A member of the local school board in Stonington on Tuesday refused to resign from his seat after coming under fire for posting anti-gay comments on his Facebook page.
William Shepard said Tuesday evening at the CSD 13 board meeting that the comments he posted on Facebook decrying same-sex marriage and opposing celebrating June as Pride month reflect his Christian beliefs. He said he was not out to offend anyone and that he removed the posts as soon as he saw they had created a controversy.
More than 150 residents of Deer Isle and Stonington, which comprise the school district, signed a letter calling for Shepard to resign and presented it to the school board on Tuesday evening. There is no mechanism to remove Shepard from office so Shepard would have to resign voluntarily, according to local officials.
Shepard was elected last year to a three-year term on the board, defeating longtime school board member Lawrence “Skip” Greenlaw by one vote, 461-460, according to the Ellsworth American.
“For those who took offense, I humbly apologize,” Shepard said. “I will not ever apologize for my Biblical convictions.”
In one of three of Shepard’s posts that were shared with the Bangor Daily News by Stonington resident Genevieve McDonald, Shepard allegedly called same-sex marriage a “rape of the natural world.”
McDonald, a Democrat who represents Deer Isle, Stonington and other towns in the Maine House of Representatives, criticized Shepard and called Tuesday for his resignation. Holly Eaton, a Deer Isle resident who attended the towns’ school and is a former CSD 13 local school board member, also told the board that Shepard should resign.
Dwight Dean, pastor of the Sunshine Advent Christian Church in Deer Isle, spoke in support of Shepard and said he should not resign.
“Some of us have very strong opinions,” Dean told the board. “What happens to diversity when only one viewpoint can be presented?”
Shepard criticized what he called the “island gossip mill” and said he should be afforded the same opportunity to express his personal opinions on his own time as anyone else in the district’s two towns.
“I am in shock of the hatefulness shown to me and my family,” Shepard said, adding that he has received death threats. “I respectfully decline your request.”
Several people who attended the board meeting applauded when Shepard finished reading his statement. One hundred chairs had been set up in the Deer Isle-Stonington High School gymnasium in anticipation of a larger crowd, but only two dozen or so people attended the meeting, not including board members and school district employees.