Who Will Watch the Watchers?

Member Discrimination, Freedom of Religion, Social Justice, ULC

During the early 1980’s, the Seattle establishment, including the police and a group called Parents in Arms, targeted The Monastery for closure based on bigotry and prejudice. Statements and affidavits submitted in support of efforts to close The Monastery often commented on racial mixing, and the presence of homosexuals.

This bigotry resulted in blatantly illegal harassment such as a September 1982 police raid in which more than 200 patrons were arrested, photographed, and cited. These charges were dismissed due to a lack of evidence a month later.

A local weekly newspaper called The Rocket noted that Parents in Arms claimed to be made up of parents of runaway teens who sought to combat an alleged “teenage runway epidemic” caused by “teenage discotheques.” Parents in Arms targeted The Monastery for a variety of lurid reasons, even including the practice of “Satanic rituals” as an alleged offense. The Rocket noted that Parents in Arms was unwilling to address the root cause as to why children were running away, and that the public statements by Parents in Arms reflected bias based on religion, race, and sexual orientation.

During this same time, Seattle and the King County authorities conspicuously failed to take steps against other religious institutions and similar teen clubs, all guilty of very serious crimes.

For example, at the same time the authorities were harassing The Monastery, members of a local church called The Community Chapel and Bible Training Center were sexually abusing children, who in turn were committing suicide at an alarming rate. In one especially tragic case, a female member of the church murdered her five-year-old daughter, and her husband was accused of sexually assaulting a teenage boy only a year later.

Other clubs openly catering to teens and young people were allowed to remain open regardless of complaints from neighbors and despite multiple arrests. One local teen club called Skoochie’s was the location of a fatal shooting and stabbing on back-to-back nights in 1984. In addition, its business neighbors complained about thousands of dollars of property damage, rampant public urination, and broken glass littering their parking lots. Seattle consistently ignored these complaints.

Similarly, a Seattle dance hall called Club Broadway was the subject of multiple arrests, culminating in a 1985 fight between patrons and police where two officers were injured after being jumped by seven patrons. Order was only restored after multiple police officers arrived.

What was different about these other organizations? Could it have been that The Monastery catered to gay youths and encouraged racial harmony? Could it be that 1980’s Seattle was conservative, narrow-minded and did not accept LGBT people? One thing seems clear about law enforcement efforts in 1980’s Seattle and that was it played by its own rules.