Christian students counter Day of Silence

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Christian middle school, high school and college students across the country this year will have at least two officially organized alternatives to the homosexual-themed Day of Silence.

This year, the event falls on Friday and asks teens and young adults in school to take a vow of silence for a day to protest what organizers perceive as "anti-gay" discrimination. Students pass out cards explaining that they are protesting bullying, name-calling and harassment of homosexual students. The day is sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network and was started by a group of University of Virginia students in 1996. GLSEN is the organization that promotes the formation of "Gay-Straight Alliances," often the source of controversy in some school districts.

Although the Day of Silence has grown in popularity in recent years -- with teachers and school administrators backing it in some localities, and with former California Gov. Gray Davis issuing a proclamation naming April 10, 2002 the National Day of Silence -- an increasing number of Christians students are taking a stand against it.

In 1995 the inaugural Day of Truth was held. Sponsored by the Alliance Defense Fund, the Day of Truth is held on a separate day -- this year Monday, April 28 -- and asks students to wear T-shirts and pass out cards which say, in part, "I'm speaking the Truth to break the silence." Supporters assert that the Christian viewpoint about homosexuality is itself in danger of being silenced in schools. One of GLSEN's main goals is to get homosexuality-friendly curriculum in classrooms. Its website sells resources for doing just that, including ideas and resources for kindergarten students.

"Christian students should be allowed to express their viewpoint like any other student," Day of Truth student spokesperson Marina Rojas said in a statement. "The Day of Truth is an opportunity for students to respectfully present a different viewpoint than students participating in the Day of Silence."

This year, a second alternative is being promoted: the Golden Rule Pledge, held on the same day as the Day of Silence. When a Christian student is handed a card by a Day of Silence participant, he or she hands back a different card, which states, "This is what I'm doing: I pledge to treat others the way I want to be treated. Will you join me in this pledge? 'Do to others as you would have them do to you.' (Luke 6:31)." It was initiated by Warren Throckmorton, associate professor of psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania and a leading conservative voice on issues about homosexuality.

The Golden Rule Pledge has the support of Bob Stith, national strategist for gender issues for the Southern Baptist Convention. Stith said he doesn't see the Golden Rule Pledge as competing with the Day of Truth. In theory, students can participate in both, because they're held on different days.

Christians, he said, should be "proactive" and "redemptive" in their approach of homosexual issues.

"Those are still two things that are really important to me," he told Baptist Press. "... Christians ought to be leading the way [against school violence]. With all the school violence and the shootings and so forth ... I just thought, what a great opportunity for Christian kids to speak a voice of reason and compassion that doesn't involve compromise, that doesn't involve saying, 'Sure, if you want to be gay, that's fine.'"

Homosexuality, Stith believes, is the "watershed issue for the church in our generation," and Christians must do a better job of equipping themselves.

"I talk to so many people who are good solid Christians who, when you engage them in a casual conversation, they will say things like, 'Don't you really believe they're born that way? You don't really think they can change, do you?' While they wouldn't necessarily see that as being an anti-biblical stance, it in fact is," he said.

The complete text of the Day of Truth cards says, "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 more information about the Day of Truth, visit www.DayofTruth.org. For more information about the Golden Rule Pledge, visit www.goldenrulepledge.com


Michael Foust is an assistant editor for Baptist Press.

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