NORTH OGDEN — A former North Ogden City Council candidate who was criticized during his campaign for his ties to the #DezNat movement is now drawing backlash from an LGBTQ advocacy group across the state for a tweet targeting the gay pride flag
Gregory Smith is in trouble again over a response tweeted Monday to a Facebook message posted by Natalie Clinethe controversial member of the Utah State Board of Education. Smith was eliminated from the race for North Ogden City Council after the Aug. 10 primary but, at least through Monday, he apparently remained active on social media.
“Reckless rhetoric often precedes acts of violence,” Equality Utah executive director Troy Williams said in a statement. message posted on Twitter on Tuesdayresponding to Smith.
Smith, for his part, said he is quitting social media after the uproar that resulted from the controversy. He also expressed embarrassment at the turn of events and said that he is in no way calling for violence against the gay community. “I’m off Twitter. I am an idiot,” he said Tuesday.
Cline had posted, in part, “Time to make some phone calls,” in response to a message from the Layton High School seminar for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints inviting lesbian, gay, bisexual participation. , transgender, queer, intersex and asexual, or LGBTQIA+. Cline’s post, copied by Equality Utah, was a response to a photo of a pride flag with the message: “If you’re LGBTQIA+/Welcome to the seminar!” The photo contained the Layton High School stamp.
Smith, for his part, tweeted Cline’s post with his own message: “Time to get our muskets out.” The use of the word “muskets,” Smith said, was a reference to a talk given Monday by Elder Jeffrey Holland of the LDS Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Holland, Smith said, had referred to the use of muskets as a metaphor for the faithful to stand up and defend the Mormon church.
In any case, Equality Utah’s message from Williams said that representatives of the group “are deeply disturbed” by Cline and Smith’s social media posts. Equality Utah’s message said Holland’s reference to muskets was a metaphor for “upholding marriage as the union of one man and one woman.”
Equality Utah responds to Elder Holland’s call for “musket fire” pic.twitter.com/ZcWqJjuuk9
— Equality Utah (@EqualityUtah) August 24, 2021
Williams continued, pointing to the violence that members of the LGBTQ community have historically faced and the role that language can play in spurring such action. “Words matter. Especially when they come from the leaders, ”said her message.
Smith said he is not calling for violence against homosexuals. Furthermore, he does not believe that they should be excluded from the activities of the seminar. “Of course all gay people are welcome at the seminary. I have no problem with that,” he said.
His problem, he said, is with the gay pride flag itself, which appears in the Layton High School seminar message. “I don’t care, but I don’t think the pride flag belongs on an LDS church building. That’s it,” she said.
Cline said the Facebook post that prompted Smith’s tweet had been posted privately. She was friends with Smith on Facebook, she said, and spoke to him for the first time on Tuesday, after the controversy erupted.
“It was made very clear to me that he was not calling for violence,” Cline said. “He just didn’t think it through.”
Like Smith, Cline said Holland’s reference to the use of muskets is a call to peacefully defend the church. At the same time, she added, her own Facebook post of hers in response to the Layton High School seminar’s message to the LGBTQIA community was not intended as a call to exclude the group from church activities.
“We need to welcome all students,” Cline said. However, giving a welcome tailored specifically to one group — the LGBTQIA+ community in the case of Layton High School’s seminar message — has the effect of excluding others, she said.
Still, Equality Utah’s statement took particular aim at Cline, who is from Bluffdale.
“Natalie Cline’s continued obsession with LGBTQ youth is equally disturbing. She has been leading a one-woman crusade against our community since she was elected to the Utah State Board of Education. Her dangerous rhetoric continues to incite hysteria and moral panic among Utah parents,” the message read.
The issue was brought to the attention of the Utah State Board of Education itself after it received news of “public concern” about the matter.
“We are reviewing this posting for possible violations of Board bylaws,” read a statement signed by the “Utah State Board of Education Leadership.” That said, comments from one board member, the statement continued, should not be construed as the position of the entire board.
The seminary operates independently of Layton High School and a representative of the LDS church could not be immediately reached for comment.
Smith’s run for a seat on the North Ogden City Council had sparked a furore among some due to his affiliation with the loosely defined #DezNat movement. Smith says the movement is focused on defending the LDS church. Meanwhile, critics of him equate the group with white nationalism, homophobia and more given the backgrounds of some of those who use the hashtag.
Smith finished fifth of seven in the primary vote in the City Council race, out of contention.