Video response to the Illinois Family Institute Dare to Stand video

On the Illinois Family Institute website, a revised video opposing the Day of Silence is posted. Also posted on a new website, called Dare to Stand, it is hosted on YouTube and embedded below. The IFI folks have disabled ratings, comments and vocal responses for the video so I thought I would post my video response (Hero by Superchick) to the Dare to Stand video here.

And now the IFI video.

Instead of “Dare to Walkout,” how about Dare to be a Hero?
I will have another video response tomorrow as well more information on the Golden Rule Pledge and anti-bullying in general.

Hate 2 hope: The story of Tim Zaal and Matthew Boger

Although this story is old news, I thought it appropriate to share here in light of recent posts on bullying, the Day of Silence and the Golden Rule Pledge.
Watch this You Tube video which is a clip from a 2006 episode of 20/20 with John Stossel. More explanation follows:

Zaal and Boger appeared on NPR last November and continue to share their story at the Museum of Tolerance. I encourage you to read the entire piece but here are some highlights:

For nearly three decades, Tim Zaal thought he had killed a man during his rage-filled youth. The idea haunted him, but he buried it with the rest of his skinhead past.
“This used to be my stomping grounds,” says Zaal, standing on a street in West Hollywood, Calif., where he used to hang out in the early ’80s. “Mostly punk rockers would hang out around here after concerts and we would be involved with violence on a regular basis. Violence for me, back in those days, was like breathing.”

Zaal recalls the first meeting with Matthew Boger:

Zaal recalls that particular night, when he thought he took another man’s life. It began with listening to a band called Fear. During the show, a bouncer was stabbed and the police came. By the time he and his friends got to Oakie Dogs, they were juiced up on alcohol and testosterone and spoiling for a fight.
They found their victims across the street, a group of gay street kids. They were just hanging out when Zaal and his friends cornered one and started kicking and hitting him — 14 skinheads pummeling him all at once. But the small gay kid was still moving. For some reason, that enraged Zaal.
“I walked up and said, ‘What is wrong with you guys, can’t you do it right?’ ” Zaal recalls. The kid they were beating on looked up and made eye contact with Zaal. “I kicked him in the forehead with my boot and that was it,” Zaal says, snapping his fingers. “He was out like a light.”

Then they met a second time:

A few years ago, the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles asked him to speak about his experience leaving the skinhead movement. Before the talk, he found himself chatting with his fellow presenter, Matthew Boger, the manager of operations.
“I asked Tim how he got out of the skinhead movement and what that was like,” Boger recalls.
The pair reminisced about West Hollywood back in the ’80s.
“And there was this moment in which I said that I lived on the streets,” Boger says, “in which I said I hung out on this hamburger stand, and [Zaal] said, ‘You know, we used to hang out there, but we stopped hanging out there after this one night that was so violent, I think I killed a kid.’ ”
In a flash they both knew without saying that Boger was that kid.
“It was the very first meeting that we had realized who we were to each other 20-something years ago,” Boger says.
Zaal recalls the moment the way anyone in his position would.
“Of course I was ashamed,” he says. “I didn’t know how to handle the situation. And obviously he didn’t how to handle the situation and he left as quickly as possible. It was about two weeks before I saw him again.”

This led to a remarkable picture of forgiveness and reconciliation.

Now Zaal and Boger present their story — and their unlikely friendship — to high school and middle school students around Southern California. They also do a tag-team presentation one Sunday every month at the Museum of Tolerance. It begins with a DVD film of their story and ends with a question and answer session.
Zaal says Boger used to bait him, and test him, to see if maybe those white supremacist ideas he held as a youth were still there, buried, in the grown man. But as time passed, both say that forgiveness — and redemption — have happened.

The two are writing a book about their experiences and were featured in a short documentary called Blood Brothers embedded here:
There are lessons here. I suspect this story is a like a projective test and people will derive lessons based on how they see the world. What can we learn from Mr. Boger and Mr. Zaal?

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.

Golden Rule Pledge: How about something really different?

On April 17, 2008 thousands of high school and college students will attempt to remain silent during parts of the school day to bring awareness to bullying and harassment of gay, lesbian and bisexually identified students. In its 12th year, this student-run event, called the Day of Silence, is supported by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). Some social conservative groups have advised parents either to keep their children home or have them walk out if the Day of Silence is being observed. The groups advocating the boycott are concerned that the Day of Silence promotes homosexual behavior. However, to me, the strategy seems off the mark.
I know that many evangelicals feel conflict about an event like the Day of Silence. Despite moral misgivings about homosexuality, they loathe judgmental disrespect, harassment or violence toward any one, including their gay friends and neighbors. So even though there is dissonance, I think there is something wrong with not showing up.
Are we missing a teachable moment?
What if evangelical kids and college students led the way to make schools safe for all students? Where could we start? How about on the Day of Silence?
Without altering convictions about sexuality, I propose that evangelicals should have something more to contribute than a protest toward the elimination of hostility and aggression against gay people and other people who are viewed as different. Indeed, we should be leading the way to make schools safe and build bridges to those who often equate “Christian” with condemnation.
To pursue those bridges, Michael Frey, Western PA Director for College Ministries with Campus Crusade and I are promoting an alternative. We encourage Christian kids to demonstrate the grace of Christ by pledging to follow the Golden Rule in their interactions with all students. Last year, students in over 30 high schools and colleges participated by agreeing with GLBT peers to respect each other as Image bearers of God. Students distributed pledges to honor the teaching of Christ to love as He loved and to treat others as we want to be treated.
In the process, some bridges were built. For instance, a Christian group at Slippery Rock University entered a dialogue with a gay support group on campus and helped lead a call for respectful treatment of all students on campus. Randy Veccia, student leader, said the efforts of both groups served “to raise awareness that everyone deserves to be loved.” Christian students in high schools in Greensboro, NC reached out with Good News in unprecedented ways. On the campus of Appalachian State University, Christian students took part in anti-harassment activities alongside students from the GLB support groups on campus.
Rev. Bob Stith, Gender Issues Strategist for the Southern Baptist convention had this to say about the Golden Rule Pledge:

Several years ago I stood outside a church which was being picketed by two very vocal and rabid “Christian” groups. Also standing on the sidewalk were some young lesbians doing their own picketing. The first group became more and more vocal in their opposition and insults. They began telling the young women how despicable they were and how God despised them.
At that point I walked over and told the girls, “I am a Christian and I do believe the Bible says homosexual behavior is sin. But I want you to know what these people are saying is wrong. I want to apologize to you and tell God does love you very much. Don’t ever let anyone convince you He doesn’t.”
I have long thought Christians were missing a great opportunity by not being more vocal in helping to make our schools safe places for all kids. It doesn’t require that we compromise our beliefs. Indeed it can give us a great opportunity that we might not otherwise have.
What a wonderful opportunity to express our convictions in a way that is positive, loving and redemptive. What a wonderful opportunity to train our children to care about all people, to model the example of Jesus and the woman at the well.
Who knows but what this could even be the beginning of a movement that will turn the tide of school shootings and violence in the hallways?

I hope you are correct, Bob.
In most schools this year, the Day of Silence is slated for April 17. Students and leaders can learn more about the Golden Rule Pledge by going to the Golden Rule Pledge website: www.goldenrulepledge.com or contacting me at warrenthrockmorton@gmail.com.

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…

National Day of Avoidance

The Day of Silence is coming — April 17 to be exact — and some conservative groups are already calling for students to walkout of school on that day.

TINLEY PARK, Ill., Mar. 3 /Christian Newswire/ — A national coalition of pro-family organizations is urging parents to call their children out of school on April 17. This is the day designated for this year’s Day of Silence when students and/or teachers will purposely remain silent during instructional time to protest so-called discrimination and gain sympathy for students who identify as homosexual or transgender.
The Day of Silence is a yearly event sponsored by the partisan political action group, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). The implicit purpose is to undermine the belief that homosexuality is immoral. It is the belief of the sponsors of the Walkout that parents should no longer passively accept the political usurpation of taxpayer funded public school classrooms through student silence.

The walkout is a new wrinkle. Last year, these same groups called for parents to keep the kids home. It sounds like the plan this year is to allow students to go to school and then tell them to walk out.
The news release contradicts itself on at least one point. First, it reads:

The DOS requires that teachers either create activities around or exempt silent students from any activity that involves speaking. DOS participants have a captive audience, many of whom disagree with and are made uncomfortable by the politicization of their classroom.

And then a little later, says:

Higgins further emphasizes that “The worthy end of eliminating harassment does not justify the means of exploiting instructional time.” The First Amendment already allows DOS participants to wear t-shirts or put up posters, but according to a document co-written by the ACLU and Lambda Legal, a “school can regulate what students say. . . and it can also insist that students respond to questions, make presentations, etc.” Students and teachers should not be allowed to exploit instructional time to advance their socio-political goals.

Note the two sentences in bold print. The release first says the Day of Silence requires that teachers exempt students from speaking and then admits that the DOS does not mandate such exemption. As noted in the release on this blog last year, DOS materials make this clear.
I will again favor the Golden Rule Pledge. Facebookers can join that effort here.

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.