AFA Distortions on Gay Straight Alliances

Agape Press has an article about gay straight alliance groups in public schools, of which there are now some 2000 or so around the country. There's a controversy going on in Michigan in the Forest Hills School District, where religious right groups are trying to get the school district to disband the three GSAs that exist there. The school board so far is refusing to do so and the American Family Association is spreading some manure around to grease the skids.

Despite the objections of concerned parents, the Forest Hills School Board has vowed it will not shut down three GSA clubs in the district. The board claims the federal Equal Access Act requires schools to allow sex-based clubs. But Gary Glenn, director of the American Family Association of Michigan, says schools can ban student groups that promote risky behavior -- and it has already been done, he adds.

"In fact, the Lubbock (Texas) School District did exactly that. They found that the so-called Gay Straight Alliance would be promoting behavior that was self-destructive and harmful to young people," Glenn says, "and on that basis refused to allow such homosexual propaganda to take place in the public schools."

Glenn notes that the courts backed the district's decision. "Of course, the ACLU and homosexual activists sued [but] the federal court upheld the right of the school district to act in the way it thought was in the best interests for the health of the students," he points out. In that case two years ago, a federal judge barred the Lubbock Gay Straight Alliance from meeting on campus, citing the school district's right to determine "what subject matter is considered obscene or inappropriate."

Glenn is right about the Lubbock case, a district judge did indeed rule that way recently. What he doesn't tell you is that multiple judges around the country have ruled the opposite. Here's a list of such cases:


East High Gay/Straight Alliance v. Board of Education of Salt Lake City School District
: Federal District court ruling from Utah that found that a school's attempt to prohibit a GSA violated the Equal Access Act and the right to expressive association.

Anthony Colin, et al. v. Orange Unified School District: A Federal judge issued a preliminary injunction ordering a school to allow a GSA to meet. The school ended up settling the case and allowing the GSA to meet as they did other groups.

BCHS Gay Straight Alliance, et al. v. Board of Ed. of Boyd County, KY: Another Federal judge issued a preliminary injunction against a school that forbid a GSA to meet on campus. The school settled the case and allowed the GSA to meet.

The language of the Equal Access Act is incredibly clear. If a school allows non-curricular clubs to meet on school grounds, it cannot discriminate on the basis of the content of speech that takes place at that meeting. The wording is incredibly broad:

(20 U.S.C. §§ 4071-74) DENIAL OF EQUAL ACCESS PROHIBITED Sec. 4071. (a) It shall be unlawful for any public secondary school which receives Federal financial assistance and which has a limited open forum to deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting within that limited open forum on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings.

That doesn't leave much wiggle room, but the lengths that some schools have gone to to prevent such groups from forming is incredible. In the Boyd County case, 40% of the student body staged a walkout protest against the formation of the GSA. The administration then used that protest to argue in court that the formation of a GSA threatens the school's ability to maintain the peace. This is a classic heckler's veto, where the response of others to the lawful speech of an individual is used as an excuse to censor the speech. It's just like the bigots in Israel arguing that the government shouldn't allow a gay pride march because some religious nutballs might attack it. It's also remarkably similar to the attempts of radical Muslims to shut down free speech with threats of violence. The job of the government is to protect the lawful speech, not to censor it to avoid the illegal acts of others in response.

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"Sex-based clubs"? That's a little sensationalist, don't you think? Obviously these people think GSAs are really just orgies on school grounds where all the poor straight kids get turned gay...

But Gary Glenn, director of the American Family Association of Michigan, says schools can ban student groups that promote risky behavior -- and it has already been done, he adds.

The "risky behavior" they're truly afraid of is the behavior of tolerance. It just won't do if their children learn to accept others and refuse to take on the bigoted attitudes of their parents. Risky behavior, indeed.

nicole wrote:

""Sex-based clubs"? That's a little sensationalist, don't you think? Obviously these people think GSAs are really just orgies on school grounds where all the poor straight kids get turned gay..."

You mean they're not?

In all seriousness, I was a Congressional Aide back when the Equal Access law was passed, and it was clear during the House debate on it that it was intended to cover any and all student groups. The debate covered religious groups (the primary beneficiaries, of course), political associations, academics-related clubs, sports groups, culture groups, careers groups: Everybody. You still can't brings drugs or guns on campus, but you can get together and talk about it if you wish.

How conservatives can say liberals want a nanny state and then endorse the Forest Hills decision is just weird.

Using the same argument, schools should also ban Jehovah's Witnesses Bible study groups. Being a Jehovah's Witness can be risky, especially if you need a blood transfusion, so surely school administrators should protect the innocent children from these dangerous views?

The most galling thing about this is the sheer hypocrisy of the religious right, regarding free speech and expression by students. Schools don't have to allow extra-curricular clubs. When they don't, the religious right gripes that students should be allowed to form Bible clubs. In a school that allows extracurricular clubs, the religious right complains about student clubs that don't suit their narrow agenda.

The bottom line is that they want the public schools to sanction their religious views. And that is precisely what the 1st amendment forbids.

I'm still chuckling over the mixed metaphor: "spreading some manure around to grease the skids." That only works if the manure is fresh, so maybe it's an appropriate image for AFA after all....

Happy Fourth!

Hell, why pick on the JW's? Regular ol' garden-variety fundamentalism is harmful to your mental health, and leads to intolerance-based hate crimes. Let's shut all those fuckers down too.

Fubdamentalism, properly understood, is no more harmful to mental health than any other philosophical belief. Even if one accepts all of Torrey's "Fundamentals," there is no requirement to go beyond that and stigmative others based upon various bits of OT text. There are those who take realism or positivism -- even atheism -- to ridiculous extremes as well.

Fundamentalism is perfectly compatable with metaphorical interpretations of Bible passages, as well as the idea that correct understanding involves sometimes complex hermeneutics. According to Luther's priesthood of the individual, each person will craft their own hermeneutics, and hence have her own understanding of scripture.

Misunderstanding has come about because powerful groups -- especially in my Southern Baptist denomination -- have insisted that there is only one correct interpretation of scripture. That movement, which started in 1980, is now starting to ebb. The political identification of many evangelicals with the Republican party is starting to wane as well, as even Baptists can figure out when they are being used.

Peace be to you, brother sdanielmorgan.

Fubdamentalism, properly understood, is no more harmful to mental health than any other philosophical belief.

I think this is rubbish hence I disagree.

But given my leanings I tend to agree with this:

According to Luther's priesthood of the individual, each person will craft their own hermeneutics, and hence have her own understanding of scripture

although this gives me pause:

Misunderstanding has come about because powerful groups -- especially in my Southern Baptist denomination -- have insisted that there is only one correct interpretation of scripture.

This sounds to much like one true scotsman just wearing different clothes. It is actually rather amusing.

According to Luther's priesthood of the individual, each person will craft their own hermeneutics...

Did Luther use the word "hermeneutics?" What is it in the German of his time? And what the hell does that word mean, anyway?