Students stand up against gay movement
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--"Gay rights" may be on the march nationwide, but thousands of Christian students from coast to coast will express a counter-cultural message in the coming days regarding homosexuality.
On Friday, students will participate in the second-annual Golden Rule Pledge, and on Monday in the fifth-annual Day of Truth. The separate events, sponsored by conservative Christian organizers, were established to give students an option to the Day of Silence, a yearly event backed by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) that is promoted as an anti-bullying event but is seen by many as supporting the entire homosexual agenda and giving a one-sided view of the debate over homosexuality.
This year's Day of Silence will take place on Friday, and GLSEN claims that hundreds of thousands of students from more than 8,000 schools participated last year. As part of the Day of Silence -- which was launched nationally in 1997 -- students take some form of a vow of silence to draw attention to bullying and name-calling toward homosexual students. The idea may sound innocent, but the group behind it is not, critics say. GLSEN is one of the nation's leading organizations attempting to get homosexuality-friendly curriculum in classrooms, including "age-appropriate" information for kindergarteners. GLSEN also is the supporter of gay-straight alliances in schools nationwide.
As part of Monday's Day of Truth students will pass out cards during non-class time with a message, which says in part, "It's time for an honest conversation about homosexuality. There's freedom to change if you want to." Participants in Friday's Golden Rule Pledge will hand out cards saying, "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' (Luke 6:31.)" Although the Golden Rule Pledge may appear non-controversial, the mere fact that a student would refuse to take part in the Day of Silence could be counter-cultural in some schools.
The cards are significant because Day of Silence participants pass out cards, too.
Alan Chambers, president of Exodus International -- a Day of Truth sponsor -- said the Day of Silence leads to a slanted discussion about homosexuality. That problem is compounded when faculty and staff participate, which is common. Exodus International is a Christian ministry that, according to its website, promotes "freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ."
"I think the Day of Truth is really important, and certainly increasingly so, because students are being bombarded from every side on the issue of homosexuality," Chambers told Baptist Press. "And, seemingly the only voices that are allowed or respected in the public school system are those from a pro-gay side. It's important for everyone to have a voice on this issue and for every opinion to be expressed. If one side is going to be expressed, then the other should be as well."
Bob Stith, the Southern Baptist Convention's national strategist for gender issues, has endorsed the Golden Rule Pledge but encourages participation in the Day of Truth, too. The Golden Rule Pledge was launched partly in reaction to calls on the part of some pro-family groups to pull their children out of school during the Day of Silence. The pledge gives Christian students a way to be involved in something on that particular day, being that the Day of Truth always is held on the next school day following the Day of Silence.
"Apart from God sending a sovereign move of revival -- I don't see this issue of homosexuality going away anytime soon, so we've really got to prepare our kids for the world in which they find themselves," he told BP.
For years, Stith has called the issue of homosexuality the "watershed issue" for the modern-day evangelical church. With "gay marriage" being legalized and pushed at a rapid pace, he believes the issue is more important now than ever, particularly regarding religious freedom and the impact of the Gospel.
"If you disagree with homosexuality you're called a bigot, you're anti-homosexual, you're homophobic," he said. "... Consequently, what it does to the culture at large when they hear that, it tends to cause them to dismiss the Christian voice altogether. It's affecting our ability to speak evangelistically to the culture."
Parents, Chambers said, should not assume that their school is not participating in the Day of Silence. "It's unbelievable how widely supported it is," he said.
In some instances, Christian students who speak up have been punished. In perhaps the most famous case, Chase Harper, sophomore in 2004 at Poway (Calif.) High School, protested his school's involvement in the Day of Silence by wearing a T-shirt that on the front read, "Be Ashamed, Our School Embraced What God Has Condemned," and on the back read, "Homosexuality Is Shameful, Romans 1:27." He was pulled out of class and told not to wear a similar shirt again. The Christian legal firm Alliance Defense Fund launched the Day of Truth the very next year, and more than 13,000 students since have participated. ADF and Exodus are co-sponsoring it this year, and ADF offers free legal representation to students who are not allowed to participate in the Day of Truth.
But the Day of Silence is not just being promoted in California, said Alliance Defense Fund attorney David Cortman.
"It's not limited to any geographic region," he said. " ... We've seen where teachers actively promote the Day of Silence, where they permit the distribution of Day of Silence flyers in homeroom class, where they actively participate in the Day of Silence. And at the same time and in the same schools, when the students attempt to participate in the Day of Truth, they have been censored."
But if a school allows one event to take place, Cortman said, then it must allow the other one, too.
For Chambers, the Day of Truth is personal. He struggled with and overcame unwanted homosexual attractions as a teenager and young adult. He is now married, and he and his wife and have two children.
"Many people don't know that change is possible or that there's any alternative out there for people," he said. "... There was a time when I was trying to fit that with my life, trying to marry my homosexuality and my Christianity and trying to see if I could be a good gay Christian. It didn't work."
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press. For information about the Day of Truth, visit DayofTruth.org. For information about the Golden Rule Pledge, visit GoldenRulePledge.com. For information about Exodus International, visit ExodusInternational.org/.