On January 15th, Eastern Sierra Now’s news staff attended the town hall meeting at the Calvary Baptist Church in Bishop. We had planned to film the event, as well as livestream it, so that viewers who couldn’t physically be there to see the live meeting could get an accurate portrayal of the evening.
However, upon arrival, we were told that no filming or recording would be permitted at all, so our record of the evening is based on our experience and the notes we took while watching.
The event started at 6 pm, with roughly 100 people in attendance. At the front doors, white paper slips with the Pacific Justice Institute’s contact information were handed out. Community member Josh Nicholson, who plans to run for District 3 Supervisor in June of this year, introduced each speaker and spoke in short increments between them.
At the beginning of the meeting, Nicholson pointed out Jen Roeser, District 4 Supervisor, who had originally planned to speak at the event but decided otherwise, and she received two rounds of applause from the crowd, the second turning into a standing ovation.
The first speaker introduced was Joe Vetter, a member of local law enforcement and a candidate for Inyo County Sheriff in the 2022 election. Vetter, who has been a member of local law enforcement since 2005 (with prior experience in non-local departments), began his speech emphasizing the difficulties he has faced as a member of law enforcement. He spoke about anti-police rhetoric and how it has affected him personally, urging the public to remember that police officers are human and have families too.
Vetter also spoke about how he believes mask and vaccine mandates are unconstitutional, and how he will not arrest anyone for not complying with them. Vetter said, “Law enforcement does not enforce mandates, because mandates are not laws.”
Josh Nicholson then returned to the stage to urge the community to get educated and to get involved with politics, because “everything is political.” This was where he announced his run for District 3 Supervisor. Next, Nicholson introduced the keynote speaker of the evening; Brad Dacus, founder of the Pacific Justice Institute, and welcomed him to the stage.
In his time onstage, Dacus had many stories and anecdotes about his time with the Pacific Justice Institute, and different cases they have worked on and been a part of recently. He emphasized that the Pacific Justice Institute is focused on “defending religious freedom, parents’ rights, and sanctity of life, without charge.”
Dacus spoke out against mandates concerning COVID-19 vaccines and masks, saying that they violate the fundamental rights all Americans are entitled to. Additionally, he spoke about how COVID-19 has impacted the rights of religious groups to gather and worship.
He provided the members of the audience with “backdoors” to get around vaccine and mask mandates, such as religious and medical exemption forms through the PJI’s website. He also spoke briefly about a “traditional vaccine” called NovaVax, which is in the works and could be an alternative to the current mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (Moderna, Pfizer, J&J).
Dacus followed this with a statistic, saying 18,000 people have died since being vaccinated, and included a few personal stories of people he knew facing medical complications or death after being vaccinated. He also pointed out that the CDC has not yet released the death toll from the Omicron variant specifically, and that the CDC has “breached trust in multiple dimensions.”
Dacus didn’t just speak about COVID-19, though. The Pacific Justice Institute has been recognized by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBT+ hate group, and he addressed that, saying it wasn’t true and providing examples of his own friendship with members of the LGBT+ community. He also directed the audience to go to exposesplc.com, saying that the SPLC wants to “vilify and silence others.”
Dacus then went on to speak about the issue of gender-neutral spaces, talking about different examples where individuals with “gender identity dysphoria,” as he called it, attempted to use the locker room or sauna for the gender they identified with and were met with discomfort. Specifically, he outlined two examples of trans women, who hadn’t fully transitioned to female, trying to use women’s saunas and locker rooms.
When they were denied either by the other occupants of the locker room, or the business itself, and tried to sue for discrimination, Dacus said the PJI went against the lawsuit to defend the business and the women. “No woman in the US should have to agree to be visually violated,” he said.
He also brought up the newer sexual education curriculums being proposed in California public schools – and while he didn’t specify exactly what these curriculums entailed, he did say that parents should be able to opt their children out of learning them.
After Dacus left the stage, Josh Nicholson came back up to thank everyone for attending and to thank Dacus, for which he received a standing ovation.
This is a developing story. Eastern Sierra NOW plans to release a more detailed recap of events. This is just a summary of the night for those who were not able to make it, but we plan to get more in depth in a future article in order to do justice to everything that was discussed.