Golden Rule Pledge releases bullying prevention lesson plans for church youth groups

News Release

For immediate release – 10.20.10

Golden Rule Pledge releases bullying prevention lesson plans for church youth groups

Free downloads help church groups prevent bullying, speak against anti-gay harassment

On a day when many people are speaking out against bullying, the Golden Rule Pledge is releasing materials which can be used by churches to help prevent youth bullying.  Available for free download on the Golden Rule Pledge website, these lesson plans and class activities can help churches become part of the solution to youth bullying.

A national partner of the National Bullying Prevention Month, the Golden Rule Pledge was created in 2008 in order to advocate for the application of the Golden Rule in schools and especially to speak out against anti-gay bullying.

“People of faith need to minimize ideological worries and become part of the solution to bullying in schools,” said Warren Throckmorton, co-leader of the Golden Rule Pledge. “A middle school student who is bullied every day doesn’t care about religious differences. He needs help.” In September, three young teens ended their lives after prolonged anti-gay harassment. Churches can play a vital role in partnering with schools and other community groups to model the Golden Rule – treat others the way I want to be treated.

“I hope youth leaders can use these resources to raise awareness about the need to treat all people with respect – even if you have differences of opinion,” said Throckmorton.

Andrew Marin, Founder of the Marin Foundation and author of Love is an Orientation has endorsed this effort saying, “With such drastic consequences that have been proven time and again, it saddens my heart to see so many in the Christian world avoid a bold front-running stand to cut off all bullying in our schools, churches and communities. This curriculum is an easy and productive way to not only start the conversation, but show Jesus’ biblical mandate for His followers to stand up and live differently. The time is now. The time has to be now. Download this curriculum. Implement it. And continue to be serious about sprinting towards what so many sprint away from. Bullying is never an option.” 

Bob Finch, Director of Missions of the Pike (KY) Association of Southern Baptists agrees saying, “Recent headlines with regards to students taking or attempting to take their lives should be a wake-up call to all Christians to train our youth to not only stand against all forms of bullying, but to equip them to be used of God in putting an end to it in the schools where they attend.  I believe this program can be used to equip and empower them to do just that in a way that will also show their classmates the love of Christ as well.”

The Golden Rule Pledge (www.goldenrulepledge.com) is co-led by Warren Throckmorton, Associate Professor of Psychology at Grove City College and Michael Frey, Western PA Director of Campus Ministry for Campus Crusade for Christ. The resources can be accessed at no cost at www.goldenrulepledge.com/grpresources. For more information, contact Dr. Throckmorton at warrenthrockmorton@gmail.com.

It gets better: A Christian speaks out against anti-gay bullying

On 10.20.10, the Golden Rule Pledge is partnering with the National Bullying Prevention Month to raise awareness among people of faith about bullying prevention.  Later today, I am going to post a link here and on the Golden Rule Pledge website to some resources which I hope will be of use to youth leaders in talking to youth groups about becoming part of the solution to school bullying. One resource I am going to include on that page is the following video from the You Tube page of The Poultry Press. Roll the tape:

This video is a direct challenge to far right observers who believe the distress felt by many young people is due to their sexual orientation. This young man identifies as straight and yet reports repeated harassment due to perceptions that he was gay.

Now, go check out the resources (small in number but growing) on the Golden Rule Pledge site.

Carl Walker-Hoover’s mom speaks her mind

I can’t add much to this statement from Sirdeaner Walker.

At some point, it might occur to the religious conservatives who are blaming the victims for their distress that they are talking largely to themselves.

Perkins says:

Some homosexuals may recognize intuitively that their same-sex attractions are abnormal–yet they have been told by the homosexual movement, and their allies in the media and the educational establishment, that they are “born gay” and can never change. This–and not society’s disapproval–may create a sense of despair that can lead to suicide.

Many problems, the first of which that occurs to me is that the common denominator is anti-gay bias, not gay identification. He has a theory that fits his biases about homosexuals but it doesn’t fit all the facts of the situation.

Perkins column is a case in point of something Albert Mohler wrote in a recent commentary about Tyler Clementi:

Yet, when gay activists accuse conservative Christians of homophobia, they are also right. Much of our response to homosexuality is rooted in ignorance and fear. We speak of homosexuals as a particular class of especially depraved sinners and we lie about how homosexuals experience their own struggle. Far too many evangelical pastors talk about sexual orientation with a crude dismissal or with glib assurances that gay persons simply choose to be gay. While most evangelicals know that the Bible condemns homosexuality, far too many find comfort in their own moralism, consigning homosexuals to a theological or moral category all their own.

Mohler barely scratches the surface of the biases involved, but he gets closer than most prominent evangelicals are willing to get.

Golden Rule Pledge joins National Bullying Prevention Month as national partner

October is National Bullying Prevention Month and various organizations support this initiative via awareness and shared vision for bullying prevention.

Recently, the Golden Rule Pledge was listed as a national partner on the organization’s website.

To do our part, I am asking church youth leaders to designate some time the week of October 20, 2010 (10.20.2010) to call on students to see bullying prevention as part of our witness. If anyone keeps the Golden Rule, it should be people of faith.

We have created a Facebook event page to mark 10.20.10 which has been designated by the PACER Center as a focus of awareness efforts. Click the link below to read more and sign up:

The End of Bullying Begins with Me

The homepage for the National Center for Bullying Prevention is here.

Anti-gay bullying and stereotype threat

We seem to be in the middle of a social conversation about the meaning of the recent teen suicides involving anti-gay bias. Numerous articles are exploring many angles of the stories and there are competing attributions about the nature of the despair experienced by teens who are gay or perceived to be gay. One particularly troubling narrative is being advanced by far right social conservatives essentially suggesting that the teens we are mourning of late died due to factors of their own doing. The thinking goes like this: the gay lifestyle is inherently harmful and distressing and suicide is a possible consequence of that life.

Let me offer three exhibits. First, Linda Harvey told WorldNetDaily readers:

One wonders if any of these kids ever heard a clearly articulated warning against homosexuality. Or were they faced with a continuous onslaught of pro-homosexual diversity lessons, novels and events like the “Day of Silence”? Were they surrounded with liberal teachers as role models and the bad example of a homosexual school club? What part did any of this play in the sad belief that homosexuality was an inevitable destiny, instead of a wayward yet changeable sexual inclination? Under almost continuous pressure to accept a lie – confusion and then despair may be the predictable result.

On top of all this, then, in some young lives come the bullies. They are a part of life, especially for boys. But for the young person with same-sex attractions, this is the final straw where they feel totally trapped, with internal feelings they have been carefully taught “cannot be changed” on the one hand, and harsh peer rejection on the other. Yes, it looks hopeless indeed.

But there’s a solution. First and foremost, kids should be told the truth that no one is born gay. Despite any budding feelings he or she may have, many people who felt similarly at that age went on to change both their feelings and behavior, and to be well-adjusted adult heterosexuals, some married with children. The gay lobbyists actively prevent kids from knowing this option.

Could the stifling political correctness in certain schools be one of the reasons some kids feel utterly hopeless? Think about it. Even in the face of relentless taunts about homosexuality, many if not most kids would be able to survive intact if they saw the perpetrators punished and also knew they had a choice.

Ms. Harvey wonders if warnings against homosexuality would have helped (and links to NARTH’s misrepresentation of Francis Collins’ views). Rather, Harvey perceives schools featuring “stifling political correctness” and a “continuous onslaught of pro-homosexual diversity lessons.” However, friends and families describe regular “warnings against homosexuality” in the form of anti-gay harassment. I suspect these children might have been ok with some political correctness.

On to Exhibit B: Matt Barber, Board member of American for Truth About Homosexuality and administrator at Liberty University. Mr. Barber released a statement about the suicides picked up by the Canada Free Press. Mr. Barber advises:

“God’s message to young people struggling with same sex temptation or to those who feel the shame that naturally accompanies sexual sin is that suicide is never the way out. But there is a way out. It comes first through belief in Jesus Christ, and then through confession of sin; finally, repentance. As Jesus said to the repentant sexual sinner at the well, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’

Mr. Barber assumes the suicides were escapes for struggling sexual sinners, rather than depressed children struggling mightily with a disparaging social context.

Finally, Tom Prichard of the Minnesota Family Council, makes the most direct link between sexual identity and psychological distress.

I would agree that youth who embrace homosexuality are at greater risk, because they’ve embraced an unhealthy sexual identity and lifestyle. These alternative sexual identifications or lifestyles deny the reality that we are created male and female. To live or try to live in conflict with how we are made will invariably cause problems, e.g. emotional, psychological and social.

These three people are making attributions about the cause of the suicides based not in facts of the cases, but based on their assumptions about homosexual persons. These commentators assert that they have really pegged the problem: these teens were gay and gays are inherently unstable. Therefore one should not be surprised. An additional problem is with the adults who did not warn them or send them to the NARTH website.

It is hard to know what facts would dissuade Harvey, Barber and Pritchard from their views. All three speak of the recent victims as if they were all gay or questioning sexuality. Some were; some were not. The common denominator in these situations was anti-gay bias, not gay identification. In some of these cases, there is no evidence or disclosures of confusion about sexuality at all. The picture of horribly miserable teens who “embraced an unhealthy sexual identity and lifestyle” just doesn’t show up when you read about the students involved. They were miserable alright, but not for the reasons given by these commentators.

This public display of confirmation bias reminded me of another social psychological concept, stereotype threat, i.e., the disruptive concern that one will be evaluated based on a negative stereotype. I believe a plausible case can be made that at least several of victims of suicide experienced regular stereotype threat which indeed was disruptive. Stereotype threat can operate even when one is not actually in the stereotyped social group, as with the young people who were perceived to be gay and suffered regular anti-gay harassment. The threat of negative stereotyping is what is required.

One does not need to look far for the source of negative stereotypes. I provided three links. The threat of being stereotyped as gay looms large to young teens. Bystanders to bullying are often so afraid to intervene because they might be assumed to be gay or a gay sympathizer. In addition to perceptions of being different, could the intensity of the stereotype threat have anything to do with the dire picture painted by churches and professional Christian leaders who may themselves not know any teens who are harassed? Rather than blame the victim, or dismiss this notion out of hand, I believe Christians should reflect on how gays are referred to in our literature and speech. We can make a difference in the climate by virtue of civil speech and self-reflection. If I don’t like being stereotyped as a Christian, then I shouldn’t do it to someone else.

I am thinking out loud with this post and welcome comments and suggestions. Some Christians are stepping up and out toward solutions but other seem to be defensive. I seek as clear an understanding of the situation as possible.

Exodus International drops Day of Truth

Exodus International announced today that the organization will no longer sponsor the Day of Truth (website has been disabled). In an article on CNN’s Belief’s Blog posted by Dan Gilgoff, Exodus leader, Alan Chambers tells the tale:

“All the recent attention to bullying helped us realize that we need to equip kids to live out biblical tolerance and grace while treating their neighbors as they’d like to be treated, whether they agree with them or not,” said Alan Chambers, President of Exodus International, the group that sponsored the event this year.

Probably surprised by the move, GLSEN’s Eliza Byard welcomed the news.

“I thank Exodus for making this very important step,” said GLSEN Executive Director Eliza Byard on Wednesday after hearing of Exodus’ decision. “The Day of Truth was an effort to push a very specific set of opinions about homosexuality into schools in a way that was inappropriate and divisive.”

On the Day of Truth, middle and high school students are encouraged to wear Day of Truth T-shirts and to distribute cards that say “It’s time for an honest conversation about the biblical truth for sexuality,” according to Exodus’ manual for this year’s event.

“I don’t think it’s necessary anymore,” Chambers said of the event on Wednesday. “We want to help the church to be respectful of all its neighbors, to help those who want help and to be compassionate toward people who may hold a different worldview from us.”

As I noted in the article, I think this is a very significant move. Over the past three years, I have been documenting a split in the evangelical world over how to relate to the gay community. With this decision, Exodus has moved even farther away from the side of fear and stigma. I welcome it as quite consistent with the article I wrote yesterday for CNN.

CNN: A Christian’s response to anti-gay bullying

Dan Gilgoff’s CNN Belief Blog published my article on anti-gay bias involved in recent bullying related suicides. I am allowed to print a little bit and then link to the rest. I hope you’ll read, recommend, and discuss it at both places…

This week marks the beginning of the 5th annual National Bullying Prevention Month. Tragically, this comes just at the time when the nation is mourning the recent suicides of three young teens, Billy Lucas, Asher Brown and Seth Walsh. Although each situation was a little different, a common denominator was that a central feature of the harassment the boys experienced was anti-gay name-calling.

 

Sadly, these boys join a string of other suicide victims who’d been subjected to anti-gay bias.

These tragedies have heightened the attention of the public on an already contentious debate about how to prevent anti-gay harassment. While everyone agrees that such bullying is harmful and must be addressed, not all agree about the means to that end.

…..

My view is that evangelicals need to put ideological worries aside and become part of the solution.

I go on to describe how churches and schools in Grove City are working together to combat bullying and recommend that adults put the culture war aside for the good of children.

By the way, I am not ignoring Tyler Clementi. I wanted to focus in this article on young teens in public schools.

Previous related articles:

Statement about recent bullying related suicides: Education Sec. Arne Duncan

The link for the statement is here…

U.S. Department of Education

Office of Communications & Outreach, Press Office

400 Maryland Ave., S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20202

FOR RELEASE

Oct. 1, 2010

Contact: Press Office

(202) 401-1576 or press@ed.gov

STATEMENT BY U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION ARNE DUNCAN

On the Recent Deaths of Two Young Men

       U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today released the following statement:

       “This week, we sadly lost two young men who took their own lives for one unacceptable reason: they were being bullied and harassed because they were openly gay or believed to be gay. These unnecessary tragedies come on the heels of at least three other young people taking their own lives because the trauma of being bullied and harassed for their actual or perceived sexual orientation was too much to bear.

       “This is a moment where every one of us – parents, teachers,

students, elected officials, and all people of conscience – needs to stand up and speak out against intolerance in all its forms. Whether it’s students harassing other students because of ethnicity, disability or religion; or an adult, public official harassing the President of the University of Michigan student body because he is gay, it is time we as a country said enough. No more. This must stop.”

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October is National Bullying Prevention Month

A group called Parents Advocacy Committee for Educational Rights (PACER) has hosted a National Bullying Prevention week for the past four years. This year they are observing this week as usual but have also expanded the event through the month of October. 

At the link above, many activities and ideas are provided for classroom teachers and youth leaders. I signed the pledge and encourage you to do so and pass the link along.

CNN is focusing on bullying this week, starting with a segment on bullying featuring and appearance with Kevin Jennings  and Kirk Smalley this morning. The page for all of their coverage is here.

The New York Times had an article yesterday on the topic of GLB suicides related to bullying.

I plan to post frequently this week on the topic and hope we can continue to work through issues which divide to get a societal consensus on how to address the problems.

California teen bullycide victim dies

Yesterday, KGET reported the death of Seth Walsh, a 13 year old boy, out as gay, who was bullied constantly. In this report, confirmation of the situation comes from his tormentors.

Tehachapi police investigators interviewed some of the young people who taunted Seth the day he hanged himself and determined despite the tragic outcome of their ridicule, their actions do not constitute a crime.

“Several of the kids that we talked to broke down into tears,” Jeff Kermode, Tehachapi Police Chief, said. “They had never expected an outcome such as this.”

He said the students told investigators they wish they had put a stop to the bullying and not participated in it.

Friends said Seth was picked on for years because he was gay. 

School administrators said they have an anti-bullying program in place, but schoolmates said staff at Jacobsen Middle School in Tehachapi offered Seth no protection or guidance.

Broken record, broken system, broken kids. Once again, I call on those who cast suspicion on anti-bullying programs to just stop the culture war long enough to address the real needs of real children.

Be sure to watch the follow up video…it follows immediately after the news report on Seth Walsh.

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