Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Civil liberties and homosexual rights advocates have renewed their push for community programs to bolster support in schools for homosexual youths, just weeks after voters repudiated same-sex unions in 11 state referendums.

But in northeastern Kentucky, parents and students have defied the Ashland-Boyd County school district’s “mandatory anti-harassment workshops,” part of an agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union to allow the Gay-Straight Alliances student group to meet in school buildings.

Hundreds of students opted out of the tolerance training video, and another 324 students did not show up for school the day it was shown. The ACLU has threatened to file for a court order to enforce attendance.

Joseph Platt, a Cincinnati lawyer representing parents, said “mandatory training on tolerance for homosexuals violates the right of conscience of parents and students who believe such behavior immoral.”

In Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, N.C., a lengthy cover feature in Charlotte Parent, a widely circulated shopper magazine, has brought indignant protests from churches and private schools associated with the Greater Charlotte Association of Christian Schools.

Titled “Parenting a Gay Child,” the feature offered a sympathetic account of youngsters with “same-sex attraction” and advocated community “support services and education” on behalf of homosexual children. The article supported the view of homosexual interest groups that same-sex unions are comparable to heterosexual marriage.

Van Wade, president of Christian schools association and headmaster of Carmel Christian School in Charlotte, said, “The article was very one-sided and accommodating” toward homosexuality. “No one ever said, ‘Let’s talk about the moral issues that are involved.’”

Mr. Wade said the 55,000-circulation magazine should have given alternatives to support parents “who want to help children live godly lives and pursue sexual abstinence.” The feature listed only names, addresses, telephone numbers and Web sites of a half-dozen pro-homosexual support groups.

Thomas K. Crowe, executive pastor of Charlotte’s First Baptist Church, told the magazine in a letter he provided to The Washington Times that he believed sexual preference is “an unhealthy choice/preference … that can be corrected. There are organizations and helpers available to teens and adults to live healthy lives in tune with God’s plan for men and women.”

Charlotte Parent is distributed free of charge at 800 locations. Christian leaders have said they would withdraw their advertising and ask that the magazine not be delivered again.

Church criticism was not unanimous. David Hains, spokesman for the Catholic Diocese of Charlotte, told the Charlotte World that the diocese “doesn’t find the article objectionable.”

Karen E. Conroy, the magazine’s editor and author of the feature, declined to comment but said she would address criticisms in the December issue.

William J. Maier, vice president and psychologist in residence for Focus on the Family in Boulder, Colo., said, “There is no proof that homosexuals are ‘born gay’ or that homosexuality is a ‘fixed,’ unchangeable condition,” according to the American Psychiatric Association. “No child is ‘born gay’; the notion is scientifically absurd.”

Ron Schlittler, executive director of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, said such positions perpetuate “baseless fears and misguided claims about [homosexuals], such as the tired notion that they must ‘recruit.’” Such fears are “exploited by those who wish to portray our family members and friends as some sort of danger.”

Charlotte-Mecklenburg public schools do not permit counselors to discuss sexuality with their students. Also, groups that encourage and support youths who embrace homosexuality are prohibited from advertising their activities on school property.

As a result, three years ago one such group, Time Out Youth, listed by Charlotte Parent, started a “We Are Your Gay Youth” billboard campaign along busy Charlotte streets with contact details for further information.

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