Is there more to the Dakota Ary story than has been reported?

In a comment posted here yesterday and at Towleroad, some potential new wrinkles in the Dakota Ary case were asserted. Ary is the high school Freshman, represented by Liberty Counsel, who was briefly suspended over comments made in a Fort Worth High School German class. The initial report was that Ary said he was a Christian and believed homosexuality to be wrong. However, a GLBT group is now claiming to have spoken to the teacher involved, Kristopher Franks, who paints a picture of harassment on the part of Ary and other classmates against the teacher due to their perception that the teacher is gay.
I will state the obvious: I have no idea what the real story is. I post this because the report from the teacher, if accurate, would correct the post I made last week.
Often, people look at a story like this and allow their biases influence them. If you are someone who believes religion is a victim of gay advocacy, you might side with Liberty Counsel. If you believe religion is used to harass GLBT people, then you might be inclined to believe this new report from the GLBT student group.
All I can say is that the reports we have are insufficient to be dogmatic. I have investigated many claims from advocates on both sides of the culture war and been disappointed that truth was not being told. Speaking about my community (evangelical), I can say that I have found some evangelical culture war groups engage in spin. I used to trust such groups to be honest and consider the impact of spin on public perception. As a matter of course now, I don’t accept things at face value.
For instance, recently the law firm representing Dakota Ary, Liberty Counsel, asserted that the American Association of Christian Counselors was a larger group of professionals than the American Psychological Association. This is flat out untrue. On the same day, Mat Staver told his radio audience that the AACC has produced ““the most definitive, most recent research that’s come out that says change is possible.” This is spin.
First, to my knowledge, the AACC has not paid for any research on sexual orientation change. Perhaps, they have and I am not aware of it — if so, I will correct this statement. AACC members Mark Yarhouse and Stan Jones released the first wave of their study at an AACC conference but the AACC did not produce it; Exodus International funded the research. Furthermore, the research showed that some changes took place for a minority of participants but calling the research definitive is a stretch.
Recently, the AACC journal Edification published a report from Mark Yarhouse and his students from Regent University showing that men and women in mixed orientation marriages described no change in sexual orientation. To my knowledge, the Christian culture war complex has not addressed this finding. In a journal, the AACC published research that stands in contradiction to the Liberty Counsel statement.
Some Christians take my skepticism as a character flaw or a sign that I have capitulated to the enemy (see what the culture war does to perception of out-groups?). They say that the opposition spins and manipulates data, so why shouldn’t we? I think the answer is obvious, so obvious that I will let that question sink in and not answer it.
I don’t know who is offering the most factual narrative in the Fort Worth controversy. I just know that right now, for me, the question is open.

Golden Rule Pledge Partners with Pacer Center's National Bullying Prevention Month

The Golden Rule Pledge has again partnered with the Pacer Center and National Bullying Prevention Month for October’s effort to reduce school bullying. The GRP works to mobilize churches and youth groups to take a stand against bullying in school.
I started the GRP in 2008 in response to a call from some Christian groups  urging parents to keep their kids home on the Day of Silence. I also wanted to respond to the Day of Truth (now called Day of Dialogue) which in my view is not a constructive way to address the very real problem of bullying and anti-gay harassment in schools.
Students in high schools and colleges around the country have carried GRP pledge cards to school. Some have made clear statements to GLBT peers that they stand with them against bullying and harassment. Some churches (I have no way of knowing the number since the materials are free on the website) have used the bullying prevention materials designed for church youth groups. The Los Angeles School District has the GRP on the calendar for April of 2012.
I am always on the alert for volunteers nationally who desire to focus on ending bullying. If interested, email me.

NARTH to Feature Anti-gay Activists at Annual Convention

The National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) bills itself as “a scientific, secular organization.” However, this year the organization’s annual conference in Phoenix, AZ will begin with a decidedly religious and political tone. On the first day (Nov. 4) of the conference, Rev. Michael Brown and Sharon Slater will speak. Brown, who recently wrote a book called A Queer Thing Happened to America, will speak in a plenary session, while Sharon Slater, leader of Family Watch International will talk about her anti-gay work internationally and at the United Nations (Slater’s name does not appear on the current conference schedule, however, NARTH’s David Pruden confirmed today that she is giving the speech labeled “The United Nations and an International Overview.”)
Regarding homosexuality, Dr. Brown told religious talk show host Sid Roth in April of this year that some people can be delivered from homosexuality by ridding them of demons. To Roth, Brown said:

Sid:  I have met people that have been prayed for deliverance that were homosexual and when the demon was cast out of them even their walk was different.
Mike:  Listen, why is it that people can accept demonic influences in other behaviors? Someone’s a heterosexual pornography addict and they get delivered from demons and their free.  Someone’s addicted to drugs, they get delivered from demons, someone’s got a horrific fierce temper, they get deliver from demons and their free.  Why can’t we recognize that this can happen with homosexuality too?  It’s not every person.  I was in Israel Sid, talking to a top national leader and he talked to me about some men in his congregation and he said that he watched them in front of his eyes and get truly delivered, he said and they are free.  They are different, they are fully heterosexual.

More recently, Brown accused unnamed gay activists of complicity in the murder of Larry King, the young gay teen who was murdered in school by classmate Brandon McInerney. Brown wrote on the OneNewsNow website:

Of course, there is only one real killer, Brandon McInerney, just 14 years old at the time of shooting. He confessed to killing Larry in cold blood in full view of his classmates. But there are others who are complicit in Larry’s terribly tragic death, and rather than point the finger at a “homophobic” society, they should point it at themselves. I’m speaking of course of gay activists, who have made Larry into a martyr for the cause of gay activism when, in reality, he was more a victim of gay activism.

Brown argues that gay students should keep their feelings hidden because such feelings, when expressed, provoke harassment from other students. In the article on Larry King, Brown asked:

If our schools really are so “homophobic” and dangerous, why not encourage these kids to keep their sexual orientation to themselves until they’re in a safer environment?

Sharon Slater is the director of Family Watch International, a Phoenix based group which opposes the repeal of laws criminalizing homosexuality. Last month in an interview, Slater told me that she favored laws in the United States which make homosexual behavior a crime. She and her organization Family Watch International work with United Nations member nations to maintain laws which criminalize gays. About those laws, Slater said

“We do not support any laws that promote violence against homosexuals.” She added that her organization presents research showing that gays can change orientation. Such research is relevant to her stance because, “laws that promote violence would discourage therapy for people with unwanted same-sex attraction.”
I asked Mrs. Slater if she considers a 14-year jail sentence a form of violence. She said that her organization has no position on that question saying, “FWI does not dictate to nations what specific laws people should enact or protect regarding homosexual sex or whether they should fine or jail individuals.”

In December, 2009, I asked NARTH’s leadership about the organization’s position on Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. At that time, some proponents of the bill were suggesting that forced therapy for gays should be included in the bill. NARTH’s David Pruden rejected the forced therapy as ineffective. However, NARTH’s Dean Byrd declined to take a position on criminalization saying,

We are aware of the situation in Uganda but thank you for bringing this to our attention. I am sure that you are aware that as a scientific organization, NARTH does not take political positions; however, we are happy to provide a summary of what science can and cannot say about homosexuality for those who do.

NARTH takes no position on criminalization and yet brings in a non-scientist who supports criminalization around the world in an “applied workshop.” NARTH claims to be a secular organization but brings in a minister who believes some homosexuals can be changed by removal of demons. I cannot imagine another scientific group giving a platform for similar views.
 

Suicide victim endured anti-gay bullying

This time in Buffalo, NY.

Parents carry on anti-bullying message: wivb.com

Jamey Rodemeyer’s parents believe years of bullying drove their son to suicide. The Williamsville North freshman took his life Sunday, he was only 14 years old.
Jamey Rodemeyer posted a message online hoping that others would be inspired by his struggle with bullying. A part of the message reads, “That’s all you have to do. Just love yourself and you’re set. And I promise you, it’ll get better.” 
Soon after coming home from a family camping trip, Jamey was found dead Sunday. His parents say he was always under pressure because of struggles with his sexuality.
Jamey’s mother Tracy Rodemeyer said, “So he hung around with the girls a lot, so then the teasing started happening like ‘Oh you’re such a girl or you’re gay or whatever and that bothered him for many years.”

For religious conservatives reading this: Isn’t it past time to become part of the solution? Criticizing anti-bullying programs on ideological grounds doesn’t help kids or your ideology.
More on the situation:

Death catches attention across nation: wivb.com

Anoka-Hennepin School District's Sexual Orientation Curriculum Policy

Currently, the Anoka-Hennepin School District (AHSD) in MN is under fire in relationship to eight suicides in the district over the last two years. Critics say they have not done enough to prevent the anti-gay bullying and harassment that often precedes despair and depression for kids who are same-sex attracted and those who are perceived to be.
The AHSD added a page on GLBT issues to their website recently. The district neutrality policy is at the center of the controversy with some parents wanting to allow teachers to discuss sexual orientation and others wanting to keep the policy as is. For our consideration, here is the policy in full:

604.11
SEXUAL ORIENTATION CURRICULUM POLICY
It is the primary mission of the Anoka-Hennepin School District to effectively educate each of our students for success.  District policies shall comply with state and federal law as well as reflect community standards.  As set forth in the Equal Education Opportunity Policy, it is the School District’s policy to provide equal educational opportunity and to prohibit harassment of all students.  The Board is committed to providing a safe and respectful learning environment and to provide an education that respects the beliefs of all students and families.    
The School District employs a diverse and talented staff committed to serving students and families from diverse backgrounds.  The School District acknowledges that one aspect of that diversity regards sexual orientation.  Teaching about sexual orientation is not a part of the District adopted curriculum; rather, such matters are best addressed within individual family homes, churches, or community organizations.   Anoka-Hennepin staff, in the course of their professional duties, shall remain neutral on matters regarding sexual orientation including but not limited to student led discussions.  If and when staff address sexual orientation, it is important that staff do so in a respectful manner that is age-appropriate, factual, and pertinent to the relevant curriculum.  Staff are encouraged to take into consideration individual student needs and refer students to the appropriate social worker or licensed school counselor.
Anoka-Hennepin District No. 11
Coon Rapids, MN 55433
Adopted February 9, 2009

What does neutral mean in the context of this policy? Can teachers supply information about false and stereotypical claims?
If a student says, all Christians are haters; or unscientific. A teacher, no matter what his or her feelings about Christianity could point out the overgeneralization and ask, “What about Mother Teresa?” or “What about Francis Collins?” One could safely point to examples which address the error in logic without giving the impression that the school favors Christianity over other religions.
However, if a student says in class that gays are mentally ill, or choose their orientation or are all miserable people who should change in order to be happy (Parents Action League talking points), what could a teacher say in response? I think the ambiguity of the policy would make teachers worry that they are going to violate the policy just by responding factually.
It appears that the AHSD is making some strides to providing staff training as indicated by this staff training outline. However, if teachers are unable to correct fact errors or stereotypes directly, how will this training benefit students?
I have some of the sharpest readers around, so I am wondering what you think of the policy and what would you recommend to the AHSD?

Primer on Anoka-Hennepin Suicides Controversy

ON Tuesday, I linked to a NYT article about the controversy over teen suicides in the Anoka-Hennepin School District. In that post, I noted that a parents’ group in the Minnesota district — the Parent’s Action League — used books and articles from NARTH and Exodus to make the claim that gays can and should change their orientation. (I should have also noted the involvement of Mission America and the American College of Pediatricians as well since materials from both groups are used by the PAL.)
On point, today Andy Birkey has a summary of events relating to the eight suicides and the controversy in the community about how to handle sexual orientation in the schools. I recommend reading it as a place to start in understanding the situation there.

MN Parents Action League Obstructs Bullying Prevention with Help of Ex-Gay Groups

Today, the New York Times examined the conflict in the Anoka-Hennepin school district over bullying prevention. The school district in Michele Bachmann’s Congressional district has lost eight students to suicide in the last two years. Critics of the district say that some of the suicides are due to anti-gay bullying and want the school district to renounce a policy of neutrality toward discussions of sexual orientation. A parent’s group, using ex-gay literature and arguments, is fighting to keep the policy in place.
Although not named in the article, the group is called the Parents Action League.  They claim to disapprove of bullying for any reason; however, I believe they are a part of the problem. Their website does not do what they claim — “to…equip citizens with current and accurate information” — and in fact adds to harmful sterotyping of GLB people.
You can read what they have to say about homosexuality on their FAQs page. Most of it is outdated criticisms of old studies. I have addressed these issues in prior posts. My focus now is to point out what appears to me to be the real focus of this group. One of the questions asked and answered is:

If we don’t approve of homosexual behavior and affirm same-sex attraction, won’t we be causing depression and unhappiness for “gay” teens?
On the contrary, when a child has been deliberately misinformed about the causes of homosexuality and told that homosexual acts are normal and natural, all hope for recovery is taken away.  Hopelessness can lead to depression and affect a child’s ability to be happy.  If we really love someone, we’ll tell him or her the truth that change is possible.

After deliberately misinforming their readers about homosexuality, the PAL people then get to their bottom line. The depression felt by bullied kids at Anoka-Hennepin is not due to disapproval and vilification, it is due to the fact that no one has given you the ex-gay message – change is possible.
PAL claims it wants a neutrality policy but it really doesn’t. PAL people want kids told that there is hope for change. Not neutral; and mostly wrong.
As I wrote on the CNN Belief Blog last year, I believe the school should name the problem and specifically forbid bullying based on real or perceived sexual orientation. The Olweus Bullying prevention program should be implemented.
I also believe that groups like NARTH and Exodus should take some responsibility for the information they promote. Speaking directly to NARTH and Exodus: Parent’s are obstructing the well being of children because of the information you disseminate. You promote change as happening more frequently than it actually does, and I believe you know it.  Many people do decide to channel their actions in alignment with their beliefs, but it is infrequent that someone goes from gay to straight in attractions, fantasies and actions. You should end your silence and communicate the real situation to these groups. Part of the reason they obstruct progress in addressing bullying is because of the distorted narrative you have helped to create.
I believe there are caring people with the PAL, but they think that being attracted to the same sex is due to deliberate choice of a lifestyle or the result of bad parenting or a wicked culture. If they knew that many same-sex attracted kids have great loving parents, attend church, live moral lives and are simply trying to understand what is happening to them, they might become part of the solution and not the problem. Why do PAL people think what they think? Many reasons probably, but the intellectual source nearly always comes back to NARTH or Exodus.
UPDATE: To be consistent, I need to add Mission America, PFOX, Focus on the Family and the American College of Pediatricians to the two groups listed above. Regarding Exodus, there is only one item (Janet Boynes’ book) directly related to an Exodus affiliate. However, the organization does offer for sale books which are listed on the PAL website, including Joseph Nicolosi’s Parents Guide to Preventing Homosexuality.
I have received several emails on this post, most supporting this call for groups to evaluate how their message is working against bullying prevention. A couple have criticized me saying that I advocate censorship of a valid point of view.  I don’t see it that way. I see it as advocating responsibility. When a group like PAL is using the belief that gays are by definition disordered, depressed and the products of bad parenting and/or abuse in order to offset bullying prevention efforts, then I think it is time to re-evaluate the situation.

Christian groups urged to do more on bullying prevention

Last week, the Obama administration focused on bullying prevention in a series of events. All week I intended to write about it and one thing or another got in the way so I was pleased that the Christian Post put up an article on the topic.

As I noted in the article, the attention to the issue has waned since the Fall. I believe that will change shortly as the Day of Silence and the Day of Dialogue are coming in April.

Andrew Marin, founder of the Marin Foundation, is quoted here:

His Golden Rule Pledge website provides resources for bullying prevention to churches. Since bully victims had made news, Throckmorton said that churches from all groups began showing interest. Still, more interest needs to shown, he said.

Andrew Marin, president of the Marin Foundation, agrees. His organization attempts to build bridges between evangelicals and the homosexual community.

Marin laments that some youth groups simply focus on entertaining youth rather than taking on difficult issues such as how to deal with bullying and homosexuality. “We need people in church to be bold enough to stand up and to say ‘no’ [to bullying],” he said.

Marin recently revamped the whole website and added a page on youth resources which is heavy on bullying prevention. You will see the Golden Rule Pledge featured there.

With the Day of Silence and Day of Dialogue coming, the Golden Rule Pledge will be active as well advocating for nothing more than treating others well and an end to bullying. Take the Golden Rule Pledge survey here.

Ladies Home Journal on anti-gay bullying

The 9th largest monthly magazine, Ladies Home Journal, has an article out on newstands today which addresses anti-gay bullying. The article by Kenneth Miller is titled, “Gay Teens Bullied to the Point of Suicide” but covers the entire topic of anti-gay bias and religious tolerance. The subtitle, “It’s a shocking trend. Isn’t it time for all of us to encourage compassion and respect, no matter how we feel about homosexuality?” captures the tone of the piece aimed at the moderate to conservative readership of LHJ. I think Miller and the LHJ staff did a nice job of bringing in a variety of voices to urge a united voice against anti-gay bias and bullying. Full disclosure: I am a bit biased since I have a couple of quotes in the piece. The article sets the stage by calling out the extreme rhetoric used by some social conservatives:

“Despite recent cultural shifts, kids still get the overwhelming message from society that homosexuality is not acceptable,” says Scott Quasha, PsyD, a professor of school psychology at Brooklyn College. It’s not uncommon to hear fierce condemnation from politicians and preachers as they debate gay civil rights. Homosexuality is compared to incest, bestiality, even violent crime. “This trickles down into the schools, where bullying occurs,” says Dr. Quasha. “A gay child is an easy target for classmates looking to make trouble.”

Antigay bullying is something all parents should be concerned about, says Merle Bennett Buzzelli, who oversees the public school antiviolence program in Akron, Ohio. “The victims are not just students who are actually gay,” she points out — the abuse is also directed at straight kids who don’t quite fit gender norms. Tomboyish girls and guys who show interest in, say, gymnastics or dance are often called the same names — and subjected to the same ostracism and attacks — as their gay and lesbian classmates. There’s no evidence that Billy Lucas was gay, but he was “different,” classmates said. Because of that, bullies called him “fag” and told him he didn’t deserve to live. Of course, for kids who do experience same-sex attraction, the use of the word gay as an all-purpose put-down is just one more painful indication that they don’t fit in, whether or not they look or act any different from their peers, says Dr. Quasha.

Dr. Quasha is making a simple but effective case for the disruptive nature of stereotype threat. Stereotype threat, in this context, refers to the fear of being considered gay by others, usually more socially powerful peers. Stereotypes about gays are consistently negative among young teens, often held as a global, diffuse negative attitude.

I am not sure about this, but I think stereotype threat operates in two broad ways. For students who are sure or pretty sure they are gay, the threat is that the social group will believe or assume every negative stereotype about gay people. For non-gay or unsure teens, I think the threat is that they will be considered gay and that such assessments are negative. Hopefully, a school environment tolerant of differences and intolerant of harassment will make improve life for both categories of students.

The article considers people who hold all shades of beliefs regarding homosexuality with a money quote from Dr. Caitlin Ryan:

After almost a decade of research on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender teens, Dr. Ryan’s group has found a clear pattern: The more supportive the parents and family, the better kids do over the long run. “That doesn’t necessarily mean changing your deeply held beliefs,” Dr. Ryan explains. “It means finding a way to balance those beliefs with the love you have for your child.”

Parents are called on to seek that balance all the time. Children do all kinds of things parents do not like or approve of but the role of parent involves providing love and direction. These values have to be balanced and carefully woven into an attachment that is like no other.

Ryan continues:

Even parents who can’t be fully accepting can find ways to be supportive. “You can say, ‘I think this is wrong but I love you and I’m going to be here for you,'” Dr. Ryan suggests. “Be willing to listen. Give your child a hug.”

This advice won’t please everyone but seems a reasonable compromise. In some cases, the agree to disagree approach leads to mutual respect and the maintenance of a solid attachment. In other cases, as noted in this article, parents become more accepting, even supportive.

I appreciate that the author reached out for comment from people of various faiths, in order to highlight the value of mutual respect and tolerance.

We all need to speak more carefully, says Father Mike Tegeder, pastor of the Church of St. Edward in Bloomington, Minnesota. “The Catholic Church teaches that each person has dignity, whatever their race or gender or sexual orientation,” he says. “We don’t need to agree with one another, but we have to respect one another’s dignity as children of God.”

And many religious groups agree. Exodus International, a conservative Christian organization that had previously encouraged kids to speak out against homosexuality, changed direction after the recent string of suicides, deciding to advocate “biblical tolerance and grace” instead of confrontation. For Warren Throckmorton, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Grove City College, a Christian school in Pennsylvania, the group’s reversal was an obvious choice. “It seems to me that Christians should be first in line in saying that everyone should be treated the way you yourself want to be treated,” says Dr. Throckmorton, a traditional evangelical who recently developed The Golden Rule Pledge, a program specifically designed to help conservative churches prevent antigay bullying.

The article provides resources for parents and community groups, including the Golden Rule Pledge and provides a clear message that respect for the dignity of all is a virtue about which we all should be able to agree. Let me ask social conservatives who want to criticize this article. What do you have to offer instead? How can the Golden Rule be wrong or inadequate? Do you like to be stereotyped or to be the target of demeaning rhetoric? I assume not, so don’t do it to other people.

UPDATE: Sigh, just after I posted the above, I saw this article in the Christian Post, describing the efforts of “an interfaith coalition” to block the NJ Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights. Instead of demonstrating respect during the Week of Respect mandated by the bill, the coalition wants to have their own week, called “Morality Awareness Campaign.” The coalition was also glad to have private religious schools exempted. Watch this and ask yourself if that was such a good idea. Really, watch this…

Usual suspects out in opposition to New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights

New Jersey is very close to passing what may be the most comprehensive bullying prevention law in the nation. In the works, for about a year, the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights” would amend current law and establish a “Week of Respect” as well as require districts to keep track of bullying incidents and provide penalties for school staff who ignore bullying. 

Sadly, the New Jersey Family Policy Council has expressed opposition to the bill because it retains a list of characteristics often associated with bullying behaviors. More precisely, New Jersey law prohibits bullying based on sexual orientation. In this Christian Post article, NJFPC staffer and PFOX board member Greg Quinlan elaborates:

Greg Quinlan of family advocacy group New Jersey Family Policy Council praised the effort, proclaiming, “We need to put a culture of dignity and respect in schools.”

But he lamented that the bill has some holes that may limit its effectiveness. Quinlan, a director of government affairs for NJFPC’s legislative arm, Family First, said the bill is “segregated” to prevent and treat bullying of particular groups.

The bill enumerates classifications such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, gender identity and expression as it relates to homosexuality, and mental, physical and sensory disability as characteristics that generally cause bullying, harassment and/ or intimidation.

Quinlan pointed out, “Obesity is not on the list. Ex-gays like myself are not on the list.”

He stressed that “bullying is bullying” and all forms of bullying should be recognized in the bill language.

Staff of the bill sponsors pointed out that the detailed list of bullied characteristics is simply stated as examples. The bill also carries catch all language which includes “any other distinguishing characteristics.”

Nevertheless, Quinlan is worried that the bill will censure teachers and students from exercising their first amendment rights to express their beliefs for fear that it may lead to disciplinary action. He noted that a teacher who might say, “There is no gay gene,” may be written up as a expressing a bullying comment. Also, expressions of faith may be construed as excluding or berating other faiths.

You can read the bill here (A-3466). The list of characteristics are reproduced below. Note that the discrepancy between the list in NJ law and what Quinlan describes in the article. Homosexuality is not mentioned anywhere in law or A-3466. Bracketed words will not be kept in law; underlined words are what is added by A-3466.

“Harassment, intimidation or bullying” means any gesture, any written, verbal or physical act, or any electronic communication that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory [handicap] disability, or by any other distinguishing characteristic, that takes place on school property, at any school-sponsored function or on a school bus and that:

a. a reasonable person should know, under the circumstances, will have the effect of physically or emotionally harming a student or damaging the student’s property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm to his person or damage to his property; [or]

b. has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students in such a way as to cause [substantial] disruption in, or [substantial] interference with, the orderly operation of the school;

c. creates a hostile environment at school for the student; or

d. infringes on the rights of the student at school.

First, let’s understand that this list is already in NJ law. Second and in contrast to what Quinlan says, all students are covered by this list. On point, obesity would be included in either the section on “physical disability” or via “any other distinguishing characteristic.” Ex-gay is on the list via sexual orientation or even religion, since ex-gay most often means behaviorally resisting same-sex desire for religious reasons. 

I have little sympathy for his concerns over first amendment rights to say “there is no gay gene.” Nothing in this bill removes first amendment rights to say a true thing. Now, if a teacher or staffer says to a student, “there is no gay gene, therefore, you can and should change your sexual orientation,” this would be a different matter. One, such a statement would not be based in fact. Two, it could be imposing a religious view on a student and three, it may indeed create a hostile environment. Therefore such a statement would be met with heightened scrutiny.

It seems to come back to the problem some Christians have when addressing anti-gay bullying — they want to make sure they maintain the right to speak disapproval of homosexuality. That right is not eliminated by this  bill. However, to me, this right is of lesser importance than the need for kids to have a safe place to go to school.