Pro-gay anti-bullying programs often attack Christians, says Focus on the Family

Of late, Focus on the Family has been presenting its kinder, gentler side, via venues like Tim Tebow's Super Bowl ad. But this week, the organization dove back into the culture wars, declaring that anti-bullying programs presented by outfits like the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) are too pro-gay. And that's not the only problem Focus education rep Candi Cushman has with them. She also thinks they're anti-Christian.

Cushman believes the Denver Post piece about the subject -- "Focus on Family Says Anti-bullying Efforts in Schools Push Gay Agenda" -- left out "a lot of factual information -- and I feel the headline didn't reflect our position. It's not accurate to say we think all anti-bullying programs are pushing the gay agenda. There are some excellent programs out there, and we do think it's a good idea for schools to address this issue. But we do want to equip parents to respond to the fact that this issue is being politicized by advocacy groups -- and it's not necessary to politicize the issue."

Example? In GLSEN's back-to-school guide for educators, "they encouraged them to use books recommended by them -- and some of the books are reflective of reverse discrimination. For example, one of the books they promote as a way for educators to teach anti-bias lessons is called Two Moms, The Zark & Me, which is listed as being age-appropriate for elementary school kids. And basically it presents a nightmarish portrayal of a conservative couple basically accosting a child in a park.

"I just find it ironic that GLSEN is telling educators they need to give anti-bias lessons with materials that present evil-looking stereotypes of people who disagree with GLSEN's viewpoint."

Cushman also cites another GLSEN-recommended book, Full Spectrum. "It's on the list for kids as young as seventh grade, and in addition to some sexually graphic content, it just openly mocks and gives negative portrayal after negative portrayal of religions perceived to be conservative. It even depicts people having a great time burning the Mormon Bible."

Of course, Focus on the Family isn't exactly neutral when it comes to the gay lifestyle. The organization has long held that homosexuals can be cured -- a position regarded as poppycock by the likes of the American Psychological Association.

Moreover, as Cushman stresses, "We're not ashamed to say we are a Christian organization that bases our viewpoint on Biblical believes -- and we're open about saying we believe man-woman marriage is God's best design for humanity."

To her, though, these beliefs shouldn't be construed as permission for beating gay children, or the offspring of gay parents. In her words, "We don't oppose all anti-bullying programs -- and we see bullying as a serious problem with tragic consequences. I absolutely think that bullying any child, no matter how they identify sexually is wrong and should be strongly prohibited."

What's an example of a good anti-bullying program? After noting that she's offering a personal opinion rather than endorsing anything on behalf of Focus, Cushman mentions Rachel's Challenge, started in honor of Rachel Scott, who was killed in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. Although Scott was a Christian, as is her family, Cushman says it's her understanding the Rachel's Challenge lessons are presented in a manner suitable for all young people, not just students of faith.

In the meantime, Focus on the Familiy has launched, a new website designed to help parents respond to "homosexual advocacy" in their child's school in "a loving and fact-based way."

"We were getting feedback from parents and students across the country who were feeling that their parental rights, and their family's value system, was often being disrespected in public schools," she explains. "The whole reason we're addressing this is to come alongside those parents and help defend their rights and values.

"It seems so divisive," she says, adding, "Can't we just address bullying on the basis of all men being created equal and having inalienable rights?"

Regarding Cushman's contentions about anti-Christian bias in some anti-bullying programs, she provides a lengthy collection of Focus on the Family talking points on an issue that she describes as "the story that's not being told." Page down to read them:


• Amazon review of Two Moms, The Zark & Me:

• Quotes from The Full Spectrum, recommended by GLSEN as a book to assign kids as a way of teaching "anti-bias"

Burning the Book of Mormon: ".... Neal, and I doused it with a bottle of white gas and set it aflame. I turned the pages with a stick to ensure that the whole book was well combusted." -- p. 206

Essay giving a negative portrayal of conservative Jewish beliefs: "... I wonder how a religion that teaches us to love thy neighbor as thyself could breed so much hate." -- p. 101

"I know the rabbi would never marry a same-sex couple, and gays are only indirectly referenced in his sermon. I leave, disappointed in my religious community." -- p. 104

(GLSEN's press release promoting these books: "Use GLSEN's Booklink, an online resource, to help you find grade appropriate LGBT themed or inclusive books and videos. Assign these readings to your students or show a video in the classroom."



• During the recent federal summit on bullying prevention, Human Rights Campaign announced that it was asking the federal government to endorse and fund curriculum for elementary kids like it's Welcoming Schools" lesson plans.

• HRC promotes the curriculum as a way to "maintain a safe school environment," fight "name-calling" and promote "diversity"

• But if you look at the actual lesson plans, it's clear this is more about indoctrination

• For instance, the "Family Diversity Photo Puzzle," designed for kids in the first through third grades, gives children puzzle pieces depicting photographs of people.

• Children are told to arrange the photos into seven families. But lo and behold, after they begin the assignment, they find themselves forced to "create some families with adults of the same gender" and to "make decisions about whether to label the adults as two mothers," explains the lesson plan guide. It's difficult to find a more blatant example of indoctrination than that. I've talked to parents in Minnesota, New Jersey and Massachusetts that have opposed this curriculum because they felt their parental rights were being undermined. They wanted to be in control of when, if and how their children are introduced to controversial topics like this.


...Illustrating the disturbing trend of reverse discrimination and marginalization of certain viewpoints.

• GLSEN recommends classroom activities for one of its public school events in October called "Ally Week." It's called "What Do We Really Think?"

The teacher or facilitator leading the group is supposed to give surveys to the students, and then once they're filled out, collect them and redistribute them. The teacher reads out loud the statements on the survey like this one "Being LGBT is healthy and normal"

The students are told that if the survey in their hand agrees with that statement to stand up... then the teacher instructs everyone to "look around."

This is a blatant form of peer pressure -- designed to send the message to students with differing viewpoints that if they don't agree with that statement they are clearly in the minority and don't have a popular or acceptable opinion.

It's very Orwellian... for instance, at the end of this exercise, the teacher is supposed to ask the kids, Now that you have more accurate information about your peers might this affect your behavior?" The recommended answer listed on the lesson plan: "I will behave as an ally."

Most parents send their kids to school to learn academics and basic lessons about respecting others -- not lessons on how to become a political ally.

• Another lesson plan promoted widely as a "safe schools" lesson by advocacy groups is called "Four Corners: A Values Clarification Exercise"

In this exercise, the teacher is supposed to put posters around the room that say "agree," "disagree," and "unsure." Then the teacher reads a statement like: "Same sex couples should be able to get married...." Then all the students are supposed to go stand under the sign that applies to their beliefs on this subject.

Can you imagine the isolation you would feel if you are a middle or high school teenager and you are the only one standing under the DISAGREE sign?


Montgomery, County curriculum

• One of the first cases that caught our attention a few years ago involved parents in Montgomery County, Maryland who found out that a new curriculum was going to be introduced to middle and high schools in that district...which by the way is one of the largest and most well funded school districts in the nation.

• Again, ironically in an effort to promote tolerance as it regards homosexuality, the curriculum actually singled out Baptists and other groups perceived as conservative in a negative way. Even a federal judge found that outrageous and halted use of the curriculum

• When schools bring in these biased materials from advocacy groups, they put themselves in serious jeopardy of violating Constitutional principles and viewpoint discrimination prohibition -- schools should remain neutral toward religion, neither endorsing it, nor showing hostility toward it.

Day of Silence/Day of Truth

• We also see this double standard playing out during schoolwide celebrations, such as GLSEN's Day of Silence, which is celebrated in thousands of public schools every April. In many public schools, students are given the freedom to celebrate this event -- but often when a student of faith tries to express another point of view they are shut down or censored

• For instance, there was a case in North Carolina, involving (2006-2007) a freshman at Midway High school--his name was Benjamin Arthurs.

• Though the school let other students participate in GLSEN's Day of Silence, school officials actually suspended this ninth grader for distributing Day of Truth cards and forbade him from wearing his T-shirt. Keep in mind the Day of Silence event also has T-shirts & speaking cards for kids to distribute. So students participating in the two events should have been treated equally.

• But the good news is that Benjamin didn't back down and he won. The schools actions could not stand up court. His suspension was erased from his record and the student was permitted to wear Day of Truth T-shirt and distribute cards.

• But you continue to see these cases, in the last few years, students in North Carolina, Oregon and New Jersey have challenged school policies and, in each case, won the right to celebrate the Day of Truth, after the Day of Silence.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts