At a March 9 book-signing at The Pine River Library, Rev. Alaric and Andrew Hutchinson, a married couple who own and operate The Zen Cowboy, were threatened by two individuals who said they will be “running them out of town.”
The two referenced Sodom and Gomorrah in regards to the Hutchinsons being gay and said they were perpetuating satanist views and that anything that was not the teaching of Jesus is not peace.
The Zen Cowboy offers inner peace development training. On Sundays at 1 p.m., the Hutchinsons host the Church of Dunisha community gatherings at the Zen Cowboy space. The church welcomes all backgrounds and religions, with a main emphasis on peace, which is taught from Alaric’s book, “Living Peace.”
“Mainly, I hope to present a message of unity and not further separation. ... I’d love to tell this story from a place of unity, support from the town (and) loving kindness,” Alaric said. “Just because Andrew and I received discrimination doesn’t mean it now gives the ego permission from anyone else to discriminate against the men who threatened us.”
The Hutchinsons received support from the community in the aftermath of the incident.
“I can’t speak for my board members, but I can speak for myself. I am willing to back any organization that teaches love, peace, etc.,” said Bayfield Mayor Matt Salka. “Whatever was said to them, it’s uncalled for and there should be zero tolerance for these words and actions.”
Salka said this incident is not reflective of the people of Bayfield.
The Hutchinsons moved to Bayfield from Arizona in June 2018. Alaric said he and Andrew did discuss the potential of encountering bigotry before the move.
“There is always a risk moving to a small town as a gay married couple – and opening a church that is not traditional Christianity, so we have this double whammy,” Alaric said.
He said as a gay man, he has experienced similar reactions in the past but never in a business setting.
“On the plus side, the deputy that came by and filed the report was very helpful, although (knowing who they were), he expects that they may try to disrupt future events,” Alaric wrote in a Facebook post.
To ensure safety, the marshal kept watch outside during the Sunday service, where attendees discussed the incident. A video of the service is posted on their YouTube channel.
“One of the proudest moments yet in our marriage was watching you yesterday, because after the two men left, at no moment did you show anger or any sort of frustration; you only had compassion,” Andrew said at the service.
Alaric said the incident has not made him or Andrew regret their decision to move to Bayfield.
“It had the opposite effect. It inspired and showed us exactly why we are here. It made us feel more welcome because of the response from the town afterward,” Alaric said.
“Now, it’s time to respond from a place of genuine peace, compassion, and cultivate a deeper understanding, so that we may begin to heal this division that still exists within the hearts and minds of humanity.”