As GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network) prepares to hold its 15th annual Day of Silence (DOS) tomorrow — through which hundreds of thousands of young people will raise awareness about anti-LGBT bullying — a broad coalition of religious conservative groups is engaged to make sure the message is countered or left unheard. Many of these groups have been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “hate groups” specifically because of the kinds of messages they are currently promoting.
The largest coalition of DOS opponents are supporting a Day of Silence Walk Out, encouraging parents to pull their kids out of school Friday so they are not exposed to the anti-bullying messages. The Illinois Family Institute is spearheading the effort, but the walk out has also been endorsed by the American Family Association (AFA) and many of its state affiliates. These groups insist that it’s more important to call homosexuality immoral than to end bullying against anyone perceived to be LGBT (PDF):
One oft-repeated mantra is that the goal of DOS is to keep LGBTQ students safe. The problematic rhetoric of “safety,” however, substitutes speciously for the more accurate term of “comfort.” To suggest that in order for those who self-identify as homosexual or “transgender” to be “safe,” no one may disapprove of homosexual conduct is both absurd and dangerous. If this definition of “safety” were to be applied consistently, virtually all statements of disapproval would be prohibited.
Another group responding to the DOS is Focus on the Family, whose “Day of Dialogue” (to be held Monday) encourages young people to counter their peers’ anti-bullying messages with Christian messages about God’s plan for their sex and gender, even suggesting that “sissy, victim, gay, homosexual, sickly, [and] weak” are words that all go together. Focus partners with the Alliance Defense Fund in promoting a faux bullying policy (PDF) designed to erase important enumerated protections for LGBT youth in favor of a policy that schools never “infringe upon the First Amendment rights of students.” (An outlandish “Don’t Say Gay” bill proposed in Tennessee this week would limit visibility of LGBT issues even farther.)
Fringe group PFOX (Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays) is also encouraging distribution of its harmful materials, which have messages that one’s sexual orientation can and should be changed, though all major medical organizations have repudiated such myths. The prominent Family Research Council (FRC) promotes the same exact message (PDF), suggesting not only that LGBT issues should be made invisible, but also reinforcing beliefs that LGBT people are out to “recruit children,” may be pedophiles, and should not be allowed to teach or coach.
Many of these groups and their messages have strong ties to prospective GOP candidates. Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Tim Pawlenty, and others have appeared on the radio show hosted by AFA’s Director of Issues Analysis Bryan Fischer, who has called for the criminalization of homosexuality. Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann also are tight with FRC, with Bachmann boasting to Tony Perkins just last week about working “hand-in-hand” with them.
None of these prospective candidates have spoken out against anti-LGBT bullying, in spite of any sympathies they may have extended in response to the very public youth suicides over the past year.