The new legal theory that enables homophobic evangelizing in US schools
Last month, 8,000 public high school students in Montgomery County, Maryland, went home with fliers informing them that no one is “born gay” and offering therapy if they experienced “unwanted same-sex attraction”.
The group behind the flier, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), isn’t the kind one expects to find represented in student backpacks. Peter Sprigg, a board member of PFOX who doubles as a senior fellow at the Family Research Council, recently told Chris Matthews that he believes “gay behavior” should be “criminalized.” PFOX president Greg Quinlan told another talk show host that gays and lesbians practice “sexual cannibalism.”
Truth Wins Out (TWO), a high-profile organization fighting anti-gay religious extremism, has covered the Montgomery school fliers, and even filed a lawsuit recently against PFOX and Greg Quinlan for defamation — Quinlan resorted to accusing TWO Executive Director, Wayne Besen, of threatening his life. Such an obvious attempt to smear TWO should only serve to further paint PFOX as the bigots that they really are.
I can only imagine the amount of bullying and self-loathing that these fliers generate. Kids are discovering their own sexuality in high school, discovering who they are.
Over the past 20 years, legal advocacy groups of the religious right – a collection of entities that now command budgets totaling over $100m per year – have been pushing a new legal theory, one that has taken hold of some parts of the popular imagination and that has even been enshrined in recent judicial rulings. The essence of the theory is that religion isn’t religion, after all; it’s really just speech from a religious viewpoint. Borrowing from the rhetoric of the civil rights movements, the advocates of the new theory cry “discrimination” in the face of every attempt to treat religion as something different from any other kind of speech.
These religious groups do not have the ability to distinguish between religious dogma and rational thought. Freedom of religion is great because it also gives us freedom from religion. We need to actively label the intolerance that these groups spew as religion, and never allow them to sneak into public schools.
I like to imagine a future that is more progressive. With hate groups like PFOX finding ways to teach their backwards ideas in public schools, the future we all want to see protected is being undermined. If you have experienced similar intolerance or bigotry, we would be happy to add your story to our continuing coverage of this most important issue.