By Taylor Nadauld
University of Idaho student Jessy Forsmo-Shadid and a small group of activists stood in Friendship Square Sept. 29.
“Are you guys scared?” Forsom-Shadid asked the five women surrounding her as they waited in anticipation to start protesting.
Nearly every woman was holding white flyers and wearing plaid or flannel, a nod to the words of the man they were protesting against.
“I’m not scared,” group member Sarah Sant said.
With that, the group of mostly UI students broke their circle to speak to bystanders about a figure they say many people don’t care enough about — local religious leader Douglas Wilson.
Wilson, senior minister of Christ Church in Moscow, has been a controversial figure in the community for years.
Issues surrounding Wilson began a decade ago after a member of his congregation, Steven Sitler, became one of Moscow’s 38 sex offenders.
Wilson said he had a significant hand in Sitler’s arrest after Sitler confessed the crime to him.
“When Steven Sitler was caught, I was one of the main factors why he was turned in,” Wilson said.
Sitler was sentenced to life in prison in 2006 for lewd conduct with a minor under 16, according to court documents. He was released on probation after less than a year in custody at the Latah County Jail.
Wilson received backlash after officiating the marriage of Sitler to a woman after he had been sentenced for the sexual offense.
Wilson said it was not just him that supported the marriage.
“Judge Stegner and those treatment officials and I all agreed that Steven getting married to an age-appropriate women who had all the facts and who was willing to marry him was the best thing for him and for society,” Wilson said.
Wilson said if the state of Idaho had prohibited Sitler’s marriage he would not have officiated the marriage.
Court documents show senior treatment providers from Valley Treatment Services approved Sitler to continue to parent his child, writing that Sitler “has steadily worked in the VTS Sex Offender program for almost 10 years.”
Last month, a judge ordered Sitler must have an approved chaperone present at all times he is around his infant child.
Sitler attended Christ Church at the time of the crime.
The protestors distributed flyers entitled, “Known Facts About Doug Wilson.”
According to the flyers, Wilson officiated and supported the marriage of Sitler, is anti-LGBTQA and is a “paleo-confederate.”
Wilson agreed that he officiated and supported the marriage of Sitler, is anti-LGBTQA and calls himself a “paleo-confederate.”
The rest of the flyer, he said, is libelous.
Sant said she and the rest of the protesters held their first meeting Sept. 28. It was then they decided to gather downtown and hand out flyers.
Forsmo-Shadid said she first heard about the issue from a different group of activists. She considers her group to be a branch off of those activists, but said many people have tried and failed to organize against Wilson.
“Things get dropped here really easily,” Forsmo-Shadid said.
The women have plans to meet again at a later time.
The group decided to address being more sensitive to certain topics at their next meeting, and to invite new members.
“I think this is a very good start,” said Cynthia Ballesteros, a group member.
When asked what he believes his friends might write in an alternative flyer about him, Wilson listed a few things.
“I would want them to say that Doug is a Christian pastor who believes in cultural engagement, he is an educational reformer, he preaches the gospel to messed up people,” Wilson said.
Editor’s note: Jessy Forsmo-Shadid is a former Argonaut employee.
Taylor Nadauld can be reached at arg-news at uidaho.edu