Two years ago, Richard and Betty Odgaard humiliated a gay couple.
After a long tour of the Görtz Haus in Grimes, Iowa, Lee Stafford and Jared Ellers were informed that they would not be welcomed to use the establishment for their wedding simply because they’re gay.
When the story first hit, I decided to research how deep the Odgaard’s convictions were. Did they morally examine each of their clientele, or did they only target gay people specifically? I sent emails asking for bids from two companies who wanted to do their celebration in a wedding-like motif. Betty responded, welcoming the unnamed event. It could have been gun supplies, escort services, or a porn company. She never asked or seemed to care. As long as it wasn’t gay.
The Odgaards are now out of the wedding business, but they are not finished trying to shame gay people. Their new venture is “God’s Original Design Ministry,” and its sole purpose seems to be to be as intrusive as possible while promoting marriage and family inequality.
Their first offering is a poorly designed billboard declaring marriage to be “1 male restroom icon plus 1 female restroom icon equals marriage.” It is also tagged with a desperate plea “from God” for help.
Their goal is produce another 999 billboards to be placed all around the country. They also hope supporters will print and distribute a number of fliers. Per their website, these fliers are for followers to “distribute and post throughout your community” and to “place a flier on every windshield in your church parking lot next Sunday.”
The Odgaards have also been placed on Ted Cruz’s Iowa leadership team. Apparently, he was concerned that he was appearing too LGBT-friendly. That is not a problem now.
I decided to write to the billboard-wielding team.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Odgaard,
I can appreciate that you are probably one of the most frustrated and angry couples on the planet right now. You were foiled in your dream to make your charming business exclusionary, and found out the hard way that homophobia is not a viable marketing concept. Then, to make matters worse, courts around the country, who absorbed a library of the most thought-out legal and ethical arguments, determined that the types of marriages you abhor are in fact viable, legitimate, and relevant.
It is understandable that you’re in a mood to strike back. However, it is apparent that your hunger for revenge has clouded any sense of spiritual or religious principle you might have. Your current behavior needs to be re-thought. A lot.
Your vision is 999 billboards. I guess the irony of an inverted “mark of the beast” hasn’t hit home with you yet. I love getting subtle messages from God, and in my opinion, He is sending you one.
I guess this speaks to the core of this issue and your behavior. Who exactly gets to speak for God? While I think He may be wishing you to stop your current plans — as they inadvertently play dangerously close to the devilish “666” — I have no right to put that opinion on a billboard and rub your faces in it. I also have the humility to admit that no Divine Revelation has mandated my view. It comes from my own sense of Christian principles.
Those principles also center around the “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” concept. You are not treating LGBT families in any way close to how you yourselves expect or want to be treated.
You would not want to arrive at your car and find it stickered with a sign that says “the Odegaards Aren’t Really Married”. You would not want your grandchildren to be subjected to billboards that said “Hey Odgaards, you are just one big mistake. Love, God.”
So why do you seek to humiliate my kids this way? Why do you hope that a bullied, closeted LGBT teen sees your message and is sent further into feeling isolated and unwanted?
Your behavior reminds me of a Christian school I interviewed at, a place I might have potentially send my sons. I let them know that we were an LGBT family and asked if that would be an issue. The administrator puffed up proudly as he stated, “Well, no, it’s not an issue for us. It might be an issue for you, however, because as we tell those coming from divorced families, we do not believe that theirs is God’s best design of a family.”
I was happy to leave him with his delusions about God. As I thought about it later, I realized how profoundly wrong he was. My sons were both born to drug-addicted birth parents. They’d be dead if we hadn’t come together as a family. During their 12-plus years as my kids, the one thing I know with absolute certainty is that destiny, God, and the Universe meant for these two beings to be MY sons. While I believe in God, I can’t prove He exists, so I extend faith. My family is different. I not only know we “exist, but the bond of who we are is imprinted on my soul.
You have no right shoving a message into our face that says differently. You have no right to put it on our roadways. And you have no right to plaster it on our cars when we go to church.
Your point in doing so is not to discuss your point of view. Your point is to make us feel inferior and illegitimate. Your point is to make us feel, by embracing our own families, apart from God. That doesn’t make you “holy.” It makes you cruel. And the actions you propose are abusive ones.
In his article “Whaat Does Ex-Gay Really Mean,” Tim Rymel discusses one of the few passages in the Bible that has been perceived as anti-gay. He observes “In 1946, the Greek word arsenokoites was first translated in the Bible to mean homosexual. Until that time, it had been translated to mean “an abuser of mankind” or to “defile one’s self with mankind” in the King James Bible. “
It’s ironic. I don’t know of any LGBT families that are “abusers of mankind.” None.
However, with your latest project, that’s exactly what you are.