Dispatches from the Creation Wars

One of the most valuable and interesting trends of the last decade has been the formation of Gay/Straight Alliances in high schools around the country. I think it’s valuable because, obviously, I think it’s very important for straight people to stand side by side with our gay friends and fight for their rights. We should not treat the issue as just their problem; it is our problem as well. But naturally, the religious right is absolutely appalled by such clubs and want them gone. And in some cases, they’re winning.

At South Rowan High School, near Charlotte, NC, Flip Benham’s group Operation Save America jumped into action when a GSA was forming at that school, got some 700 people to show up at the school board meeting and get them to ban the club from the school. In doing so, they violated the Equal Access Act – the very same act that protects the right of prayer groups and bible clubs to form in public schools. But it seems that the religious right wants only their views to be expressed in such clubs, no one else’s.

And boy, the school board meeting sounded like a load of fun, with one ignorant yokel after another getting up to make stupid statements like this one:

Carl Ford, who has been an active supporter of the high school, said sodomy was illegal in North Carolina, so a Gay/Straight Alliance shouldn’t exist.

Uh, no, Mr. Ford. Sodomy is not illegal in North Carolina. Hasn’t been since 2003, when the Supreme Court struck down sodomy laws as unconstitutional. Besides that, I’m sure there’s a whole lot of sodomy going on in North Carolina, and has been for as long as there’s been a North Carolina. And it sounds like they got a good old-fashioned mob mentality of ignorance going on at the meeting:

Other speakers, including preachers from Landis, Kannapolis and Concord, parents and grandparents, lashed out against the alliance, often to spirited applause and shouts of approval.

Two speakers, who delivered brief opinions near the end of the public comment period, were in favor of allowing the group.

“I, too, am here to speak for our children,” said Mike Clawson, president of the Salisbury-Rowan chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

Homosexual students “are like everybody else’s children, and they deserve the same rights as everybody else. The bottom line is, it’s the law.”

The crowd booed Clawson as he left the microphone.

Yeah, this man must be booed! He actually suggested that gay kids have the same rights as straight kids! How dare he say that! What’s next, liberty and justice for all? This simply will not do. Boo him!

It also appears that the board knew it was violating the Equal Access Act when they voted, 7-0, to ban the club:

During their discussion of the issue, board members fought off comments from the crowd and listened intently to Sayers, who explained the Equal Access Act of 1984.

The law says that if any non-curricular club is allowed to meet, all must be, as long as they meet voluntarily, are student-initiated, not school-sponsored, and are not materially or substantially disruptive of school activities.

When board members asked South’s principal, Dr. Ron Turbyfill, whether the club was disruptive, he said he did not consider it to be.

“If your measure of disruptiveness is whether or not we are able to conduct classes, it is not,” he said, adding that classes have gone on every day as usual.

Kay Wright Norman said the board should define “disruptive” before adding the clause about it to their ban, but Shuping said it was up to the board to interpret that.

A lawsuit is being prepared to challenge the school board’s decision. And I’m going to make this prediction: the school board is going to lose and it’s going to lose badly. In fact, I predict that the case will result in summary judgement for the plaintiffs and that will be upheld on appeal. This one isn’t even close, nor should it be.

Comments

  1. #1 Raging Bee
    May 9, 2006

    And I would add my prediction that the far right will take such summary judgement as proof that there’s a war on Christianity. It’s a win-win situation for the bigots: either they get to crush everyone they don’t like, or they get to pretend they’re powerless victims of evil secular atheists.

  2. #2 Seraph
    May 9, 2006

    Can anyone explain this to me? “This is Rowan County, not New York City”

    When and why did NYC get designated New Gomorrah? Why is it never “This isn’t Miami” or “This isn’t Boston” or even “This isn’t Las Vegas”?

    I’ve seen it before, of course – I grew up in the midst of it, and it took me awhile to get over it myself, but I don’t recall anyone ever telling me *why* NYC was always held up when they needed an example of the Evils of The City.

  3. #3 Seraph
    May 9, 2006

    I suppose the last post was off-topic, but all I really have to say on the topic itself is that I’m looking forward to these bastards getting taken down Dover-style.

  4. #4 John Cercone
    May 9, 2006

    “Carl Ford, who has been an active supporter of the high school, said sodomy was illegal in North Carolina, so a Gay/Straight Alliance shouldn’t exist.”

    My experience with these clubs is that they don’t have anything to do with sex.

    Once the opponents understand that these clubs exist only to help the kids deal with undertanding and helping each other, perhaps some of the opposition will go away.

  5. #5 cfeagans
    May 9, 2006

    This is just more evidence of the fear and missunderstanding that exists among those that buy into the message the religious right espouses. Alliances like this are *exactly* what kids need in order to define their own perspectives of morality based on their own experiences. It seems like it’s the parents that are afraid their kids will grow up *not* hating singled-out groups like gays or atheists (or religions contrary to their own).

    And it’s obvious that the school board is faced with the dilemma of ruling in accordance with the law or the demands of their voters. I’m sure they would much prefer the pressure of a court that overturns their decision to actually making a sound decision to begin with. That way, at least, they can say to their voters “we were with you, it was the secularist court system that was against us all -so your vote is still safe with us.”

    Groups like gay/straight alliances are cropping up all over. Lets hope enough kids start breaking from the molds of their bigotted parents and start thinking for themselves and things will change for the better. I remember a poll somewhere that indicated that young people are far less bothered by concepts like same-sex marriage than older generations. There is hope….

  6. #6 CanuckRob
    May 9, 2006

    Mr. Cercone, I fear you are being incredibly naive. The opponents you refer to don’t react to mere facts, they have an agenda to control people’s sexuality and to spout their hatred, which they typically hide inside a religous wrapper. They don’t want kids helping and understanding one another, they want the kids to stop thinking for themsleves and to hate everyone different.

  7. #7 flatlander100
    May 9, 2006

    Two points:

    First, Ed, the Board’s action did violate the prevailing law on the matter, it will be sued, it will lose. And that is precisely what the Board hopes will happen, I think. It’s playing politics, plain and simple. For when it does lose, it can say next election cycle “we stood up to protect your children; liberal judges forced us to allow the club.” It’s just another poltical dog and pony show, on the Board’s part, I would bet.

    Second, Seraph: well, to be fair, the Court has adopted in another instance the idea of “prevailing community standards” [or words of that ilk]. Not entirely beyond the pale, therefor, for some to think the same standard might apply to enforcing moral standards in the public schools. [I know, I know, "rights" are not subject to majority rule or prvailing community standards, and the clubs are not, so far as we know, engaged in immoral activities. But that is how those folks see them, and they probably do reflect the prevailing view in their community. So their applying the "prevailing community standards" test, which the Court has applied in obscenty cases in the past, is not on its face all that odd a thing for them to have done.]

  8. #8 Ginger Yellow
    May 9, 2006

    It seems like it’s the parents that are afraid their kids will grow up *not* hating singled-out groups like gays or atheists (or religions contrary to their own).

    Of course they are. They’re usually very upfront about this. They bang on about the “homosexual agenda” to “normalise a sinful lifestyle”. They’re petrified that their children will think being gay is OK, either because they think that it might turn their kids gay somehow, or simply because they want their kids to share their warped worldview.

  9. #9 Miguelito
    May 9, 2006

    [sarcasm] Foolish people. Don’t you understand that these clubs will be used to recruit good, god-fearing children into the homersexual lifestyle? [/sarcasm]

  10. #10 Cody Cobb
    May 9, 2006

    A friend of mine at my old high school sued to have a GSA (scroll past the odd, uh, tampon art…). There were, of course, several outraged parents who offered some rather nutty ideas:

    Concerned Parents will push the district to install separate bathrooms and locker rooms for homosexual students. “I don’t want my son hopping in the shower with (a gay) person,” Lokey said. “We wouldn’t allow a heterosexual boy and a heterosexual girl to shower together.”

  11. #11 David
    May 9, 2006

    Well I guess I’ll have to be more charitable about my conservative community. When GLSEN came up before our school board a few years ago, one member wanted to withhold recognition on moral grounds. Two minutes with the school district’s attorney convinced him to keep quiet. GLSEN sailed through on a routine vote with all the other extracurriculars.
    I expect that the North Carolina people know sxactly what the law is. Either they are hoping for a court to reinterpret the act, or as others have suggested, they are simply posturing.

  12. #12 SkookumPlanet
    May 9, 2006

    Seraph
    Your NYC question is not off-topic. NYC is, probably still, the urban, power, cosmopolitan center of the world, so a serviceable element in framing political issues. Ur-po-co symbolizes Gomorrah, and any negativity one needs to attach.

    The far right’s transformed our prior economic political divide into a split between the religious, knucklheaded, intracoastals and the urbane, degenerate, bicoastals. Thus they conjured up the very subject and title of Ed’s blog! How ironic that generally bicoastal corporate leader-ownership has participated happily in this political rebranding.

    It’s Psychomarketing 101, lesson plan “Rebranding in the Politics of Personal & Institutional Destruction.” NYC works better than other cities as a “one-scapegoat-fits-any-and-all-problems.

  13. #13 Beaming Visionary
    May 9, 2006

    “Carl Ford, who has been an active supporter of the high school, said sodomy was illegal in North Carolina, so a Gay/Straight Alliance shouldn’t exist.”

    Even were sodomy illegal, as this putz wrongly claims, the logic here isn’t just faulty, it’s nonexisent. As Ford evidently believes that casual gay-straight social interactions will inevitably lead to buggery (consensual or otherwise), he must also favor separating all school organizations by gender, since having boys and girls in the same National Honor Society, in the same Varsity Club, and on the same Math Team will untimately lead to an unfettered orgy.

    If a truly rational and progressive species from a far portion of the galaxy were to visit Earth, they would surely be amused and appalled at watching us proudly claim to be an intelligent breed. They would probably bellow, “What a bunch of deluded fuckers!” and promptly destroy the planet in a giddy act of sheer mercy.

  14. #14 nicole
    May 9, 2006

    It’s Psychomarketing 101, lesson plan “Rebranding in the Politics of Personal & Institutional Destruction.” NYC works better than other cities as a “one-scapegoat-fits-any-and-all-problems.

    As someone who grew up in the New York metro area, I never realized this went on until high school, and ever since then I’ve found it infuriating. Especially after September 11, because then everyone in the flyovers was in love with NYC, even though they’d all railed against it in the past. If they considered New York so unamerican…well, I never expect the religious right to be logical.

  15. #15 Roman Werpachowski
    May 9, 2006

    Concerned Parents will push the district to install separate bathrooms and locker rooms for homosexual students. “I don’t want my son hopping in the shower with (a gay) person,” Lokey said. “We wouldn’t allow a heterosexual boy and a heterosexual girl to shower together.”

    I think the children can arrange it among themselves. If one of them is openly gay, than it is a matter of tact for him/her not to stare at his naked peers, if they object to it. Or you can just make individual showers: even among straight boys, some will prefer to showe without being looked at.

    I may only speak to myself, but while I cannot imagine taking a shower in front of a strange woman — lesbian or not — somehow I would not feel that way about taking a shower with a gay man (as long as it is not my cell mate in a US prison). Jesus, if anyone ever went a few times to a public swimming pool, he probably took a shower in the presence of some gay person.

  16. #16 AdamIerymenko
    May 9, 2006

    Awww… they’re just upset cause we’re trying to take away the last group that it’s OK to hate.

    If they can’t hate Jews, negroes, immigrants, *or* gay people, then who are the dumb degenerate knuckle-dragging white-trash bigots going to compare themselves favorably to? Without “at least I’m not X,” most of them would be overcome by the sudden realization that they are in fact the scum at the bottom of the barrel.

  17. #17 Ebonmuse
    May 9, 2006

    Oh, I don’t know; I can think of at least one other group it still seems to be societally acceptable to hate

  18. #18 Kapitano
    May 9, 2006

    Concerned Parents will push the district to install separate bathrooms and locker rooms for homosexual students. “I don’t want my son hopping in the shower with (a gay) person,” Lokey said. “We wouldn’t allow a heterosexual boy and a heterosexual girl to shower together.”

    So…all the straight boys should shower together in one room…and all the gay boys should shower together in another room. That’ll really prevent gay sex happening.

  19. #19 eurojosh
    May 9, 2006

    And here’s another example of the right targeting our freedoms, except this time with potentially serious impacts on our armed forces!

    http://blog.au.org/2006/05/covert_operatio.html

  20. #20 Roman Werpachowski
    May 10, 2006

    If they can’t hate Jews, negroes, immigrants, *or* gay people, then who are the dumb degenerate knuckle-dragging white-trash bigots going to compare themselves favorably to?

    Spammers, drug dealers, human traffickers… isn’t there enough of the scum to give almost anyone a sense of moral superiority?

    Maybe “at least I’m not a mafia member” doesn’t sound as good.

  21. #21 Andrew Wade
    May 10, 2006

    When and why did NYC get designated New Gomorrah? Why is it never “This isn’t Miami” or “This isn’t Boston” or even “This isn’t Las Vegas”?

    It actually makes sense in this context as NYC is seen as *the* archetypical cosmopolitan city (at least that’s the impression I’ve gotten up here in Canukistan). Any by cosmopolitan I mean diversity and tolerance and celebration of the same. It would appear that tolerance is what these people are objecting to. Ironically, this is not one of the things Sodom or Gomorrah are noted for, but I don’t suppose the actual sins of Sodom or Gomorrah are much known in the religious right.

  22. #22 Greco
    May 10, 2006

    Oh, I don’t know; I can think of at least one other group it still seems to be societally acceptable to hate…

    And one that doesn’t get any support from the mainstream media. The only movie I can think of that portrayed an atheist positively was Contact, and the “a word” wasn’t used once.

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