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.

Day of Silence, Golden Rule Pledge roundup

Today is the Day of Silence, where students attempt to remain silent for parts of the school day to bring attention to anti-gay bullying. This year has been much quieter than the first two years for the supportive Golden Rule Pledge. I am aware of students in a dozen or so communities who planned to pass out GRP cards, either while joining in the silence or indenpendently of it.

I have looked in on the Day of Silence twitter account a couple of times and this retweet caught my eye:

Today has been awful. Verbal and physical bullying. This is why we do this.

This pains me. I wish she had written that some kids were pledging the Golden Rule and standing up to the bullies. Maybe next time?

I have posted this song before but it seems fitting again. After the vid/song, check out the few news articles which mention the Golden Rule Pledge.

Charisma covered the GRP as part of a story on the Day of Truth, the walkout, and the Day of Silence. Christian Post took a similar line in this story.

Here is a link to a Crosswalk.com article I wrote a year ago, called “That’s So Gay” – The deadly consequences of bullying.

Golden Rule Pledge dayz

The Day of Truth is today and the the Day of Silence is tomorrow. In some places, on both days, students are passing out Golden Rule Pledge cards. There does not seem to be as much media interest as last year but things are happening. Charisma Magazine has a brief review of the different efforts taking place.

The unofficial them song of the GRP is Hero by Superchick. I say unofficial because the band has not authorized that but I like it and so here it is again.

Don’t walkout, walk along side and be a hero. Don’t preach at gay kids and call it conversation. Instead, walk along side and listen.

The Days are coming…

After March Madness – which I am looking forward to – the month of the Days will be here. April 15 (or 12th if you listen to the PSA on the website) is set as the Day of Truth with April 16 being the Day of Silence. The boycotters will also be pursuing their mischief. This week, the Illinois Family Institute sent out an email asking for supporters to find out if their local school would be taking part in the Day of Silence. Soon after, Exodus sent out an email promoting the Day of Truth.

In response to the boycott and the Day of Truth, I will again support the Golden Rule Pledge. For more on that, go on over to the Golden Rule Pledge site.  And consider joining the Facebook group supporting the GRP.

Also, this week, fellow Crosswalk.com blogger, John Shore posted on the GRP. His initial reaction to the GRP was not positive and his readers are giving me some tips.

Kids suicide; parents point to bullying as the reason

It is difficult to pinpoint all the reasons why a child might commit suicide but the parents of two young men are pretty clear on at least one factor – bullying.
Carl Hoover-Walker was buried yesterday in Springfield, MA. Hoover-Walker was taunted with gay overtones, even though he did not identify as such. His mother said she alerted the school about the ongoing harassment but with no discernable difference. The 11 year old hung himself April 6th.
Just days before in Mentor, Ohio, the parents of Eric Mohat filed a lawsuit against the Mentor High School for failing to address clear signs of harassment. They believe the bullying led Eric to take his life at age 17. From the ABC News article:

The lawsuit — filed March 27, alleges that the quiet but likable boy, who was involved in theater and music, was called “gay,” “fag,” “queer” and “homo” and often in front of his teachers. Most of the harassment took place in math class and the teacher — an athletic coach — was accused of failing to protect the boy.
“When you lose a child like this it destroys you in ways you can’t even describe,” Eric Mohat’s father told ABCNews.com.
The parents aren’t seeking any compensation; rather, they are asking that Mentor High School recognize their son’s death as a “bullicide” and put in place what they believe is a badly needed anti-bullying program.

I believe Mr. Mohat is correct. School can be a cruel place and even though some schools do a good job at intervention, others do not. And schools cannot control what students do when they are off the school grounds. Parents and youth leaders must help set the tone for how people should treat each other. So we need schools to improve what they are doing to intervene in these situations and we need adults to model a better way to interact.
Some think schools are doing enough. In describing her reasons for supporting a boycott on the Day of Silence this coming Friday, Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute told WorldNetDaily

…that the goal cited by the GLSEN events is to reduce bullying on school campuses, especially that bullying perceived as targeting homosexual students or those with other alternative sexual lifestyle choices.
“No one supports bullying,” she said. “Every school has more than ample anti-bullying policies in place. … for GLSEN, the means by which they want to end bullying is to normalize volitional homosexual conduct.”

I doubt the parents of Eric and Carl would agree that school policies were ample enough. And Higgins misunderstands the intent of the students involved. If anti-bullying policies and programs exist, they want the policies enforced and implemented. I suspect parents and kids who are the targets of harassment want more action and less talk and intention. If Christians care, then they have to demonstrate that in some tangible way. What does it show when you leave the scene?
To those who think anti-gay bullying is no big deal, read the words of Brian Pengelly, a youth minister from Canada.

The truth is that when I was a student questioning my own sexual identity in grade 9 I was beat up because of my orientation.
The truth is that I was lucky, because compared to many of my gay friends, I got off easy.
The truth is that I have talked to hundreds of youth across North America who have been called names like “fag”, “homo”, “sissy”, “dyke” and “lesbo” every single day.
The truth is that often teachers and administrators see this happen and do nothing about it.
The truth is that many students (like me) will never report the harassment and violence they face because they are scared and ashamed. So even if and when school administration will listen, they often don’t hear about the extent of it.
The truth is that it can often be Christians who perpetrate the bullying and name-calling.
I went to a Christian school. It happened there.
This is not just my experience. This is SO common. I have seen it in schools. I have seen it in churches, I have seen it in youth groups. I have talked to HUNDREDS of young people who have told me their stories.
This is REAL.
And when Christians pretend like it isn’t, we bring shame on the name of the Lord who we claim to follow.
When we stand by and let others speak out for justice while we do nothing, we fail the Kingdom of God.
When we actively oppose, or distract from those seeking justice we prove to a watching culture that our claims to love gay people are a lie.
This is REAL. This must STOP. We are part of the problem. Change starts with us.

Brenda High, author of Bullycide and editor of the website Bully Police, has empathy for the Mohats and Hoover-Walkers. She lost her son in a similar manner several years ago. I asked Brenda what her advice is to Christians who want to make a difference on behalf of kids who experience harassment and bullying. She said,

My only advice to those who call themselves Christian is to remember that to be a Christian is to follow Christ, who said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged”. It’s an oxymoron to call oneself a Christian, and at the same time to profess hate towards someone because of an act, sin, or behavior that you don’t like or disagree with.
If children are being bullied on the playground or inside our school, we as adults have failed that child, and we have failed the bully too. We must teach our children Christian values and ask our schools to teach “Do Unto Others” values so that all of our children can have a safe and bully-free environment to learn.

I couldn’t agree more.

Newsweek/Washington Post blog reports on Golden Rule Pledge

Jacqueline Salmon reports on the proposed conservative school walkout on the Day of Silence and the Goldren Rule Pledge.
About the Goldren Rule Pledge, Ms. Salmon notes:

A Pennsylvania educator and an evangelist have yet another approach.
Dr. Warren Throckmorton, a professor of psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, and Michael Frey, Western Pennsylvanvia director for College Ministries with Campus Crusade, want Christians to adhere to the golden rule.
Saying Christians should be “leading the way” to create schools safe, even if they disagree with homosexuality, they’ve created the Golden Rule Pledge to encourage respectful treatment of all students.
If approached by gay-right supporters asking what what they will do to end the silence on what they see as discrimination against gays, Throckmorton urges Christian students to carry cards pledging adherence to the Golden Rule: “I pledge to treat others the way I want to be treated. ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.'”

The article is featured on the On Faith blog which is described as a “conversation on religion and politics with Jon Meacham and Sally Quinn” and appears to be a collaboration of Newsweek and the Washington Post.

Christian Post reports on Golden Rule Pledge

Actually, the article reports on various responses from evangelicals to the Day of Silence with mention of the DOS, Day of Truth, Golden Rule Pledge and the proposed DOS walkout.

Students Encouraged to Skip School on ‘Day of Silence’
By Lawrence Jones
A national coalition of pro-family groups are urging parents to keep their students home this coming Friday in protest of the annual “Day of Silence,” when students vow silence to bring attention to the discrimination of gay students.
Over 20 Christian-based conservative groups have called for the massive walkout from middle and high schools participating the April 17 event, arguing that the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)’s sponsored event politicizes the classroom to support the belief that homosexuality is moral. They include state chapters of American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, Illinois Family Institute, Liberty Council and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays.
“This day is not about ‘tolerance’ as it claims, but about forcing propaganda and acceptance of high-risk behavior into the schools with no opposing views allowed,” said Linda Harvey of Mission America, which also supports the walkout.
Laurie Higgins of the Illinois Family Institute said that while “all of civilized society must oppose bullying,” she opposes the “illegitimate means of using public education to affirm volitional homosexual behavior.”
Campaign for California Families said the demonstration will serve as financial “leverage” to get the message across, saying public schools in California lose $100 a day for each child absent.
The groups have encouraged parents and teens who are not willing to risk teacher retribution or missing school to send a letter to schools officials expressing their objections to Day of Silence.
The coalition has also called attention to a resolution sitting before Congress that would urge the federal government and public schools to officially recognize and celebrate Day of Silence. The legislation also requests that “the President issue a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe the National Day of Silence with appropriate ceremonies, programs, and activities.”
House Concurrent Resolution 92 was introduced on April 1 and has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
GLSEN claims that over 8,000 students participated in last year’s Day of Silence. The organization says the observance is needed, pointing to its 2007 survey showing 86 percent of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation while 44 percent report being physically harassed.
The band of pro-family groups, meanwhile, says that by opposing the event they are in no way endorsing the bullying and harassment of those in the LGBT community.
One Christian professor, however, has come against the walkout, saying it’s not very productive.
“How can we get anything accomplished if we leave the field?” Dr. Warren Throckmorton, professor of Psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, wrote last week on his blog on Crosswalk.com.
The expert in mental health and sexuality issues contends that students taking part in Day of Silence have a point, saying he has spoken with Christian students who have admitted to bullying or harassing gay students.
Throckmorton has created an alternative response to Day of Silence, asking Christians to take The Golden Rule Pledge and show up at school to live out the teaching of Christ to treat others as they want to be treated.
When Day of Silence students hand out cards asking, “What will you do to help end the silence?” Christian students should respond: “This is what I am going to do. I pledge to treat others the way I want to be treated. ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you.'”
Meanwhile, several other Christian-based conservative groups are promoting the Day of Truth on April 20, the following Monday, as a direct response to Day of Silence. According to Day of Truth’s Web site, it was established to “counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda and express an opposing viewpoint from a Christian perspective.”
Alliance Defense Fund and Exodus International, the promoters of Day of Truth, are encouraging students to speak the “truth in love” and engage in conversation about homosexuality.
Participants are also asked to hand out cards reading: “I’m speaking the Truth to break the silence. True tolerance means that people with differing – even opposing – viewpoints can freely exchange ideas and respectfully listen to each other. It’s time for an honest conversation about homosexuality. There’s freedom to change if you want to. Let’s talk.”

For the record, I do not see the GRP as counterprogramming, but as an appropriate response to a request for respect and fair treatment. I simply cannot find any teaching in my religious tradition for walking away from people who are asking for respect.

Golden Rule Pledge 2009

Soon (April 17), the Day of Silence will be observed around the country and some conservative groups are not happy about it. A coalition featuring the American Family Association and the Concerned Women for America is suggesting students walkout of school to protest the disruption of silence by same-sex attracted students. Not a hint irony there, I tell you.
Again this year, I suggest an alternative to a walkout. Go on over to the Golden Rule Pledge and check out the plan there.
If you are on Facebook, you can join the initiative there as well. I will have more through the next several days, but I wanted to get the word out here today…

Exodus International to take over Day of Truth

Exodus International will take over the “Day of Truth” in 2009. This news release was jointly provided by Alliance Defense Fund and Exodus.

Day of Truth to be spearheaded by Exodus International
The Alliance Defense Fund is transitioning its leadership of the Day of Truth initiative to Exodus International.
Day of Truth was launched four years ago in response to GLSEN’s (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) “Day of Silence” national initiative. “Day of Silence,” established in 1996 and aggressively placed in public schools throughout the U.S., asks students to take a nine-hour “vow of silence” to protest what they describe as “discrimination and harassment” against student’s engaged in homosexual behavior.
In 2004, when a student in Poway, California openly objected to this overt promotion of a practice that he found morally offensive, he was punished and silenced by the school administration for expressing his views. The school’s actions prompted the Alliance Defense Fund to legally defend this young man’s rights and, in turn, to launch a national response to the GLSEN’S Day of Silence. That response was the Day of Truth.
Designed to give students an opportunity to openly voice their views on (and objections to) the Day of Silence, the Day of Truth has grown from a handful of students to over 13,000 participants in all 50 states standing for the Truth. As the movement has grown, the focus has continued to broaden…providing students not only with legal assistance when their free speech rights are challenged, but also providing them with information on how to minister and witness to individuals struggling with homosexual behavior.
It’s because of growth in this latter area that this transition is occurring. For more than thirty years, Exodus International has provided thoughtful care to individuals wishing to leave homosexuality and offered support for related families, friends and churches. With 230 member organizations, the Exodus network is mobilizing the body of Christ to minister grace and truth to a world impacted by homosexuality…perfectly positioning them to lead the Day of Truth into the future.
ADF will continue to serve as the legal support arm for this project and represent any student who is silenced or punished for speaking the Truth.
When is the Day of Truth?
This year’s Day of Truth will be Monday, April 20, 2009. To view a video and participate this year, visit www.DayofTruth.org and register. Even if you have registered with us in the past, please register again this year. This allows us to track the number of participants every year. (It’s free to sign up!) You may also order products and materials, download free resources, and learn more about the project. On the Day of Truth, participating students wear their Day of Truth t-shirt and hand out “Truth cards” which simply explain that it’s time for “an honest discussion about homosexuality.”
Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions, for resources, or to share your ideas. You can reach us at sthomas@telladf.org or 1-800-TELL-ADF.

The Day of Silence is April 17, 2009. I continue to oppose boycotts and confrontations and instead will support the Golden Rule Pledge.
The Day of Truth has in the past focused on change of sexual orientation as being a prime message for schools. I will be interested to see what Exodus changes about this event.