A right-wing anti-LGBT group succeeded this week in scaring a Wisconsin school district out of trying to help its elementary students better understand the experience of a classmate who was assigned male at birth and now identifies as female.
The Mount Horeb Area School District announced Wednesday that it is canceling plans to have students at the Mount Horeb Primary Center read the book “I Am Jazz.” The school’s principal had previously sent a letter home to parents informing them their children would be assigned the book, which is “the story of a transgender child based on the real-life experience of Jazz Jennings, who has become a spokesperson for transkids everywhere,” according to Amazon.
“We have been working with the family of a student on your child’s floor who identifies as a girl, but has male anatomy. We refer to this as having a girl brain and a boy body. Together we have come up with a plan to support this student in living as her authentic self,” the letter said. “We are continually amazed by the compassion and acceptance our students show each other when they understand their differences. Please let us know if you have concerns about your child participating in this discussion; we respect the beliefs and convictions of all families.”
But the Florida-based Liberty Counsel intervened, saying it had been contacted by parents concerned by the letter. The group decided to sue to prevent all the Wisconsin school’s children from being assigned the book, despite the principal’s expressed desire to allow children to skip the reading and discussion if their parents wished. After the Liberty Counsel threatened a lawsuit, Mount Horeb canceled its plan to promote understanding of and compassion for transgender experiences.
The Liberty Counsel’s most recent moment in the spotlight came thanks to Kentucky county clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed for refusing to perform her duties certifying legal marriages between same-sex couples. The group famously claimed that 100,000 people had rallied in Peru to support Davis, before eventually being forced to acknowledge that the picture they claimed was a rally for Davis was in fact from a different event a year earlier.
But the group’s commitment to anti-LGBT public works stretches back much further, and has often been more harmful to that community’s interests than mere propaganda on behalf of someone like Davis. In 2012, the group applauded a decision by the Boy Scouts of America to keep gay scouts and scout leaders out of the group. The decision “will continue to protect young boys from homosexual pressures and predators,” the Liberty Counsel wrote at the time. Later that year the group compared homosexuality to “smoking or drug addiction.”
The group tells depressed young LGBT people that their sorrow comes from their sin rather than from social pressure and homophobia. It claims that laws protecting LGBT rights allow queer people to “entrap” and “groom” young straight people. It has also weighed in in favor of now-defunct state marriage laws, on the grounds that LGBT relationships present a public health risk.
For its body of work, the Liberty Counsel has been recognized as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.