A moderate Baptist leader says a Southern Baptist Convention resolution on homosexual influences in public education will encourage gay bashing in schools.
“Homosexual activists and their allies are devoting substantial resources and using political power to promote the acceptance among schoolchildren of homosexuality as a morally legitimate lifestyle,” said the statement drafted by the SBC Resolutions Committee.
Describing public schools as “an effective gateway to children’s hearts and minds,” the resolution adopted Wednesday in Nashville, Tenn., urged parents and churches to “research and monitor the entertainment and educational influences on their children.”
“There are many districts that by stealth are teaching our children that homosexual behavior is an acceptable lifestyle, often under the deceptive guise of teaching safe schools, diversity, multiculturalism and similar sorts of things,” resolution supporter Bruce Shortt told SBC messengers.
Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, told the Raleigh News & Observer the resolution “expresses our concern that an aggressive homosexual agenda is being taught without the knowledge of parents.”
But Bruce Prescott of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists commented in a Thursday Weblog that “Southern Baptists have merely endorsed a position that will be perceived as leading to bigotry, prejudice and hate.”
Prescott said SBC leaders apparently ignored an open letter from Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays pleading with Southern Baptists not to hinder their effort to discourage harassment of homosexuals in public schools.
“Contrary to the language of this resolution, we do not target children to undermine a parent’s religious teaching or the values children learn at home,” the letter said. “Rather our goal is to prevent violent physical and verbal attacks on students who are gay or those perceived to be gay.”
PFLAG cited an example of Brent Wimmer, a student from Sand Springs, Okla., who was physically beaten by classmates, who also vandalized his car with rocks and eggs, for writing an article in his high school newspaper about the importance of respecting all people, including gay students, as God’s children.
“We believe that all parents can agree that what happened to Brent and to countless others like him is wrong and should be prevented,” the letter said. “Before the SBC passes a resolution denouncing all safe schools programs, please take the time to consider the impact on our children. To secure the safety and the freedom to learn for all of our students, we must combat all physical and verbal abuse in schools.”
The Resolutions Committee dropped language from a proposed resolution co-written by Shortt and evangelist Voddie Baucham saying many public schools are promoting acceptance of homosexuality through programs that use “deceptive labels” such as Safe Sex, Diversity Training, Multicultural Education, Anti-Bullying and Safe Schools.
Robert Knight of Concerned Women for America calls such programs “a Trojan horse for promoting homosexuality as normal and inevitable for some kids.”
But the adopted resolution still urged parents and churches to “investigate diligently the curricula, textbooks and programs” in their community’s schools and to “demand discontinuation of offensive material and programs.”
The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network says four out of five gay students report verbal, sexual or physical harassment at school and nearly 30 percent miss at least a day a month out of fear for their personal safety.
A 1989 study by the US Department of Health and Human Services found gay and lesbian youth are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual young people.
Eighty percent of gay students report severe isolation problems and 97 percent report hearing homophobic remarks by fellow students.
In a national study, 28 percent of gay and lesbian students reportedly dropped out of school because of harassment resulting from their sexual orientation.
Gay students are also at a higher risk to abuse alcohol or drugs and are more likely than other students to be depressed.
“We earnestly hope that you agree that no child deserves to be harassed or abused at school–whether or not the attack is motivated by a child’s religious beliefs, race or sexual orientation,” PFLAG said in the open letter to SBC president Bobby Welch.
Southeastern President Akin told the Raleigh newspaper that Southern Baptists would never want any student to be harassed. “We do not wish for any harm to come to anyone, including homosexuals,” he said.
But Mainstream Baptists’ Prescott said, “You don’t have to be a prophet to predict that incidents like the one in Sand Springs will soon become more widespread and frequent.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.