Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Gay Rights vs. Parental Rights

I have been known to express concerns about the movement to push forward gay rights. This issue is always so tricky to discuss. It's not just "an issue" -- on either side, it involves real people with real concerns. Let me make it clear that I realize this. This issue is not far from my own life, as I have loved ones who live the often diffucult life of a homosexual. I know a little of the struggle that this can be, especially when compounded by a religious faith that doesn't support such a lifestyle. I am not cold-hearted about this, and yet I have strong feelings about the topic.

Some want to claim that anyone who takes a position against gay marriage is hateful, lacks compassion, and wants to force religion on other people. I think this is unfair. We need to be able to talk about the issue respectfully, and I rarely see that done. I also think that the issue is not as clear-cut and innocuous as gay rights supporters want to make it out to be, and this is something I want to address.

I thought I would share some of the reasons why I am concerned about the momentum gay rights are gaining in our country. To sum up some of my concerns: I think they might in fact be threatening the rights of others. In this post, my focus is on parental rights, particularly as they relate to school curriculum. If I can pull other thoughts together, I might address other concerns such as free speech and religious rights in future posts. (This is as much for me to clarify and consolidate my thoughts as it is to share them, so if all this does is boil your blood, perhaps you should just stop reading now. :) )

In Massachusetts (one of the states leading out in support of gay rights), U.S. District Judge Mark L. Wolf ruled that: "The constitutional right of parents to raise their children does not include the right to restrict what a public school may teach their children." Children as young as five (!!) have been exposed to information or concepts related to homosexuality, and parents have been told they cannot even opt their children out of such classroom teaching. They are basically told, "take it or leave it." Shouldn't taxpayers at one level, and parents especially, have some input or influence over school curriculum? Apparently not when it comes to homosexuality. (You can read the judge's written opinion here.)

(I wonder: Would the judge or the school demand that a parent "take it or leave it" if they were concerned about elements of the math curriculum or some other subject that doesn't involve such a hot-button topic? I have to doubt that they would....)

I find it interesting, though, that the same restrictions on parental rights don't seem to hold if generic religion is ever brought into the curriculum, even indirectly. Parents can protest such supposed
"offensive exposure" (think Pledge of Allegiance, for example), but when it comes to religious parents wanting to opt out of indoctrination that violates their religious beliefs, then the rights are restricted. I fear that the religion of the secular often gets favored status when it comes to "rights" -- and often at the expense of the rights of others.

I'm not thrilled that we have removed God from our schools and our public language. But I can understand wanting to give people the right to believe as they do and not make others' points of view feel "forced" on them. But then this needs to be consistent. I expect that I and my children should be offered the same right, including opting out of offensive teaching without being told to "hit the road." If we are going to protect those who don't believe and don't want their children exposed to religious belief, we ought to protect those who do believe and don't want to be exposed to things that violate their religious beliefs.

Another concerning situation has been discovered in Illinois. Freshman students at Deerfield High School were asked to sign a confidentiality agreement committing to keep secret the content in a "Freshman Advisory" class. They were told they couldn't even tell their parents! Students who didn't want to sign were basically pressured to do so (although apprently at least one student signed the document only after altering it). Apparently the content of this class around this time was focused on the gay agenda. (More information can be found here and here.)

Incidentally, giving a legal contract to a minor is illegal, so this agreement was either against the law or not legally binding. But would students know this (either way)? The contract surely appeared legal to these students, if not at least threatening. Clearly this was an effort to control and intimidate students to submit them to homosexual activism -- and then to deliberately hide it from the parents!

Apparently, this freshman class has also been used to teach about deviant heterosexual behavior. (Nevermind the fact that this is offensive content to many parents for a moment -- I fail to see what the academic justification for this is!) As parents and other concerned citizens started to realize that this class might not be something they wanted their youth to have, they requested to see copies of the materials for the class. Legally, this information should be accessible (per Illinois state law), but is kept behind a private portal of some sort. These requests for access to the class information have been denied.

Sooo.... Some questions I have swimming in my mind are these:

-If the gay agenda were simply about love and respect for all, why is there such deception and illegal and inappropriate control mingled with it? (NOTE: I speak collectively and not individually. I'm sure there are some who really only care about their personal lives and getting the rights they want. I am not addressing these people, but rather those who are behind such actions and motives as the above.)
-Why does this agenda include such devious efforts to get children exposed to and swayed by the bias of people who really have no right to tread on ground that is considered sacred to many? (Their motives seem highly suspect here and I think I could pretty accurately guess what their thinking is. And I am deeply concerned that they are willing to pull unsuspecting children into their battle. I still can't get over the fact that school officials, teachers, counselors, whoever would have the gall to demand that students be dishonest with their parents, knowing that many would be opposed to what was happening. I should add, too, that students who oppose such things are ostracized by other students. Where is the protection for them when they are harassed? Such harassment is never allowed toward gays. Again, another example of double standards with all of this.)
- What logic do gay rights activists hold to if, in their clamoring for rights they are willing to push the rights of religious people whose views differ to the side?
- If gay rights' activists protest the government's involvement in marriage and family life, why are they not bothered by the government's interference in the teaching of children on topics that for many are deeply religious -- a key element of their family life? The state's growing religion of secularism appears to me to be increasingly forced (without choice!) on more and more children. The whole reason for separation of Church and state as I understand it is to prevent compulsory, across-the-board indoctrination on religious principles. Since this issue involves religious principles for so many, a forced preaching of homosexuality seems to violate that principle in my mind. (Although I'm certainly no lawyer.) :)

In conclusion, it is very difficult for me to believe those who say that the gay rights movement doesn't or won't harm anyone, when from where I sit, I think they have already caused trouble. I can't help but think this is only the beginning of such trouble if we continue to let gay rights dictate the decisions made about what is and is not legal and appropriate. I think there is more to this issue than meets the eye.

----

A note about comments: I realize this is an issue many people are tired of discussing. If that describes you, please feel free to ignore what I have said. It might be better if you do. :) I also realize how strongly people can feel about this topic. I respectfully ask that any comments be about the information and the situations I have brought up, and not include personal attacks or bullying. If you have evidence to counter my concerns, by all means, feel free to share. I don't pretend to have a full understanding of this issue.

I do moderate comments. Inflammatory, attacking comments will either be edited or left out entirely. I don't expect that everyone will agree, and I'm open to listening to any point of view as long as it keeps on the topic at hand and I feel it remains respectful. Thank you.

24 comments:

M&M said...

p.s. If your comment doesn't appear right away, hang tight. I don't usually get to my computer until lunchtime, and I have sick kids and a messy house that need my attention. Please be patient with any delays. I'll do my best to keep up with any comments that are made, both in moderating and responding, but response probably won't be immediate.

Eric Nielson said...

It concerns me that we have moved so far away....

I think we should take schools back to teaching reading writing and arithmetic and leave most everything else to the parents. I am afraid this may be the only solution.

Connor said...

Good post. I think that a distinction needs to be made about what "rights" are. Rights are individual in nature, and groups are not inherently given rights. The Boy Scouts don't have any "rights", Greenpeace doesn't have any "rights", nor does any other group of two or more people.

So when we talk about "gay rights", I think it should be understood that pro-gay activists are talking about "gay marriage rights", since homosexual individuals by and large have as many rights as the rest of us individuals. Where there is bigotry and discrimination towards the individual, such should be remedied, but no group (including a pair of homosexuals) inherently has any "rights", other than those which the higher institution (government) sees fit to bestow.

I'm always amazed at the saturated hypocrisy that is everywhere prevalent among these activists. They cry out for tolerance when they do not render the same for those with opposing views. Anybody who speaks out against their agenda is labeled as a hatemongering bigot. What ludicrousy! Should they wish to advance their cause they should allow me the same privilege.

M&M said...

Eric,
I think you may be right about "the only solution." Somehow I doubt that will happen.

Connor, I think that pro-gay activists are seeking more than just marriage rights, or they wouldn't be making a fuss about people's thinking and speech as well, or trying to indoctrinate children on the supposed normalcy and acceptable nature of homosexuality. This is part of the reason I want to write about this...because my concern goes beyond just protecting marriage, although that is a concern.

lief said...

M & M,

I agree that some in the gay rights movement advocate various forms of social re-education above and beyond the recognized right to marry.

However, I think that certain quasi-religious groups have learned how to make a profit by demonizing minority activists in our country - your links to Focus on the Family and the Concerned Mothers groups as sources for news stories about the freshman contract incident are telling. Do you have any mainstream news links for this story?

M&M said...

lief,
This is a fair question and critique. One of the difficulties surrounding this issue is that it's often hard to get objective information -- on either side. (The first story is one that the GLBT community has talked about as well, of course from the point of view that it was a "victory" -- so we could run into trouble either way, ya know?)

What would you consider a "mainstream" source, and how much information about this issue do you really think we can get from such sources? It seems to me that a lot of information surrounding this issue often comes from more biased sources. Thoughts?

M&M said...

Also, when you say the fact that I cited the sources I did was "telling" what do you mean to say/imply?

lief said...

M & M,

I guess I could google the story, but I was trying to point out that groups like Focus on the Family, in my mind, sensationalize stories because 1) its profitable, and 2) the only consumers of these stories are like minded individuals.

For starters on a conservative-biased note - how about the Washington Times, Fox News, or the Wall Street Journal? If illegal contracts of secrecy were really forced on freshman students, I would bet that the local Chicago news would have picked it up.

Given that every news source is potentially biased I think it is useful to look at a story from a variety of sources to triangulate the truth of the matter rather than look to one source just because it confirms what I am predisposed to believe.

Connor said...

Michelle,

Since you indicate that your interest in this matter goes beyond marriage to child indoctrination, perhaps you'd be interested in reading this article and this one as well.

Eek.

M&M said...

Lief,
Thanks for your response. I agree that we need to be careful about just jumping on any bandwagon just because we read something (I'm obviously restating what you are saying with my own thoughts...hope that is not too far off).

The challenge I see, though, is that sometimes we only get news about tough issues from those who care about them. I want to be careful about looking to special groups too much and I don't always agree with the hype that surrounds some of the issues these groups bring out, but sometimes, it's hard to get information about things that I think are relevant elsewhere. A liberal-sided paper probably wouldn't care much about finding out what a freshman class was teaching. It was because some conservative groups were concerned that the information was discovered. After all, they were trying to keep things secret. Groups that want homosexuality taught in the schools aren't going to care about exposing it. And in today's world, we rarely get media coverage without some sort of bias, ya know? Again, I totally see your point, but I'm not always sure we can get all our information without some sort of bias.

All of that said, though, this is a really important issue to raise and one I was thinking about even as I wrote. So thanks for bringing it up.

RoAnn said...

m&m, you may want to check out this Chicago Tribune story on the Deerfield High situation to see what appeared in mainstream media.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-070307gay-school,1,5590132.story?coll=chi-news-hed&ctrack=1&cset=true

M&M said...

Thanks for the link RoAnn!

Doug Towers said...

m&m

I wholeheartedly agree with you. Schools are just in far too strong a position, as are judges and lawyers.

My children were constantly being shown M rated movies at primary school (I believe you use the term "elementary school"). Teachers are above the law, in practice.

Steven B said...

m&m, As I have followed these and similar stories over the past year, I have the impression that social conservatives have been blowing these events way out of proportion. For example, an instructor wishes to teach about diversity, and help better prepare students for the real world around them. So there may be a discussion about different types of families, which would, naturally, include families headed by same-sex couples. The anti-gay conservatives respond by crying that the school is "teaching homosexuality," as if they are demonstrating condom handling to pre-schoolers. (I wasn't there, so I am only giving my impression as I have read the reports.)

I happen to have a young man who lives in our home who is gay. He did not finish high school. Why? Gay bullying. And not just taunts and slurs, physically attacked. Mistreatment of gay youths happens all the time. It is a reality that many educators are taking steps to change. How? By teaching that homosexuality exists in the human species, and encouraging students to treat all people with respect. Isn't that what the "homosexual agenda" is really all about?

arielle said...

First off, even as a lesbian, I've always been uncomfortable with the pamphlets given to people about homosexuality. In what I believe is a sincere intent to help keep gay kids safe, they end up asserting many things that I don't think we really know. I don't really know that I could be confident, for example, in answering the questions: What does it mean to be gay?, How can you tell if you're gay? etc. To me, those questions are way too complicated to be summed up quickly on a pamphlet. And not allowing parents to come, seems a little bizarre, but I could imagine being afraid that several parents with strong feelings could lead to the meeting getting out of hand, hurtful, even violent.

Still, I wonder how often that type of thing really happens. I also think a good portion of what was going on was not "teaching homosexuality" but rather a few gay people telling their stories in an attempt to promote tolerance and nonviolence. And they might be making kids sign a contract in order to protect the public anonymity of people who put themselves in a vulnerable position by coming out.

Still, I understand being wary of a "gay agenda" to teach kids that homosexuality is okay, if you believe otherwise. Let's understand that most gay people don't think, "Hey, let's secretly tell kids to be gay!" Mostly, gay people's agenda consists of wanting same-sex marriage and promoting social acceptance of gay people so that we won't be socially, physically, psychologically, and economically hurt.

I'm sure some gay people have taken it too far, just as some conservatives take their cause too far, but I think most of us (gays, liberals, and conservatives) can be reasonable. I think that most of us can agree that we wouldn't want children to not be able to discuss the school days' events with their parents, and I think most of us can agree that hate crime legislation for gay hate crimes is a good idea. Maybe I'm wrong. Anyway, my "gay agenda" would be to have schools include in their occasional diversity presentations the idea that, no matter our religious beliefs, we should not persecute individuals for their apparent or actual sexual orientation. We might also mention that as far as we can tell scientifically, homosexuality isn't a choice. That could lead to a great discussion on nature versus nurture for the kids.

m&m, it seems to me that all the arguments you present begin with the belief that homosexuality is wrong and detrimental to society and individuals. Are there reasons besides your religious beliefs that you think this though? In case that didn't make sense, you said in another forum that you had reasons other than your religious beliefs to oppose gay marriage (thus still allowing for the separation of church and state). The reasons you've stated here though are all only problems if homosexuality is actually wrong.

I guess every generation goes through this process of some people thinking we're on a slippery slope if we allow this one more thing and other people thinking the former are using the same rhetoric to oppose gay rights as we did for black rights for so long and with the same negative effects. I come down on the side of not thinking it's really possible to be 100% sure which is the case.

M&M said...

Arielle,
Thanks for stopping by. I'm working on a post that perhaps addresses your question of some of the less religious aspects.

That said, I'm not sure I agree that everything I have said is only applicable if homosexual behavior and gay marriage are wrong. I believe having rights as a parent is not simply a religious issue. If parents don't have a say, don't have the right to knowledge of what their children are being taught (regardless of the specifics of the content), that in my opinion is wrong. Parents, as the legal guardians of children and also as taxpayers who help make public school possible, have rights to know what is going on at the schools their children attend, and to have input in whether their children will attend a class a parent might be uncomfortable with.

And I agree with your idea that this is probably not something that happens all of the time, but that doesn't mean we might not see more of this kind of thing if gay marriage is accepted across the board. My concerns rest mostly with the activists, because whether you or I like it, they WILL take this and run. I am convinced of that. This won't just be about your relationships or my marriage. I just tend to think that there will be more effect on society like what was discussed here.

You also bring up hate crimes to protect gays. To be honest, just to give you another "non-religious" idea, a rights issue, such legislation is not a clear-cut OK thing in my book. Again, there are already instances of people being punished (in the workplace, at school) for expressing their thoughts on gay marriage. If such legislation is passed, I fear it could violate rights of free speech for those who believe that gay marriage, etc. are not right. Yes, we believe in a separation of church and state (which I think means something different than how it's usually used: it just means not having a state-supported church/religion like England did. Anyway, though, we each have the right to have our opinions/beliefs on this matter. If hate crime legistlation passes, I am concerned that free speech and freedom of religion might be at risk. (Did you read that article I linked at FMH? I think it gets to some of my other concerns as well...about how religious rights might be at risk.)

Thanks again for stopping by. I appreciate being able to have a dialogue. Feel free to share thoughts in return. Like I said in the original post, I don't pretend to know everything about this topic. :)

M&M said...

BTW, Arielle, I realize that hate crimes legislation itself won't be about simply talking about one's viewpoint, but I still think, given what I have read with what little experience we have with this issue, that there is the potential for that to happen. Like I said, there are people already being punished, perhaps not legally, but personally and professionally, for having a viewpoint that isn't consistent with the gay rights movement. Tolerance, if it is to have value, MUST go both ways. So often, though, it doesn't.

In fact, that is yet another concern I have with this issue. We already see a society seeking to remove God from everything, and by so doing, it is removing the rights of people who believe in Him to be public about that belief. The law can't only protect one side of the coin.

Also, I'm still not convinced about this "gay marriage is a civil right" thing. The discussion elsewhere seems to indicate that that is not all clear-cut. If marriage is a civil right, we have to define what marriage means, and that is indeed what the whole issue becomes about. If there is a difference in point of view about what that should mean, the voice of the people shoudl determine it. So far, it's mostly been small groups of judges making decisions that might support gay marriage, contrary to the voice of the people. Not exactly the way I think things are supposed to work.

Yet another concern about this issue.

(Don't know if any of these things are helping....)

M&M said...

Arielle,
Now you might be sorry that you asked, but since this is all on my mind now tonite, perhaps this link will also explain and repeat some of my concerns.

http://judiciary.senate.gov/testimony.cfm?id=1641&wit_id=4717

arielle said...

I don't know who's making decisions like the one to keep parents from knowing what their children are being taught. I suppose it could be the HRC or something. I agree that some of the leaders of gay groups tend to want to plod on with a vigor that some of society doesn't feel is acceptable. To them, the issue is as clear cut as racial rights, and they act accordingly. I don't always know what's right, but I don't think it's a necessary consequence of gay marriage that kids would be taught things behind their parents backs. To me, that sounds like it might be coming from some problematic leadership. Apparently I'm just going to have to go and take over whoever controls the gay agenda so we can work out some compromises.

Yeah and as I was raised a Mormon, I understand feeling persecuted in some ways for my beliefs, especially as I was a fairly vocal kid, so I care about religious tolerance just as I do gay tolerance. But you have to admit that at this point gay kids are in more serious danger of being seriously attacked than a kid who says he believes homosexuality is wrong. In their rush to be PC, some schools probably are being overzealous in their punishment of kids who express opinions, and that's not cool. I would've raised hell at my school had I ever gotten in trouble for just expressing a religious view.

So I guess my point is that I wish we could all just be reasonable about these things, but humans are making mistakes on both sides even when they have good intentions. I really am going to have to work my way up through the gay movement so that I can try and fix things and make them as acceptable as possible for everyone. Maybe I'm a gay Mormon for that purpose :)

Oh and I don't know about technical judicial crap about what is and isn't a right. I think we'd be better off leaving marriage to churches and contracts to the state. But again, the thing about the people voting and the judges issue comes back to the analogy about civil rights for blacks. Left as a vote to the people, black people in many states wouldn't have gotten a lot of the rights and protection they have now. Gay people hope for the nat'l government's help and protection from the majority just as black people did.

So anyway, let's say I got to control "the gay agenda" and wouldn't allow any of this secrecy from parents business or punishment for expressing religious views on homosexuality, what would be the non-religious problem with gay marriage at that point?

M&M said...

Arielle,
Like I said, I'm organizing my thoughts more on this. But in a sense, your hypothetical is in my mind very possibly impossible. I respect your desire to tone down the gay activist agenda. Unfortunately, I just don't see that happening. By the time you might get to do anything, I suspect it might be too late. The concern I have is that already, these kinds of things are happening, and that's without a lot of legal backing for the gay activism that has begun. You asked for non-religious reasons, and these are some of them, not based just on my religious beliefs, but on what I believe are my rights.

But still, I hope to get to your question.

Anonymous said...

m&m,

I'm curious to know more about the stories of your loved ones who are homosexual. Also, based on your beliefs and opinions on this matter, what do you teach your children about homosexuality? Is it something that is discussed at all? Do they have interactions with your loved ones who are homosexual? I'm curious what that all looks like.

Lisa LeMoyne said...

This site is wonderful and rare. A discussion forum with well reasoned, respectful views from both sides. Thanks M&M.
Doug, you are obviously Australian, as am I. The equivalent US rating for an M rated movie is PG13. And yes, I agree it is not good to be showing them to primary (elementary school) children.
As for the topic at hand, I have children to take to school, but hope to post something later today.
Two thoughts though, are Gay Marriage Rights and/or the LGBT movement religious or secular topics?
And what defines 'wrong' when it comes to homosexuality? Or is the question perhaps is the practice of homosexuality detrimental to the individual, to the family, to society?

Lisa LeMoyne said...

I am currently seeking to educate myself better on the issues surrounding homosexuality, religion and our society (I mean greater democratic western society, I don't live in the US)

I don't have time for a big post and also have no idea how old this thread is or if anyone is still reading it. So here's my thoughts on one of the issues discussed.

Civil rights in Massachusetts:

Homosexuality, LGBT marriage rights and religion have become issues entwined in recent years. Because of differing human beliefs and opinions they have been hotly and emotionally contested. This is part of human nature and one of the great things in democratic western society. However it does mean that somethings can become clouded by passionate, emotional argument.

Lets us put aside all questions of religion and LGBT rights for a moment and cut to the heart of the issue. Are parental and civil rights being violated in Massachusetts?

Excerpt from UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS
DAVID PARKER, ET AL. vs WILLIAM HURLEY, ET AL.

"They [David Parker, et al.] also contend that the defendants have violated the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, including the statute that requires that parents be given notice and an opportunity to exempt their children from any curriculum that "primarily involves human sexual education or human sexuality issues." M.G.L. c. 71, §32A." http://pacer.mad.uscourts.gov/dc/cgi-bin/recentops.pl?filename=wolf/pdf/parker%20opinion%20mlw.pdf pg3.

Does Massachusetts state law provide that parents be given notice and an opportunity to exempt their children from any curriculum that primarily involves human sexual education or human sexuality issues?
- Yes.

Does discussion or education on homosexuality primarily involve human sexual education or human sexuality issues?
- Yes.

Were the parents informed or given a chance to exempt their children?
- No.

Was the law violated?
- Yes.

So are parental and civil rights (granted under this law) being violated in Massachusetts?
- Yes.

Whether or not the defendants had the right to privately contest the violation of that law does not change that it was violated. Since rights are attached to the laws that govern them, if the law was violated so were their rights. That definitively settles the issue for me.

m_and_m said...

Lisa,
Just wanted you to know I'm reading your comments...haven't had a lot of time to respond.

I'd be interested in more of your thoughts.

I wrote about this issue more recently here if you are interested...in which I discussed my concerns about gay marriage, concerns that aren't tied specifically to my religious beliefs per se.

I'd be interested in your thoughts -- and your answers to your questions you posted. :)