Tuesday, April 17, 2012

GLSEN's Day of Silence Meets with Religious Right Derision

Friday, April 20th is the annual Day of Silence, sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Pro-LGBT students around the country vow to be silent that day, drawing attention to the silencing effects of homophobic and transphobic harassment in schools. This year's Day of Silence has been officially endorsed by over a dozen organizations, including the National Runaway Switchboard, the Gay-Straight Alliance Network, and the American Civil Liberties Union LGBT & AIDS Project.

Anti-LGBT voices from the Religious Right are opposing the Day of Silence once again, as they have in previous years. For example, Focus on the Family has spearheaded the so-called Day of Dialogue, scheduled for Thursday, April 19th.  

The Day of Dialogue website claims that the day encourages "open dialogue" about God's love, relationships, sexuality, and gender. The website's front page asks readers if they've ever wished that their classmates could hear more about "what the Bible really says about His redemptive design for marriage and sexuality." It frames disapproval of homosexuality as a Christian response, neglecting to mention that many Christians are LGBT themselves or accepting of the LGBT community.

As you'll recall, Candi Cushman of Focus on the Family's True Tolerance project discussed the Day of Dialogue on The Janet Mefferd Show recently (see here). During the interview, Cushman described the Day of Dialogue as an antidote to pro-LGBT "propaganda" and "indoctrination."

The Day of Dialogue FAQs section does not smile upon GLSEN's Day of Silence. The FAQs claim that conversations about homosexuality in school can seem "stifled" and "one-sided," allegedly allowing little room for "discussion." It described GLSEN as "one of the nation's largest homosexual advocacy groups," which is encouraging students to "pressure" school officials to implement LGBT-friendly events and policies.  

The Day of Dialogue is rooted in conservative beliefs about sex and gender. The website's guiding principles section states that "God designed marriage as the one place for that sexual desire to be expressed. In fact, in the physical union of a husband and wife, there is also a spiritual union that occurs." The website's guiding principles also promote a view of men and women as "complimentary" and intrinsically different, stressing that "Our masculinity and femininity reflects things about God's character ... So being male or female isn't just about biology or cultural stereotypes."  

Despite claims that the Day of Dialogue is about open communication, its homophobic roots remain obvious. In a recent commentary at Talk to Action, Rob Boston expressed doubts about the purported intentions of the Day of Dialogue.
"I question the value of the "dialogue" when it's simply fundamentalist students lecturing LGBT young people that they will burn in hell or that they can "pray the gay away." If such activity rises to the level of bullying and harassment it's definitely not acceptable. Groups like Focus [on the Family] and the ADF insist that they oppose bullying of LGBT students. In light of some recent bills we've seen in states that purport to address bullying and harassment in public schools but give an exemption if it's based on "sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction" I'm not so sure about that."
The Day of Dialogue has not been the only Religious Right response to the Day of Silence. Other Religious Right voices have expressed hostility toward the Day of Silence and its pro-LGBT supporters.

- In an April 16th press release, Liberty Counsel claimed that schools are dealing with "harsh pressure from the radical LGBT movement" to support the Day of Silence. It encourages parents to call their children's schools and explain why their children will not be participating in the event. Liberty Counsel claims that students remaining silent when teachers call upon them harm other students' learning experience, and that such alleged disruption is not protected under the First Amendment. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch

- In a March 30th commentary at World Net Daily entitled "10 Reasons to Walk Out on Day of Silence," Linda Harvey of Mission America ridiculed the Day of Silence as a means to "exploit the tender sympathies of kids to promote homosexuality and gender confusion." She claimed that the day painted "Judeo-Christian morality" as an enemy, and encourages bigotry toward Christians. In Harvey's eyes, the event supports "immoral, God-dishonoring behavior" in its attempt to "legitimize the pro-homosexual agenda." Harvey associated pro-LGBT advocacy with encouraging youth to "experiment freely with homosexual behavior."  Sound familiar? 

- Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays (PFOX) is using the Day of Silence to claim that so-called "ex-gays" are a "protected class of people" who should be recognized and respected. "Former homosexuals," the website claims, are forced to live their lives in silence, while students with "unwanted" attractions to the same sex are denied support or information on change. PFOX encourages supporters to distribute ex-gay fliers at schools and LGBT events on April 20th.  

- The April 17th edition of the Truth That Transforms radio began with the dubious claim that "promiscuous" male homosexuality strips 20 to 30 years off one's life. The show referred to homosexuality as a "deadly lifestyle" and lamented that the "radical homosexual agenda" had entered schools. At the 5:58 mark, Jerry Newcombe claimed that GLSEN was taking a legitimate problem -- bullying -- and using it as an opportunity to "indoctrinate children" through the Day of Silence. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)
"They're basically taking a legitimate concern, which is that of bullying, and they're using that serious problem that does happen as an opportunity by which they will then promote and essentially indoctrinate children and expose children to the acceptability of the homosexual lifestyle. Now bullying is wrong, but so also is indoctrination into a deadly lifestyle, and frankly, homosexuality is a deadly lifestyle, and that fact is withheld from the children."
At the 8:29 mark, Newcombe added that the Day of Silence fell on Hitler's birthday.
"Now they chose April 20 of all days to be the Day of Silence. I looked that up. I was like, ‘isn’t that Adolf Hitler’s birthday?’ I looked it up. Sure enough, it's Adolf Hitler’s birthday. I don't know--I don’t think there’s a link there, but how ironic. But they're using this day as a means by which to promote their lifestyle as if it's a positive thing."
Despite the Religious Right's hateful words masquerading as "dialogue" and concern for children, I write this post with a sense of hope. More and more people are displaying acceptance, or at least tolerance toward their LGBT neighbors. More and more Christians now recognize that accepting LGBT people is compatible with their faith. LGBT issues now have a place in the public discussion. Events such as the Day of Silence now receive nationwide recognition. While I understand that homophobia and transphobia are all too real, I see the progress that society has made, and it gladdens my heart. While the Religious Right's rhetoric is disturbing, they haven't had the last word.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters: Day of Silence vs. 'Day of Dialogue'

Truth Wins Out: PFOX Will Whine Toward Children On “Day Of Silence”

LGBTQ Nation: Linda Harvey: ‘Day of Silence’ is the ‘eradication of moral beliefs’


  1. Let's start a dialogue wherein my side has all of the correct answers and views! (Ha).

    Your conclusion is so right. Nice LGBT friends and neighbors speak louder than Focus on the Family types just by living their lives.

    1. Michelle -- Yeah, there's not much room for real dialogue if you believe that the other side is sinful and unnatural.

      I hope the positive trend continues, until the day arrives when Religious Right homophobes have been replaced by saner voices.

  2. I know. I hate how these "family" types flip the argument to cast everyone they don't agree with as "one sided" or intolerant. In the Mormon community the talking point is a "tyranny of tolerance."

    1. Donna -- Yeah, like the "you-are-a-sinful-abomination" stance isn't one-sided! I'm so sick of right-wingers claiming that we're intolerant because we refuse to tolerate THEIR intolerance.

    2. ask //"what the Bible really says about His redemptive design for marriage and sexuality."//

      When the Bible starts running Sunday NFL game day scores.... I may start reading it. Nice post.

    3. Okjimm -- Thanks. Even those who read the Bible might not agree with how FOTF interprets God's "redemptive design."

  3. I think their god has a funny way of showing his/her love for humanity.

    1. Jono -- Agreed. I don't see how judging and lecturing LGBT people is very loving.

  4. Dialogue suggests both parties are willing participants. What they want is for the Christian bigots to lecture people about how evil, sinful, disgusting and vile gay people are. Then when anybody disagrees the Christians can whine that they're being "persecuted" for their beliefs.

    1. Buffy -- Bingo. This was never about dialogue, because the anti-gay Christians are rarely interested in listening to the other side. Proselytizing is not "dialogue."

  5. I love the way you ended this post. You completely diffused the hateful rhetoric with the reality that society has made so much progress. As the RR language becomes more hateful, it seems like a desperate last gasp. Let's hope.

    Wonderful post.

    1. Cognitive Dissenter -- Thanks. Here's hoping for the day when homophobia is history.


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