I wonder if the folks over at Focus on the Family are proud of themselves today.
Earlier this month, Focus began a concerted media effort to sink the Safe Schools Improvement Act now pending before Congress that would prevent bullying in schools. FotF mouthpiece Candi Cushman was quoted everywhere from ABC to CNN pushing against the legislation because she believes discouraging kids from taunting other kids perceived to be gay or lesbian would “promote homosexuality to kids.”
In the past few weeks, the effect of Focus’ push to block anti-bullying laws is being felt by at least three families who have lost children to suicide. Truth Wins Out compiled this list:
• Seth Walsh, the Bakersfield, CA 13-year-old who hanged himself from a tree in his back yard after years of being bullied, died Tuesday afternoon after nine days on life support. Police investigators interviewed some of the young people who taunted Seth the day he hanged himself. “Several of the kids that we talked to broke down into tears,” Police Chief Jeff Kermode said. “They had never expected an outcome such as this.”
• Asher Brown, 13, an eighth-grader killed himself last week. He shot himself in the head after enduring what his mother and stepfather say was constant harassment from four other students at Hamilton Middle School in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District in Houston Texas. Brown, his family said, was “bullied to death” – picked on for his small size, his religion and because he did not wear designer clothes and shoes. Kids also accused him of being gay, some of them performing mock gay acts on him in his physical education class, his mother and stepfather said.
• Billy (William) Lucas, 15, a student at Greensburg Community High School in Greensburg, IN, was found dead in a barn at his grandmother’s home Thursday evening — he had hanged himself. Friends say that he had been tormented for years. “He was threatened to get beat up every day,” friend and classmate Nick Hughes said. “Sometimes in classes, kids would act like they were going to punch him and stuff and push him. Some people at school called him names,” Hughes said, saying most of those names questioned Lucas’ sexual orientation.
And just to show that bullying isn’t merely a high school problem, there’s news of a Rutgers University freshman who killed himself after his roommate and a friend taped him having sex with another man and broadcast it on the Internet.
In her CNN appearance, Cushman swore that Focus believes “every child should be protected from bullying” but they, and other Christian groups, continue to fight against anti-bullying measures that would specifically target bullying against gay and lesbian students. Even though studies show that specific policies are more effective than general anti-bullying policies, Focus and their cohorts continue to fight it because they believe it demonizes Christians and gives special status to gays and lesbians.
Instead of being concerned for the actual lives of gay and lesbian children (or those perceived as gay and lesbian), Focus’ true motive is to continue its political and religious agenda at the expense of these children. Their own position paper on the subject accuses groups like the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network or GLSEN, which advocate for the gay-specific bullying policies, of using the policies to create diversity training, “evade parental rights” and “circumvent traditional marriage laws.”
While it’s true that teaching children to value each other no matter what their sexual orientation or gender identity may lead to more tolerant people — it’s disgusting to see an organization put its morality politics over the lives of children.
Making this a gay versus Christian matter belies the real motivation behind Focus’ efforts. They don’t really want to stop bullying against gays and lesbians, because that would mean that they can no longer use shame and violence to keep gays and lesbians in their place — closeted and invisible. Cushman can crow all she wants about protecting every child, but the truth is Focus has a vested interest in keeping “fag” or “dyke” as epithets to be wielded with deadly results. That’s the real immorality.