Last night, I attended a workshop about “homosexual activism in the public schools.” The meeting took place at a church and it was sponsored by the Illinois Family Institute, a conservative group. About 80 people were packed into a tiny room.
- I overheard one man sitting near me talking to a friend of his before the event started. He quoted the Edmund Burke line, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” He was referring to homosexual activists versus Christians.
Funny. I was thinking the same line, but in a completely different way…
- The speaker spoke about the myth that Christians “hate” homosexuals. We don’t hate homosexuals, she said, adding: “We’re not like Fred Phelps!”
So at least we have that in common. We all think Phelps is one crazy mofo.
They may not hate homosexuals, but they do hate homosexuality. (And apparently, they hate the word “gay.” Because it was barely uttered all evening. “Homosexual” must sound more evil and un-Christian.)
- I learned it’s ok to say being gay is wrong. We can’t worry about hurting people’s feelings. If we did, that would make it impossible for us to say plagiarism and promiscuity are wrong because that would hurt the feelings of plagiarists and promiscuous people. Therefore, it’s ok to attack homosexuality.
I’ll admit that’s the first time I’ve heard homosexuality compared to plagiarism.
- The speaker told the crowd that speaking out against homosexuality was not hate speech. Her argument for this? “Homosexual supporters speak out against polygamy and pedophiles all the time. Is that considered hate speech? No. So neither is our anti-gay speech.”
Not for the first time that evening, she compared gay people to pedophiles.
- The speaker mentioned a local high school in which students “had to read” Tony Kushner‘s play “Angels in America.” She asked if everyone picked up the handout listing excerpts from the book (after warning us that it would be graphic).
This was how she began a part of her talk against those homosexual activist English teachers. There was no mention of the facts that excerpts do not a book make. (You want to play the excerpt game? You want to take things out of context? Because the Bible is great fodder for that.) There was no mention that the book was for an Advanced Placement class for seniors, or that parents had to approve the book first before their children could read it (or opt for an alternative book instead, which would be ok), or that only a handful of students (and their parents) decided to take the alternative option. Most were fine with the book.
- There were several jabs at homosexual teachers and superintendents and administrators (they named names) who were trying to push that awful, hideous belief that it was ok to be gay. (Can you believe their gall?!)
- There was a lot of talk about the upcoming Day of Silence, during which gay students and straight allies choose not to speak for the day to bring attention to the silencing experienced by GLBT students. IFI wants parents to remove their children from the classroom for the day if students are taking part in this.
The speaker’s arguments? Let me quote from her handout (PDF):
Parents should call their children’s middle schools and high schools to ask whether the administration and/or teachers will be permitting students to remain silent during class on the Day of Silence. If students will be permitted to remain silent, parents can express their opposition most effectively by calling their children out of school on the Day of Silence and sending letters of explanation to their administrators, their children’s teachers, and all school board members. One reason this is effective is that most school districts lose money for each student absence.
School administrators err when they allow the classroom to be disrupted and politicized by granting students permission to remain silent throughout an entire day. The DOS requires that teachers either create activities around the silence of some or many, or exempt silent students from any activity that involves speaking. Furthermore, DOS participants have a captive audience, many of whom disagree with and are made uncomfortable by the politicization of their classroom.
I teach high school students. Some of them are silent every day. I don’t see Christian parents complaining about that. Also, the DOS doesn’t “require” anything. It’s sponsors don’t run my classroom and I’m not required to “do” anything. Personally, I think it’s irresponsible of teachers to be silent on that day because we still have a job to do (just like pharmacists shouldn’t be able to not sell people birth control or morning-after pills because of their own beliefs), but it’s fine if students want to be silent for one day — it won’t throw me off as a teacher. I can still do my job.
I’m amazed these parents are willing to remove their kids from a day of instruction because other students are choosing to remain silent for a day. Are you kidding me?
- The Day of Silence thing reminded me of a similar incident happening earlier this year. In fact, when you put these incidents together, the IFI sounds downright hypocritical.
Earlier this year, I had students remaining silent because of the Pro-Life Day of Silent Solidarity. It was fine by me and I taught my lessons as planned. But how come I wasn’t hearing anything about that day?
Would the speakers be in favor of pro-choice parents removing their students from the classroom?
They never mentioned that.
So I asked them about it.
The conversation went something like this:
Me: Isn’t the pro-life silence day the exact same idea as the Day of Silence?
Them: Umm… yes. And we do not support the pro-life silence day.
Me: Well, that’s good to hear. But I don’t remember getting any press releases from your organization asking parents to remove their children from school because some students were also going to remain silent for political reasons and personal beliefs.
Them: Umm… yeah… we should really have sent one out about that.
I’m not keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll mention it next year. A quick search on IFI’s website lists several results dealing with the Day of Silence. I can’t find a single result having to do with the Day of Solidarity.
- When the speaker discussed how many schools were putting on the pro-homosexual play “The Laramie Project,” she tried to cite a dubious 20/20 segment in which it was asserted that Matthew Shepard was not killed in a hate crime, but rather that he was the victim of a drug-induced rage. That segment has been debunked, but we didn’t hear that side of the story.
And really, going after Matthew Shepard and the play written about him? That was low.
- During any mention of the word “transgender,” there was something of an eye roll from the speaker and people in the audience. It was obvious the speaker didn’t think transgendered people actually existed. “A man is not a woman,” she said, adding that her mother had cancer and had to get her uterus removed, but that didn’t make her any less of a woman.
I failed to see any connection.
The speaker said she knew one student who “claimed” to be transgendered. He said he was a woman trapped in a man’s body. I knew that boy well, she said. “He was troubled.”
- The speaker mentioned the homosexual agenda. Not just as a general idea, though. She mentioned an actual, specific agenda written by Harvard-trained psychologists Marshall Kirk and Hunter Madsen. I’d never heard of them… am I the only one that doesn’t know who to take my orders from?
- My favorite line of the night, referring to how Christians need to fight back against the gays:
“There’s a great reluctance of churches in getting involved in the political arena.”
They didn’t really say that, did they?! Yes. Yes they did.
- It was pointed out that being anti-gay does not constitute prejudice. We are not pre-judging, they said. We are coming to our conclusions after careful consideration! Therefore, it is not technically prejudice.
I guess they won the battle of semantics… so make sure you don’t call homophobic people prejudiced. They’re not prejudiced. They’re “Christians who love everybody.” Got it?
- One bright side to all this: I found out we liberals are winning the Culture Wars! (Congratulations, you sodomites!)
The first 20 minutes of the talk, I wondered how much of my own rhetoric I’d be willing to say to their faces. I concluded I would probably tone it down a bit… try to engage them more. Maybe speak their language.
As the evening progressed, I became less eager to please them or to even talk to them. I wanted to point out all the flaws in their thinking, all the parts where they weren’t telling the whole story, all the times they were flat out lying to the audience.
I really wanted to know what the speaker would have said if there were openly gay people in the audience. The speaker made a point to say that there was a Facebook group against her formed by students at the school at which she used to work. A transgendered student wrote to the group that she was actually a nice lady.
As the student did this, the speaker didn’t even acknowledge the student’s sexual identity — couldn’t even fathom that there was a real issue there. I didn’t see that “nice lady” side of her, and the more she speak, the more I felt the desire to stoop to her level. It’s not a side of me I want to see come out.
Afterwards, I walked out of the church and away from that group of people. And good riddance.
I should point out one additional part to this story.
When I mentioned the other day that I was attending this event, I got an email from an acquaintance. She asked if I was going to this particular church (she gave me a name) for the event. That was the one I was going to. It turns out that’s her regular church. She wouldn’t be able to make it that night, but she wanted to let me know that the church did a lot of great things to support the local community and the people there were really nice and caring.
I really believe her. I believe that they mean well and they have the best of intentions.
But, as I told my friend, it’s hard for me to focus on that side when at the same time they are propagating these ridiculous notions. It’s also hard to believe I’m the only person there who felt that way.
I didn’t really say much at the event. I basically listened to them and observed other people. But I wonder if I was the only person there last night who held a contrary view to what was being said.
Where were the Christians who believe that it’s ok to be gay — that God loves gay people and straight people equally? Why weren’t they there to ask questions and challenge what was being said?
Is what I saw typical of what others have seen?