Fresno Unified trustees will discuss the censure or removal of Brooke Ashjian as board president on Wednesday. The meeting comes just after the district released emails that show the embattled official praising anti-LGBT advocates who support him and saying that Christians are under attack and “must unite.”
The emails, made from Ashjian’s Fresno Unified account, were released by the district on Sept. 29 after LGBT Fresno filed a public records request.
While Ashjian has backtracked on controversial comments he made to The Bee about LGBT-inclusive sex education after his words sparked public outrage, the emails show he does not take issue with those comments in talks with his supporters, but he denies them in conversations with his critics.
On Aug. 11, David Pickup, an advocate for gay conversion therapy – a practice that aims to change a person’s sexual orientation and is illegal in California – emailed Ashjian to voice his support for him.
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“We have increasingly numerous minors and their families who contact us to express that the LGBT influence in schools have unduly influenced their children with their (LGBT) agenda,” Pickup said, offering to help Ashjian hold seminars in Fresno about the issue. “It is entirely possible for any child to be influenced in their sexual feelings and emotions toward something they may not have necessarily wanted to experience or develop into.”
This crazy world has turned on God and all we can do is keep fighting for what the Bible teaches!
Fresno Unified board president Brooke Ashjian
In an email the same day, Ashjian thanked Pickup. “Your offer of support is incredible!” Ashjian said.
In a story published by The Bee on Aug. 4 about state-mandated education that includes lessons on same-sex relationships, Ashjian said “you have kids who are extremely moldable at this stage, and if you start telling them that LGBT is OK and that it’s a way of life, well maybe you just swayed the kid to go that way.” Ashjian also urged parents to teach “Judeo-Christian philosophies” regarding sex education.
The California Healthy Youth Act ,which went into effect last year, requires schools to teach medically accurate sex education that does not teach or promote any religion.
Ashjian’s comments – and a statement he later made comparing LGBT activists to perpetrators of the Armenian genocide – have led to calls for him to resign, along with his past donations to support legislation that would have banned gay marriage and anti-gay comments made online in 2011 that were traced to his home.
On Aug. 18, Ashjian received an email from a constituent thanking him for his stance on sex education.
“God abhors the sin of homosexuals, but loves the sinner, as He loves us,” the email to Ashjian said. “Regardless of the consequences, stand firm.”
Ashjian thanked the sender for her words. “This crazy world has turned on God and all we can do is keep fighting for what the Bible teaches!” he said. “Godspeed.”
God abhors the sin of homosexuals, but loves the sinner, as He loves us. Regardless of the consequences, stand firm.
Ashjian supporter in email to him
On Aug. 10, Family Watch International, a nonprofit that opposes gay marriage and believes “children fare best when raised by both their married biological parents” emailed Ashjian to extend a helping hand.
Ashjian gave a Family Watch International representative his cell phone number. “I appreciate you for reaching out!” he said in an email to the group.
Ashjian also thanked Sharon Kass, a known anti-LGBT activist, when she emailed him about “the causes, prevention and treatment of homosexuality and transgenderism.” The subject line of that email was “LGBTQ neurotic, preventable, treatable.”
When another constituent emails Ashjian on Aug. 12, saying he “100 percent” agrees with Ashjian’s “stance against teaching young children about perverse lifestyles,” Ashjian does not take issue with that assessment of his stance on the issue.
“Thank you brother!” Ashjian said in reply.
In several emails Ashjian thanks people who commend his comments and urge him to resist “political pressure” from those calling on him to step down, saying he will “never” resign.
“I can use all the support you can give,” Ashjian said in one email. “Our Christian beliefs are under attack and we must unite!”
But emails also show Ashjian denies making the very comments he is commended for saying when contacted by his critics.
Never said it ... totally taken out of context.
Ashjian, on comments in a Bee story
On Aug. 11, Karen Stoffers-Pugh, a pastor at Wesley United Methodist Church in Fresno who has spoken out against Ashjian, emailed her concerns about his LGBT comments to him directly.
In response, Ashjian claimed he was misquoted by The Bee.
“Dear Karen, not very tolerant coming from a minister. I was misquoted and you took it lock, stock and barrel!” Ashjian said. “I hope you don’t judge your parishioners as quickly as I was … Just a thought!”
When a constituent emails Ashjian on Aug. 8 saying she’s appalled by his “homophobic beliefs,” Ashjian again denies them.
“Never said it … totally taken out of context,” Ashjian said in that email.
The Bee stands by its reporting, and Ashjian has never asked for a correction or retraction.
When asked last month by conservative PowerTalk radio about his initial comments, he said he did not regret the interview with The Bee and that he would not say anything differently.
“What I said is what I said,” Ashjian said then. “And what I said and what I meant was this: Children that are young are very impressionable, and the first line of defense needs to be parents, caregivers, aunts, uncles grandmothers, that talk to them about the birds and bees and the rights and the wrongs. And the place erupted.”
Ashjian did not respond to requests for comment for this story.