EMU shows us why we need LGBT history taught in schools

Last week, the Detroit Free Press reported that state Republicans are trying to strike back at Eastern Michigan University ("Dismissal of EMU counselor who refused gay student draws GOP fire," April 15). The school dismissed a graduate student in the counseling program who wouldn't counsel gays because of her religious beliefs.

EMU says that the student was dismissed because she refused to follow the American Counseling Association's code of ethics. The student, Julea Ward, says that her First Amendment rights have been violated, and she's filed suit against the school. A federal court ruled in EMU's favor last summer. Ward has appealed.

And now state House Republicans are trying to punish EMU, without openly saying so. They've pushed an appropriations bill that would, in part, "require universities with accredited counseling programs to report back to lawmakers about how they plan to protect students' 'deeply held religious' beliefs," the Free Press reported.

Yes, of course, Ms. Ward has the right to express her religious beliefs. And it's probably not the best idea to force her to counsel gays if she harbors such hate against them - she'd be unlikely to help them to the best of her ability. Ms. Ward has a well-developed vitriol towards gays, and she's spending her own money on lawyers to defend it. She probably isn't going to change her mind anytime soon.

The issue that truly needs addressing here? People using religion to defend their hatred. Yes, some lines in the Bible condemn homosexuality. Some lines also condemn wearing clothing of mixed fiber while promoting slavery, and we've gotten beyond those, haven't we?

We can't change what the Bible says and the (many, many) ways that people interpret it. But we can change the "otherness" of LGBTs by teaching kids about them, in the same way we educate about other minorities.

If you've read "Lies My Teacher Told Me" by James W. Loewen, you know that our educational system has used social studies and history to teach morality and self-esteem. Problem is, history is mostly a story of who has power, written by those with that power. And that exchange of power often occurs in the least moral of ways. So the watered-down version of history that kids are spoon-fed often leaves them with the idea that our current world was only shaped by European and American white guys who were heroes. This is not true.

The California Senate recently passed a bill that would mandate the teaching of LGBT history in schools. Now, we know there's very little chance of that happening in our state, at least for now. But teaching LGBT history (and current quest for civil rights) in schools would help students understand the history of the problem - and that history doesn't only belong to those with power. Students could see that LGBTs seeking equality are not much different from blacks and women who have done the same.

Hate is often born from fear. Fear is often born from what we don't understand. Let's prevent hatred, fear and misunderstanding by promoting a wider understanding of the world. This is what school is supposed to do in the first place, right?

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