The Los Angeles Times reports that antigay Christians and Jews are challenging and sometimes suing school districts: If proponents of tolerance and opponents of bullying are permitted classroom time, then — so the story goes — proponents of bigotry and reparative therapy must be given equal time.
The article covers a lot of territory; here’s a point-by-point summary:
Exodus president Alan Chambers is described as “married to a woman, a father of two” — the report fails to note that the children were adopted — and that Chambers opposes adoption by same-sex-attracted individuals.
The Times recognizes that the exgay activist rhetoric “echoes the creationist campaigns of the 1980s and ’90s: Just as conservative Christians demanded equal time for Genesis whenever Darwin got a mention, ex-gays and their allies are insisting on equal time for their views whenever homosexuality is discussed. Several ex-gay websites offer equal-time policies that parents can urge their local school boards to adopt.”
While the creationists have been pushed back, the Times notes that exgay activists are succeeding:
A high school in New Hampshire invited ex-gay activist Aaron Shorey to present his story on Civil Rights Day last year. He told several standing-room-only classes that he refused to let his attraction to men define him as gay. “I have experienced change,” he told them. “Change is possible.” He’s working with several other New England schools to get permission for similar presentations.
The ex-gay group Inqueery, based in Des Moines, has also sent speakers to public high schools, including one in Chicago this spring.
In Boulder, Colo., educators are considering including an ex-gay pamphlet in a resource guide to help teachers handle questions about sexuality. The pamphlet states that sexual identity is fluid and that conversion therapy can help some gays and lesbians overcome depression. The district — in one of the most liberal cities in the country — does not endorse that philosophy, but “we’re a big believer in providing all viewpoints,” spokeswoman Maela Moore said. “It would be negligent to omit.”
The Times says more challenges to local schools are on the way:
New Jersey-based JONAH — Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality — is seeking parents and students willing to sue to get the ex-gay view into schools. So is Liberty Counsel, a Christian law firm in Orlando, Fla. The firm joined PFOX last month in urging teens to form Gay to Straight Clubs and hang “Choose to Change” posters in their schools. If an administrator tries to censor that message, Liberty Counsel promises to provide legal backup.
Already this spring, the firm has threatened to take a Wisconsin high school to court for inviting a gay speaker — but not an ex-gay — to Diversity Day. (The school responded by canceling the program.) Liberty Counsel is also weighing action against colleges in Ohio and Connecticut after students said they were barred from putting ex-gay literature in the campus gay and lesbian centers.
The Times quotes NARTH president Joseph Nicolosi, who plainly states the exgay political agenda for schools — and reveals a callous contempt for children:
“There is no such thing as a homosexual. We are all heterosexual. Our body was designed for the opposite sex.”
The audience of more than 700 sat rapt in the pews of a Fort Lauderdale church. Some held Bibles. Others took notes. Nicolosi went on to tell them that fathers could help their sons stay straight by bonding through rough-and-tumble games, such as tossing them in the air.
“Even if [the dad] drops the kid and he cracks his head, at least he’ll be heterosexual,” Nicolosi said, chuckling. “A small price to pay.”
The Times quotes one critic who reads between the lines of the exgay message and finds a deliberate effort to wound people…
“There’s a fine line between saying ‘Change is possible, and I have changed’ and saying ‘Change is possible, and you better change because something’s wrong with you,’ ” said Eliza Byard, deputy executive director of the nonprofit Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.
… and another critic who says that exgay therapy drove him into deep depression:
Protesting the ex-gay conference in Florida, Jerry Stephenson said his three years in conversion therapy plunged him into despair and self-loathing. He could not break his attraction to men; ashamed of his weakness, he contemplated suicide. Today, Stephenson counsels others on accepting their homosexuality.
The idea of promoting conversion therapy in schools frightens him: “Let’s save the children from this,” Stephenson said. “All it does is bring oppression.”
The Times quotes Dr. Robert Spitzer, a psychiatrist at Columbia University, saying that some of his subjects in a 2001 study of exgays may have been deceiving themselves or lying to him.
“If some people can change — and I think they can — it’s a pretty rare phenomenon,” said Spitzer, a strong supporter of gay rights. Promoting conversion therapy in schools, he added, may be giving teens “false hope.”
Guidelines jointly developed this year by GLSEN and conservative Christians may make it easier for exgay activists to gain access to public school classrooms.
That doesn’t necessarily mean all views deserve a place in the curriculum, said Charles Haynes, a 1st Amendment scholar who mediated the process. Educators must decide which perspectives are scientifically valid and which lessons will help their students grow. But Haynes is adamant that the ex-gay community at least deserves a hearing.