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Brat Fest disinvited Christian motivational speaker Bob Lenz after public officials complained about his antiabortion activism.
A controversial antiabortion speaker has been uninvited as a guest at this year's Brat Fest, after numerous public officials raised concerns.
Dane County Supv. Carousel Andrea Bayrd reports that Lenz has been active with an antiabortion group, Save the Storks, which she says parks a bus outside abortion clinics, harassing women.
"They drive to abortion clinics and target vulnerable women, pretty much harass them and taunt them and mislead them," Bayrd says. "If you want to have a conversation about abortion you don't stand outside an abortion clinic and target women with lies and distortion."
Madison Ald. Lisa Subeck points out that the city recently passed an ordinance change requiring a buffer zone around health clinics to prevent this sort of harassment.
"That's a statement of our values," Subeck says. "The Stork bus that Bob Lenz is associated with does just the opposite."
Bayrd and other local legislators were preparing a letter to send to Tim Metcalfe, the grocery store magnate who sponsors the event, complaining about Lenz's participation.
But on Monday morning, Metcalfe released a statement (which he also posted on Facebook) saying that Lenz has been uninvited from the festival.
"Brat Fest has not and will not take a position on any political views and it is important for Brat Fest and our sponsors to create an environment that represents our region," Metcalfe wrote.
Metcalfe added that Lenz was never going to speak about abortion: "We... wanted to use Brat Fest as an opportunity to raise awareness around issues that impact local kids. After learning that suicide is one of the leading causes of deaths for teenagers, I invited a motivational speaker who was going to focus on teens, suicide and prevention. It was brought to my attention that the speaker's affiliation caused some concerns and as a result, I respectfully rescinded the offer. Our goal is to make Brat Fest a great experience for all who attend."
A spokesperson for Brat Fest could not be immediately reached for comment. Both Bayrd and Subeck are happy that Metcalfe took action.
"Brat Fest has always been a fantastic community event. Having Bob Lenz there would have been a change for the worse," Subeck says. "The reason he was invited wasn’t to talk about [abortion], but he's so associated with the movement, it would have been impossible to separate the two."