If a school were to, say, participate in a national event that sought to shed light on anti-Semitism, should that school welcome a neo-Nazi to make a counter speech? Should schools allow KKK members to speak during black history month?
Yes, if you follow the logic of the Alliance Defense Fund, a national anti-gay organization. ADF is threatening schools with lawsuits if they don’t allow speakers with opposing viewpoints to counter the National Day of Silence, a day students bring attention to anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and discrimination in schools by staying silent for a day. According to the event’s Web site, “In it’s 11th year, the Day of Silence is one of the largest student-led actions in the country.” This year the National Day of Silence is April 18.
“According to the law, a school cannot allow students to promote one viewpoint and then prohibit promotion of another viewpoint,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “School officials also cannot ban speech just because they think it’s unpopular or controversial.”
Bowman’s comments are the result of a little spat at Danbury High School in Connecticut over whether an anti-gay speaker should be allowed to promote the so-called Day of Truth, an anti-gay event intended to counter the Day of Silence with the message that gays can be cured. The principal originally told the student Bible-study group that they couldn’t invite “former homosexual” and North Carolina pastor Valerie Pinnex to speak at their club meeting, nor could they put up posters announcing the event.
So ADF threatened the school with a lawsuit and the school decided that the Day of Truth events could continue.
“Christian students should be allowed to express their viewpoint just like any other student,” said ADF Legal Counsel Matt Bowman. “The Day of Truth is an opportunity for Christian students to respectfully present a different viewpoint than students participating in the Day of Silence.”
I’m all for freedom of speech and people who believe that homosexuality is wrong have a right to believe it. But the thrust of the Day of Truth – that homosexuality can be changed and if you’d only open your heart to Jesus these pesky desires for the same sex would magically go away – is bullshit. Complete and utter. It’s just like teaching intelligent design to counter evolution, only Darwin isn’t actually attending the school, scared he’s going to get his ass kicked because he’s “against the Bible” according to some of his classmates.
For gay kids, this is a very real fear. And I’m sure ADF didn’t mean to validate the Day of Silence by their actions, but threatening lawsuits over an event meant to address the needs of LGBT youth really speaks for how much these events are needed. This isn’t the first time – and it won’t be the last – that groups like ADF have bullied schools into buying into the idea that you can’t reach a hand out to LGBT youth unless your other hand is balled in a fist.
For more on the National Day of Silence visit www.dayofsilence.org.