An open letter to the bullies of Kenneth Weishuhn Jr.

(I apologize for the title of the video.)

Students of South O’Brien Community School,

I’ve seen a lot of anger directed at you recently. Commentators are saying that you are monsters, that you deserve to be prosecuted, that you are awful people. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I’ve never talked to you, seen you, or been exposed to you in any way. All I know is that I understand you.

Please note: I don’t agree with what you did. But I understand what it is that drove you to become homophobic. You see, I grew up in a town 30 miles from yours, and the attitude toward gay people was the same. Families raise their children to believe that gays are to be feared, that they want to destroy the traditional definition of families. When these kids become teenagers, when ridicule becomes a part of everyday life, what better group of people to ridicule than those whom you have been raised to hate and distrust? So in a weird way, I understand why you focused your attention on Kenneth.

But I also understand how Kenneth felt. In grade school, I too was bullied. Not extensively, more casually. Every once in a while, the bullies in my grade would circle back around to me, picking on the scrawny kid with the big glasses and long hair. It only ever lasted for a few days, but during that time, I never wanted to go to school. I was too scared. I dreaded every hour that I spent with them, because I knew as soon as the teacher turned her back, the bullying would start up again.

But I don’t understand Kenneth in another way, because I never got hate mail. I never received horrible voicemails on my cell phone. I never had Facebook hate groups made about me. I was never the sole target. All I know is that even being casually picked on made me hate school, my classmates, and most relevant, it made me hate myself. How much worse did you make Kenneth’s life? How ostracized, frightened and hopeless must he have felt? Apparently, hopeless enough to kill himself.

On a dark level, I’m curious how you are feeling now. Do you feel any remorse? Do you care? Do you (God forbid) believe somehow that you have accomplished God’s tasks, a crusade of sorts? Do you understand the weight of what has occurred? I hope for your sake you do.

I wish Kenneth had known how much God loved him.

Please understand that I’m not arguing the case for homosexuals and Christianity. That’s an entirely different can of worms that I will leave for much smarter, much more well-read people, of whom there are many.

But I’ll get into it a little, since you did. According to the media, several of you used the “God hates fags” logic as you were ridiculing Kenneth. There is one thing that Jesus was extremely, undeniably, untouchably clear about: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus never taught us to hate anyone. Which brings us to the saddest thing of all: you guys have everything dead wrong. Whether or not homosexuality is a sin, Jesus loves every gay person as deeply and as truly as He loves you.

Kenneth Weishuhn Jr. killed himself. He didn’t hear about God’s grace, forgiveness and love. He didn’t hear about the hope that we all share in Jesus Christ. He ended his own life hearing from his so-called Christian classmates that God hated him, Kenneth, just a teenage kid. And that, to me, is the saddest thing about this entire sad story.

I don’t know if you are monsters, or just misled kids who honestly didn’t know any better. I wouldn’t really be surprised by either. But I know this: whoever taught you the Bible missed the point entirely.

Tom Westerholm


5 thoughts on “An open letter to the bullies of Kenneth Weishuhn Jr.

  1. jolynn48 says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful letter, Thomas.

  2. danielle says:

    Thank you for this. Amen!

  3. jkornelis says:

    I often wonder why when kids say these things about gay kids, it’s called “bullying”. But when adults say these things about gay adults, it’s called “conservative politics”.

  4. Dirk says:

    Let me state right from the start that I am not Christian and agree with many parts of what Tom stated in what he wrote about. The main point is that it is absolutely shameful and heartbreaking what happened to Kenneth, his family, and his town. I have many feelings on this topic and its hard not to become emotionally charged when speaking about. First, while I agree with Tom’s point, from a Christian perspective Jesus taught that it is wrong to hate, and to love one another as Jesus is said to love his people. However, it is very easy to see why misguided Christian parents passed along such homophobic fear to their teenaged children since there are easy to find numerous spots in the bible in which it says that homosexuality is a sin. So, which is it? What side of the fence are you on? I can tell you that outside of small town Iowa, in the civilized world homosexuality is widely believed to not be a sin by clear thinking individuals. It is as normal as not being gay, as hard as that is for some people to understand. No matter how it shakes down the students that made Kenneth’s life a nightmare with hateful actions and comments at school, on facebook, and through voicemails should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. At first gut instinct I want to also place blame on the parents for not stopping this behavior but I would be ignorant to not realize how well teenage students hide this type of behavior. Maybe some of the parents knew about it, and if they did then they are worse than their children that did this to Kenneth for condoning this type of behavior.
    This was a perfect storm of mislead youth, and parental and administrative figures in denial that something like this could happen in their small town. It did and someone lost their life because of it.
    Bullying is a very prevalent issue in every single school no matter how big or small the community is. We as people that raise and care for children need to drop our differences and let our children know that exploiting someone who is different from themselves is wrong, no matter what.
    I have seen enough that when self-proclaimed Christians bully, or treat someone badly that they are completely unaware or in denial of what they are doing.
    It does not matter what the bible teaches; being gay is not wrong. The bible is wrong in saying that it is. I’m sure that this may be outrageous to some of you but you are also most likely the same people that think homosexuality is a sin.
    You certainly do not have to be a Christian to know that the right thing to do is to treat your neighbor in the same manner that you would like to be treated.
    My personal outlook is that if this is to be looked at from a religious perspective then what has happened is a casualty of how muddled up the rules of Christianity are. Each time I hear a devout Christian talk about gay people but also talking about loving thy neighbor as Jesus taught it feels like that person is actually saying, “Jesus said to love everyone equally so I will treat gay people right even though its not right to be gay.” I think this is small minded ignorant thinking at its finest.
    The true horror to me is that we live in a country where people like Rick Santorum is winning primary elections even though he is openly homophobic, openly against women’s rights, and arguably racist and not here to look out for the middle and lower classes. Mitt Romney is cut from the same cloth and some of you are going to vote for him just because he is Christian no matter what he plans to do to you or the future of our country.
    Christian thought process is limited because it is contained within the front and back covers of a bible that was written and rewritten by horribly imperfect men.
    To round this out, it does not matter what you believe, what color you are, how old you are, male, female; harsh treatment of someone different than yourself should never, ever be tolerated. Ever. Our children are our future. It is our responsibility to teach them that no matter what someone says, what a book says that just because someone isn’t the same as you that it never ever warrant treating them like they are less than you. It is up to all of us to take preventative action to prevent bullying. Everyone should always feel welcome and loved.

    Our children need to learn to have the courage to stand up for what is right, even if they may be standing alone.
    Differences should be embraced.

    We’ve paid a high price for this lesson.

  5. DJ says:

    Mr Thomas, Well written. I did not know Kenneth, but know extended family and close friends, I would take expection to your statement that he did not hear of God’s grace, forgiveness, love and hope. I believe he did.

    and to Mr Dirk… Good job at being a bully.

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