Alarmed by evidence that gay and lesbian students are common victims of schoolyard bullies, many school districts are bolstering their antiharassment rules with early lessons in tolerance, explaining that some children have “two moms” or will grow up to love members of the same sex.I was wondering how long it would be before the push back started against the tolerance efforts. Back in the 1990's the Mathew Shepard case, who was killed because of his sexual orientation, actually became a rallying cry for homophobes and others who picketed his funeral with signs such as "Matt Shepard rots in Hell", "AIDS Kills Fags Dead" and "God Hates Fags".
But such efforts to teach acceptance of homosexuality, which have gained urgency after several well-publicized suicides by gay teenagers, are provoking new culture wars in some communities.
Angry parents and religious critics, while agreeing that schoolyard harassment should be stopped, charge that liberals and gay rights groups are using the antibullying banner to pursue a hidden “homosexual agenda,” implicitly endorsing, for example, same-sex marriage.
One dope even tried to erect a bronze plaque near the sight of the killing which featured a picture of Shepard and the inscription "MATTHEW SHEPARD, Entered Hell October 12, 1998, in Defiance of God's Warning: 'Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind; it is abomination.' Leviticus 18:22."
So it's not surprising that the same kind of rhetoric, which leads to assaults, bullying and in extreme cases suicide or homicide, should surface over this latest attempt to educate students on tolerance and sexual orientation.
Of course, the Bible says no such thing. The term homosexuality wasn't invented until the 19th century and appears nowhere in any book of the text.
Last summer, school officials here in Montana’s capital unveiled new guidelines for teaching about sexuality and tolerance. They proposed teaching first graders that “human beings can love people of the same gender,” and fifth graders that sexual intercourse can involve “vaginal, oral or anal penetration.”
A local pastor, Rick DeMato, carried his shock straight to the pulpit.
“We do not want the minds of our children to be polluted with the things of a carnal-minded society,” Mr. DeMato, 69, told his flock at Liberty Baptist Church.“Of course we’re all against bullying,” Mr. DeMato, one of numerous pastors who opposed the plan, said in an interview. “But the Bible says very clearly that homosexuality is wrong, and Christians don’t want the schools to teach subjects that are repulsive to their values.”
But facts are irrelevant in this debate, particularly when the very intolerance that leads to bullying and suicide is couched in pseudo-religious justifications.
After at least two suicides by gay students last year, a Minnesota school district recently clarified its antibullying rules to explicitly protect gay and lesbian students along with other target groups. But to placate religious conservatives, the district, Anoka-Hennepin County, also stated that teachers must be absolutely neutral on questions of sexual orientation and refrain from endorsing gay parenting.I'm not sure what a "homosexual lesson" is, but if these people really want "to protect all children from bullying," that's going to have to include gay kids as well.
Candi Cushman, an educational analyst with Focus on the Family, a Christian group, said that early lessons about sexuality and gay parents reflected a political agenda, including legitimizing same-sex marriage. “We need to protect all children from bullying,” Ms. Cushman said. “But the advocacy groups are promoting homosexual lessons in the name of antibullying.”
It's really that simple.