scott.

    Keep confident! I do too!

  10. Not long ago I finished watching a documentary on the Nazis. In it they interviewed both the victims and those who perpetrated the atrocities. The one thing that became clear is that the Holocaust did not just happen over night. It was not the aberrant act of one big twisted evil mind, but rather the slow, gradual accumulation of many, many, little evils, unnoticed or quickly forgotten sins, that culminated in the ability to bring Hitler and the Nazis to power, and that allowed them with the German people’s complicity to carry out the great evil and sin of the Holocaust.

    Many individual Germans acquiesced to evil or even participated in small evil acts (even sin) and rationalized these acts to themselves collectively as “right” because of their prejudiced and bigoted views that were accepted as true without challenge. The Jews were an easy scapegoat for their many ills. Today, we see the religious bigots using homosexuals in the same way the Germans used the Jews; easy targets to blame for societies ills, scapegoats upon which to heap their contempt, prejudices, and bigoted hate filled acts such as the public shaming of these individuals for crimes which were only misdemeanors.

    We have a legal system in which we determine, via group wisdom, the relative degree of seriousness of those acts we determine are crimes. Not all crimes are felony crimes; some are lesser crimes, misdemeanors, which in our group wisdom we decide should carry lesser penalties. The reason justice has been removed from the hands of the individual victim and put into the hands of the group, is to remove individual bias and prejudice from the process. Human justice may not be perfect, or achieve fairness in any one individual case, but it does strive by the process and group wisdom to reach that degree of human fairness that reasonable people would call justice and equality for all.

    What those responsible for publishing these misdemeanors did, is take it upon themselves to become not only the judges of what punishment is appropriate, but to be the jury and executioners of the punishment as well. What were their motivation for doing this? Who made the decision this should be done? Why did they take it upon themselves to apply this extra-judicial punishment to these specific individuals? We need to know this, do we not? If those who have done this are not held accountable and required to answer these questions, than how are we any different than those whom we condemn for applying extra-judicial “honor killings” because someone has “shamed” the family?

    If this shameful act carried out by those in this paper were motivated by religious bigotry, then in my view their sin is all the greater. When Jesus was delivered up to the Romans to be crucified, whose sin was greater? Those who professed to be the religious leaders and to speak for God and the “law,” and who had heard the gospel of the Fatherhood of God and brotherhood of all mankind, and the Word of the Father that we should love our enemies, or those Romans to who carried out this act but had no knowledge of the truth of the gospel? I think Jesus made this plain when he said in effect to Pilate during his last interview that Pilate was not so guilty since he was ignorant of the gospel, but those who betrayed him and delivered him to Pilate, they have the greater sin, for they should have known better. (Jn.19.11)

  11. Hi John and all!

    I have not read Johnson City's paper enough times to know if they cherry pick the crimes reported. If so, that's really not nice.

    On the other hand, public sex is not acceptable by anyone as children and other folks may blunder into it and be disturbed.

    Having said that I agree with John- these men are most likely sex addicts and need some counciling. I am a 43 yr old gay man and not once have I considered public "anything".

    Quoting all the anti-gay scriptures is at this point meaningless. In Leviticus one cannot shave, wear cloth of two kinds and cannot plant different crops in the same field. Everything should be taken in context.

    If we focus on Jesus and His words, one will find nothing about gays, yet He explicitly condemns divorce twice. Hopefully none of the JC paper's morality squad ever sins and never had a divorce. Yet His final instructions were to love one another as He loved us. I therefore must forgive all the wrongs and hypocricy of all and pray for all and love all. That isn't very easy yet I am commanded to do it by my Lord and Savior.

    JC police and news have already tried the stick- perhaps a carrot may be a better approach. Print stories of reconciled marriages, healed minds and addicts who beat the Beast of addiction!

    God Bless you all and you are in my prayers:)

    Your soon to be neighbor and member,

    Jim S

  12. Rob and Jim S,

    Thank you for those incredibly insightful comments. Look forward to meeting you Jim!


  13. rob

    I hate to say it but beyond any possible religious prejudice I am fairly certain that the newspaper printed the story for a more venial purpose: to sell newspapers and make money.

    After all, that's what the news business is really all about isn't it?

  14. I should have read more of the comments- Sandra, Scott and Rob made many of my points quite eloquently already!

    Pastor Bob- you are right about papers and selling stories- but where is the line drawn? Are the addresses published for all those accused of crimes- before charges are actually proven true or false? I really don't know being an outsider.

    In a larger sense, this event exhibits human nature. One can pressure others any number of ways and all you have accomplished is the creation of Sabateurs. People who will play along and pretend, yet act out when it is "safe" to do so. I look forward to the day when victimless behaviors like loving another person of the same sex is tolerated by society.

    Accepted or approved is not possible now, but tolerated would be OK. By tolerating I mean nobody losing a job, getting kicked out of a church, bashed or hurt physically, etc. This is a reasonable goal I think.

    Sorry for the long comments- You have all expressed the scope of things quite well.

    Love to all,

  15. Bob,

    I don't think the newspaper acted alone in this. I think this was a police department issue acting on behalf of our good citizens. They worked with the media in order to send a message: "If you have sex in our parks you will be ruined."

    They don't care how many lives they have ruined to send that message.

  16. John Shuck,

    Thanks for the Kingsport Times link. I have to stay that this whole issue is still quite disturbing to me. I have read and re-read the original articles published by the Johnson City Press, and the more I read into it, the more "profiling" and "baiting" becomes visible.

    First, to quote the following:
    "The undercover investigation, conducted primarily in Winged Deer and Buffalo Mountain parks, is just the beginning for authorities, who say homosexual activities there have become a “serious problem.”

    OK, why is it HOMOSEXUAL activities and not SEXUAL Activities? Are you telling me that no heterosexual people have engaged in these acts?

    Also, why were men "baited"? Was there a female officer enticing these men with the same offers for sex? And if so, if the men accepted these offers, would they be shamed as much as they are for their apparent homosexual activities?

    Wouldn't and couldn't have society and the "authorities" helped rid these parks of promiscuous sex by making changes BEFORE destroying peoples lives? They talk about now ridding the parks of these "Man Caves" with controlled burning. Well, why did they not do this a long time ago? If they knew this was a problem, what would not cause them to take action to rid the enticement a long time ago. They are worried about kids and families, but where was the worry when they were allowing these conditions to exist until after their stings???

    And, on a different note, unfortunately homosexual profiling is quite prevalent and so wrong. I can walk through a public park and see a man/woman snuggling up in a blanket on a cold day, just enjoying the fresh air and sunset. Now, take the same scenario (non-sexual) but with two men. I guarantee you that it is now "indescent" exposure in public.

    OK, I need to be at peace with this and move on. I pray that through education and positive modeling we, as mankind, can not just "tolerate", but accept. Laws are important, but profiling is terrible. And even the best trained dogs will break their stay command if enough cats, bones, or medium rare t-bones run in front of them.

    Peace all.