Iowa kids quit 4-H youth club after pro-LGBTQ+ message removed

4-H Iowa window display made by former members Elwood and Frannie Burns.

Three Iowa children have quit their local 4-H youth club after a window display that they designed, which included a rainbow, was suddenly removed by a club leader.

Siblings Frannie and Elwood Burns, who had been active members of their 4-H club, had agreed to help promote the club by painting a message on the window of their town’s local newspaper The Chronicle.

Frannie, 10, and Elwood, 12, had been told by their club leaders that they had total creative freedom over what they wanted to paint, so long as it encouraged people to join their 4-H club, and mentioned the club by name.

4-H is the largest youth development organisation in America, and promotes experiential learning for children ages 8 to 18 living in rural communities.

4-H Iowa Advertisement made by former members Elwood and Frannie Burns.
The 4-H Iowa window display made by former members Elwood and Frannie Burns.(Facebook/Rachel Burns)

For their window design, Frannie and Elwood wrote the message: “Have you heard the news? 4-H is 4-everyone.”

The simple message was accompanied by an orange, yellow, green, and blue rainbow.

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Speaking to local news station KCCI, Elwood explained that he and his sister’s design was intended to show that their 4-H club was inclusive to everyone, including LGBTQ+ people.

But the next day, when the children’s mother drove past the window display, she noticed that the rainbow drawing had been removed.

When she contacted the local 4-H club leader to ask about the display, she was told that the club had been receiving complaints about the rainbow.

However, who these complaints were made by remains unclear. When asked about the complaints by KCCI, The Chronicle said that they did not have an issue with the children’s design.

The 4-H club window display with the rainbow design removed.
The rainbow design was removed from the window display. (Facebook/ Rachel Burns)

“I wasn’t expecting that at all, I was kind of in shock I didn’t really know what to do,” said Elwood.

“I also didn’t want to make a huge deal out of it, but I think inclusion should not be erased from a window like that, especially when 4-H is supposed to be fully inclusive in supporting LGBTQ+.”

Confused and upset by the sudden erasure of their pro-LGBTQ+ message, the Burns children regrettably decided to quit 4-H, and Frankie penned an open letter to the club.

In solidarity with the siblings, a third child also quit the club.

An excerpt from Frankie’s letter to 4-H reads: “I believe [removing the rainbow] was childish and inappropriate.

“ I also believe that this is telling the children of this 4-H club that it is right not to include members of the LGBTQ+ community which is not in fact right. This is the reason I am quitting this club and moving to a new inclusive club. 

“This is also the reason I ask this club either to change for the better or close.”

A response from the 4-H state program leader, seen by KCCI reads: “Iowa 4-H Youth Development is working with local staff and volunteer leaders to address this situation. We are committed to creating high-quality learning environments in which young people feel a sense of belonging as they build skills to make a positive impact on their communities.”

This incident is not the first time that 4-H has been in hot water over their stance on LGBTQ+ issues.

In 2018, the youth organisation, which has over six million members across the US, withdrew its policy of embracing LGBTQ+ members after facing pressure from members of the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) who fund the organisation.

The incident came shortly after 4-H launched their campaign “4-H Grows: A Promise to America’s Kids”, which pledged to have an organisation that reflected “the population demographics, vulnerable populations, diverse needs and social conditions of the country” by 2025.

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