Response to CHS Site Council Opposition

A Springfield-based website – www.keepcentralsafe.com – has recently come to the attention of New Life Evangelistic Center (NLEC).  We at NLEC would like to take a moment to respond to some particularly troubling aspects of this site, as well as to seek some points of collaboration with the website’s anonymous authors.  At some points, we will object strongly to what we see on this site; however, in the name of Christ we hope that ultimately we can reconcile as many of our differences as possible, and that all of us will continue to see more clearly in His light.

The website in question has a clear objective: to force NLEC and homeless veterans out of the Social Security building at 806 Jefferson Avenue in Springfield, Missouri.  NLEC has recently acquired the building, through the McKinney-Vento Act and with it, has been granted the right to develop a “day center” there for homeless veterans, in order to provide food, clothing, basic education, prayer, and various other forms of support to these under-served veterans.  The website’s anonymous authors object that this day center’s proximity to Central High School is a serious threat to the safety of the students there. 

First, let us begin by stating the obvious: that the website’s purported “one goal” is, in itself, unarguably valid.  Namely, its authors claim to desire “the safety of all students … in and around the Central High School campus.”  We at NLEC understand these concerns, and share them.  Many at New Life are parents ourselves, and agree that children’s safety is worth fighting for.

However, we further believe – contrary to the authors of “Keep Central Safe” (KCS) – that children’s safety need not be at odds with the support and protection of another vulnerable demographic: the homeless veteran.  More specifically, we believe, contrary to the website’s authors, that a high school and a day center for homeless veterans can coexist, safely and peacefully, even on the same city block.   

Unfortunately, the website’s authors, in order to reinforce their opposing opinion on this matter, are in serious risk of outright libel: not only against NLEC, but more importantly, against an already-marginalized and maligned population: namely, those who have risked their lives to serve and protect America, many of whom have then returned home to be called, by the KCS authors, “exceptional threats” to students, and apparently to society as a whole.

 “Keep Central Safe” maligns all veterans

KCS seems at times unsure whether it is the homeless person or the veteran who is most worthy of marginalization and public dread.  One might infer from their website, though, that it is the veteran – whether homeless or otherwise – who is especially dangerous, not only to children but to society at large. 

On its homepage, for instance, KCS presents four flagstaff “facts” meant to drive home, beyond all shadow of doubt, that homeless veterans are – like nuclear waste – too dangerous to have in certain parts of town.  Strikingly, two of these four “facts” refer exclusively to veterans – not to the homeless.  For the record, let us repeat them verbatim:[1]

1) 35% of veterans in state prisons were convicted of homicide or sexual assault.

2) Sex offenders accounted for 1 in 3 prisoners held in military correctional facilities. 

What are the authors of KCS implying here?  Nothing less than that U.S. veterans are, by and large, dangerous to children.  Whether these veterans are homeless doesn’t much seem to matter here.  After all, one in three of all the veterans represented in these statistics are guilty of sexual assault and murder!

But just who are these supposedly “representative” veterans?  Let’s look again:

1) 35% of veterans in state prisons were convicted of homicide or sexual assault.

2) Sex offenders accounted for 1 in 3 prisoners held in military correctional facilities. 

This is disturbing, but not for the reason the “Keep Central Safe” authors hope it will be.  Rather, this is disturbing because of how blatantly these authors look solely to prison populations in trying to prove that veterans are dangerous.  (And thus, we assume, by extension, that homeless veterans are dangerous too.)  Thus, the KCS authors look to the less than one percent of United States veterans who are in state prisons,[2] and use them to determine whether the remaining 99+ percent are safe to have within a block of a high school, picking up a sandwich, washing their laundry, and working on their GED.

Of course, while we are at it, such dubious “facts” could do just as good a job of demonizing any social group.  Granted, though, if we were to replace “veteran” with any of the other groups listed directly below, our natural sense of moral indignation would rightly remind us of how crooked our thinking had become. 

For instance, we could have asked:

What percentage of schoolteachers [in state prisons] are guilty of terrible crimes?  For that matter, if we are so busy maligning people groups, what percentage of blacks or Hispanics, of doctors or librarians, or of Baptist preachers [in correctional facilities] are guilty of sexual offences? 

Indeed, how dangerous are “parents at Central High School?”  How can we find out?  The course set by the KCS authors is clear: Let us look to the state prisons, and have a head count of the parents there!

Again, our purpose here is not to be contentious.  But we must be clear that both of these vulnerable “demographics” – students and homeless veterans -- have a right to representation, support, and at times, protection -- protection against assault and mis-representation.  And sometimes in defense of those that need it most, we must speak directly about the wrongs we see.  Clearly we want to ensure that high school students are protected from physical assaults, no matter who the assailant might be: veteran or nonveteran, homeless or housed, teacher or parent, or even another student.  In the same way, we want to ensure that homeless veterans are not the victims of other seriously damaging forms of assault – namely, assaults on their character, social shunning, stereotyping, and verbal abuse.  Our fear is that “Keep Central Safe” does very little to protect students, and could do a great deal to further the abuse of our country’s most impoverished citizens, as well as its men and women in uniform.   


[1] Note: On the website, both of these statistics are links to articles which apparently support them.  Unfortunately, neither link works.  For the sake of argument, however, let us assume these statistics are true.

[2] Statistics provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 Summary File 3 and special tabulations, and by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/glance/tables/corrtyptab.htm.  Out of the 26,404,000 living veterans in 2000 census; the number in a state or federal prison was 225,700, or, roughly one in every 117 veterans.

 

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