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As a result of my article about Stevenson High School’s dance for students who identify as homosexual, an English teacher sent an email to the entire Stevenson faculty denouncing Illinois Family Institute.
Her email exposes the presumptuous attitude many public educators have toward using public money to advance their particular social, political, and ethical views. They believe they are entitled to use public resources to promote their views and to attempt to transform the views of other people’s children. And they rely on public ignorance and cowardice to continue promulgating their unproven beliefs to impressionable students.
Her email also reveals beliefs commonly held by liberal educators that need to be understood, exposed, and rigorously, relentlessly, and boldly challenged.
My response addresses a number of problems with the content of her email as well as with her decision to use the District email to express her social and political views. All-district or all-school communications are not private communications.
In subsequent all-school emails by other faculty members, IFI was compared to the KKK; I was falsely accused of attacking students (stating that volitional homosexual behavior is wrong is no more an attack on students than saying promiscuous conduct is wrong constitutes an attack on students); the content of my article was described as “biased vitriol”; and my claim that homosexual conduct is immoral was called “hate speech.” One of these teachers dismissed IFI as a “mouthpiece for a particular conservative ideological agenda,” apparently not noticing that public education has for some time been a mouthpiece for a particular liberal ideological agenda on the topic of homosexuality.
Due to its length, my response will be posted in two parts. Below is the English teacher’s email, followed by Part I of my response:
I feel compelled to respond to (an article by the Illinois Family Institute) that appeared in Friday, March 6th’s Daily Digest regarding the recent Stevenson dance sponsored by the GSA. Sadly, I don’t think that it’s any secret that the topic of homosexuality is controversial, and in some sectors, vilified and viewed as immoral. Such was the viewpoint expressed in the editorial that appeared on The Family Institute website. However, this particular viewpoint went beyond criticism of the dance. The author referred to English and theatre teachers as “arrogant” and Bill Fritz’s comments about the dance as “nescient” (which I must admit made me smile. If my AP English students used such a word in an editorial I would advise them to quit using a thesaurus to inflate their prose unnecessarily) and “smarmy.” As I am puzzled by the inclusion of such vitriol from an extreme fringe group’s website in the Daily Digest, I wish to redirect anyone interested in this event to the article written by Tara Malone of the Chicago Tribune. This piece does more than reporting that the dance took place and the surrounding controversy, but also reports compelling statistics about the low academic success rate of students who feel marginalized, as well as the social and emotional wellbeing of students who benefit from the support of a Gay Straight Alliance. As academic success and social and emotional wellbeing are two overarching goals of Stevenson’s philosophy, I feel these statistics are important and newsworthy, and as such, valid for being included in the Daily Digest – which they were. However, I do not feel it a valid use of a public forum to propagate a hate-filled opinion from someone who supports book-banning. As Stevenson parent Marti Goldberg, who supervised the dance, said in the Tribune article, “I feel like I’m there to show them, ‘yes, there are adults who aren’t gong (sic) to judge you. Don’t think it’s hopeless.'” As a heterosexual wife, mother of three, and Christian, I applaud a school that adheres to the scripture “Judge not lest ye be judged.” What I don’t applaud is giving print (or electronic) space to what can only be characterized as ignorant prejudice.
1. The fact that this teacher presumed to send an email to the entire faculty at Stevenson High School espousing her views on the controversial issue of homosexuality shows that she hasn’t considered or doesn’t care that some faculty members may hold different views than she does. In addition, it is troubling that a public school teacher would send out an email that could be construed as libelous, offensive, or inflammatory. At many high schools, if a faculty member were to send an email like this to the entire faculty, an administrator would have a stern conversation with him or her.
2. My description of many English teachers as arrogant offended this teacher. It is my observation, however, that through classroom comments, curricular selections, and now all-school emails, many English teachers, though certainly not all, reveal a flagrant disregard for the values, beliefs, and desires of those who are conservative. By using public education to advance personal convictions, teachers arrogate to themselves a right that is not legitimately theirs.
3. It’s surprising that this teacher explicitly appealed to her Christian faith, applauding Stevenson for adhering to New Testament principles. I would expect that many of her colleagues would rise up in indignation over her attempt to violate the sacrosanct “wall of separation” between church and the state. Did they take umbrage at her apparent desire to impose her religious views on everyone at Stevenson High School?
4. If this teacher were to read the Bible more carefully, she would learn that the Bible is one of the “sectors” that “vilifies” homosexuality and views it as immoral.
5. As a Christian, she should be troubled that Stevenson administrators permit a dance for teens who affirm that which God finds profoundly wrong.
6. This teacher misinterprets the verse “Judge not lest ye be judged.” It means that we are not to engage in unrighteous judgment. We are not to hypocritically condemn the speck in the eye of others while ignoring the plank in our own. We’re to recognize the universality of sin and offer forgiveness as we have been forgiven. This verse does not entail a refusal to judge between right and wrong behavior. It does not prohibit humans from making distinctions between moral and immoral conduct. We forfeit a right to a civil and just society when we forfeit the right to make public statements regarding what constitutes moral or immoral behavior. Since it’s clear from this teacher’s description of me and Illinois Family Institute as hate-filled, ignorant, prejudiced, extreme, and fringe that she has no reticence about being judgmental. So, what precisely does she mean when she harrumphs that one ought not to be judgmental? It seems that what she means is that others ought not to make moral judgments with which she disagrees.
She might find it illuminating to study these verses from the very same Bible that she quoted in her email: “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24), and “The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice” (Psalms 37:30). She also may recall that Jesus Christ, her Lord and Savior, judged as wrong the following: anger against our brothers, lust, adultery, divorce, oath-breaking, retaliation, hatred toward our enemies, pride, hypocrisy, acquisitiveness, and worry about our material existence.
Finally, she might also want to consider that the very foundations of our legal and judicial systems are based on society’s recognition that making moral judgments is essential to a civil and just society.
7. In her email, this teacher has perpetuated the pernicious deceit that those who believe that homosexual behavior is immoral hate those who identify as homosexual. Perhaps she hates those whose moral choices she disagrees with, but she ought not to project her experiences on to others. Many people, perhaps most, are fully capable of loving those whose volitional behavior they find immoral and whose moral views they find flawed. Does she think that public statements regarding the immorality of consensual incest, polyamory, selfishness, lying, or greed constitute hatred toward those who engage in incestuous, polyamorous, selfish, greedy, or deceitful behavior?
8. Since this teacher professes to be a Christian and cites Scripture to support her views, does she also hope that her school will take heed of the principles embodied in Romans 1:26-27 that says “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion,” and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 that says “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God,”? Those two verses embody a fair number of public moral judgments.
Part II to be posted tomorrow — stay tuned!