Community Reacts to Fresno School Board President Ashjian’s Comments Equating LGBT Response to Ottoman Turks

By Carmen George for The Fresno Bee

FRESNO, Calif. (The Fresno Bee)—A Fresno Armenian pastor is among many now calling for the resignation of Fresno Unified School Board President Brooke Ashjian after he equated LGBT activists to Ottoman Turks.

(L to R) Rev. Ara Guekguezian and Brooke Ashjian

The Rev. Ara Guekguezian said the LGBT community, which is on the margins of society, should not be compared to Turkish officials who carried out the Armenian Genocide.

“If the Ottoman Turks say, ‘We are trying to silence you or marginalize you or demonize you,’ that is frightening because eventually they end up killing you,” Guekguezian says. “When someone in the margins says, ‘Don’t talk about that, it marginalizes me, it demoralizes me,’ it’s a very different thing. It doesn’t come from a place of power.”

Ashjian’s comments came at the end of a five-hour board meeting Wednesday night after dozens responded to comments he made last month about the LGBT community.

 Here is video of the full statement (Video courtesy of Fresno Unified School District/The Fresno Bee).

“It is sad, they like the Ottomans are trying to be the thought police,” Ashjian said, reading from a two-page statement he wrote. “They are trying to make people of faith second-class citizens, as they seek to silence our voices in the public square. Just like what my grandparents and millions of other grandparents had to endure at the hands of the Ottomans before escaping to America.”

Guekguezian said Ashjian’s comments also minimalize the horrors of the Armenian Genocide. As many as 1.5 million Armenians were killed from 1915 to 1923 by the Turkish government and its allies.

Guekguezian has “strong opinions” about the way Fresno Unified is doing business and caring for children. “I can’t believe how sensitive, how immature, how fenced in, how weak they are. If they are that weak, they shouldn’t be in a position of leadership.”

Guekguezian is pastor of First Congregational Church of Fresno, also known as the Big Red Church, which describes itself as an “open and affirming” church for all people. Guekguezian attended Wednesday night’s meeting to support the LGBT community.

The controversy began when Ashjian talked to The Bee about the California Healthy Youth Act, a law requiring schools to teach unbiased and medically accurate sex education, including lessons on birth control, abortion, and LGBT relationships. In a story published Aug. 4 in The Bee, Ashjian said “you have kids who are extremely moldable at this stage, and if you start telling them that LGBT is OK and that it’s a way of life, well maybe you just swayed the kid to go that way.” Ashjian, who is Mormon, also said, “It’s so important for parents to teach these Judeo-Christian philosophies.”

Mark Scoffield, a fellow member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Fresno, was among those at Wednesday’s meeting. When asked if Ashjian’s decision to compare LGBT activists to Ottoman Turks was fair, Scoffield said he didn’t know because he’s not Armenian, but that he liked Ashjian’s comments about religious freedom and freedom of speech.

Jess Fitzpatrick, co-chair of Trans-E-Motion, said Ashjian has a right to freedom of speech, but that “we have the ability as a community to come together and say, ‘We don’t want that [speech] to be representative of us.’”

The Armenian Genocide reference seems to be an attempt by Ashjian to “pull the Central Valley heartstrings, but in a really nasty, cynical way,” Fitzpatrick said. “I hope that people can recognize it for what it is. It’s a total prey on their emotions.”

This article was published in The Fresno Bee on Aug. 24.


  1. Pastor Ara doesn’t speak for the Fresno Armenian Community.LGBT don’t live on margins of society they have laws protecting them, allow legal marriage and were recognized with the white House lighting up the gay flag whilest our country never acknowledges recognition of the Armenian genocide. Rev. Ara is not from mainstream traditional Armenian churches we don’t get involved with blurring the lines between church and state. Mr. Ashjian as part of FUSD expressed an opinion, that while the schools would be forced to comply teaching LGBT as part of normal accepted behavior he was concerned with public schools teaching this and taking the place of parental or moral/Spiritual audiences. Why is an opinion or free speech attacked if you don’t follow the extreme liberal left’s view of what is fascist or how they want to write history …immediately censorship destruction of your culture and historical statues. Next they will want to take down our Davit of Sassoun statue as being too Christian or violent. Rev. Are will probably agree with them. Oh and those Syrian refugees in Fresno are anti Syrian government sided with wahabbi jihadists and helped to destroy the lives of 25,000 Syrian Armenians that fled to Armenia. Well we all know America doesn’t want to take in Christians. Please you shouldn’t encourage the attacking of an Armenian by others who have a different agenda. Ashjian has every right as a member of the school board to express his concerns.

  2. It isn’t possible for me to praise Rev. Ara Guekguezian too much for his brave, forthright and honest stand against Mr. Tashjian’s outrageous cheapening of the Armenian Genocide with twisted Trumpoid logic and bigotry. His far-fetched attacks on political opponents as being the equivalent of Ottoman Turks is simply a disgrace and makes me wonder how a person of such limited intellectual horizons could become an important functionary in Fresno with power over the education of youth.

    My respect for Rev. Guekguezian is only deepened when I see he seems to be fighting a lonely battle in this matter, at least in terms of the Fresno Armenian community. What position do responsible Armenian associations and organizations in Fresno take on this issue? I have only seen silence. So much the worse for the Armenian Genocide issue.

    Thanks again and more power to you, Rev. Guekguezian. You reassure me that not all of us have lost our conscience or our ability to reason.

    • Diran, the LGBT movement has gone beyond all bounds of decency and respect with their shrill, threatening demands.

      That in essence is what Superintendent Ashjian was saying, even if the Genocide analogy was not quite correct.

      Look for: “drag queen story hour [dot] org”

      That is just one example: Drag queens dressed up and teaching little kids in schools in cities such as New York.

      This is what LGBT demand and get. Are there no limits?

      Diran, maybe Armenian American day schools should have readings by drag queens?

      How about our Sunday schools?

  3. Is Ara the new leftist representing our community in Fresno? how about he learns the first amendment right of freedom of speech, the left can keep their crap away from us and especially our children. Their “norm” is not a social norm ANYWHERE, other than maybe San Fransisco which apparently has 67 genders listed. California is imploding on itself, and the LGBT agenda is becoming obviously closer to fascism. Thank you Mr. Ashjian for standing up to truth.

  4. Where in Brooke Ashjian’s statement does he mention the Armenian Genocide? He is comparing pre-genocide Ottoman attitudes towards the Ottoman Armenian community with LGBT activists’ attitudes towards the community he represents and claims he can speak for.

    Ottoman Armenians were largely self-oppressing: they knew what sort of behavior would be acceptable and what would not, and they self-restrained themselves with the knowledge that horrible things could result from straying into behavior Muslims could deem unacceptable for Christians. To a limited extent this does appear to parallel the situation Ashjian complains of: a situation where certain viewpoints and behavior cannot be given regard to because activists have deemed them to be invalid viewpoints and unacceptable behavior. And, if those viewpoints are ever expressed or acted upon, the offending individuals risk loss of position, employment, marginalization, disenfranchisement, or worse, as a response, leading to everyone existing in a climate of fear. Of course “offenders” are not massacred. Yet the threat of protest demonstrations, with the risk of a riot of mobs of the self-righteous outraged is not that dissimilar to the ever-present Ottoman-era threat of a riot of outraged Muslims descending onto Armenian districts. That said, I doubt Ashjian is really against Thought Police, he just represents a different, older, branch of it.

  5. “Community Reacts”

    Which community? The LGBT one and a SINGLE lefty Armenian Rev.?

    “LGBT community, which is on the margins of society, should not be compared to Turkish officials who carried out the Armenian Genocide.”

    Perhaps they are a lot worse? And no they are not “on the margins” – they are shoved down the throats of anyone with an opinion that does not conform to theirs.

    I have never seen anything quite like what is going on today with this sudden onslaught of leftist insanity, using the same methods they charge others with: fascism.

    Notice how this article starts: “Armenian pastor is among many now calling for the resignation”. Really? How amazingly SENSITIVE and TOLERANT of you for someone who has a traditional opinion. Not to mention freedom loving and first amendment loving ‘Americans’. Except: “when someone does not meet with the standards of our narrative and indoctrination, let’s attack him, make him suffer and destroy his livelihood, because we are all tolerant leftists who care for our fellow human”. Right.

    As one American politician stated decades ago: “When Fascism comes to America it will be called anti-Fascism”. We are seeing this unfold in all spheres of life, and it isn’t necessarily political, but social.

  6. Only the true enemies of Jesus support homosexual behavior. As a Christian I am against teaching our school children that it is ok to be homosexual. The fires of Hell are waiting for those who lead little children to satan. Why would anyone who has morals listen to a pastor who is working against the bible like Ara is doing? Wake up America before these wicked evil morals are ingrained in the next generation.

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