Christian Pastors Rally To… Keep Gay Kids Bullied?
Earlier this month, New Jersey governor Chris Christie signed into law a bill aimed at protecting youth – including gay youth – from the devastating effects of bullying. It had already received overwhelming support in the state Assembly and Senate, which respectively passed it 73-1 and 30-0.
Cue the bigots:
A group of Christian pastors and rabbis led by Greg Quinlan of the faith-based family advocacy group New Jersey Family Policy Council gathered at the state house on the morning of the vote. They urged state policy members not to approve the bill. During the meeting, religious leaders expressed concern over the proposed Week of Respect, which they say will be used to teach school children about sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.
“It’s more dangerous than the gay marriage bill because it forces us to [comply with it],” coalition member Isaac Caller warned.
Greg Quinlan is one of those notorious “ex-gay” types, having found Jesus and subsequently having turned into a raging asshole. What is it about this “Week of Respect” that concerns him so much?
The week beginning with the first Monday in October of each year is designated as a “Week of Respect” in the State of New Jersey. School districts, in order to recognize the importance of character education, shall observe the week by providing age-appropriate instruction focusing on preventing harassment, intimidation, or bullying as defined in section 2 of P.L.2002, c.83 (C.18A:37-14). Throughout the school year the school district shall provide ongoing age-appropriate instruction on preventing harassment, intimidation, and bullying in accordance with the core curriculum content standards.
Interestingly, the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” appear only twice in the legislation, in this context:
(3) A definition of harassment, intimidation, or bullying that at a minimum includes any gesture, any written, verbal or physical act, or any electronic communication that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory disability, or by any other distinguishing characteristic, that takes place on the property of the institution of higher education or at any function sponsored by the institution of higher education and that:
(a) a reasonable person should know, under the circumstances, will have the effect of physically or emotionally harming a student or damaging the student’s property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm to his person or damage to his property;
(b) has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students in such a way as to cause disruption in, or interference with, the orderly operation of the institution of higher education;
(c) creates a hostile environment for the student at the institution of higher education; or
(d) infringes on the rights of the student at the institution of higher education.
That’s it: students should not be harmed, demeaned, or deprived of their rights on the basis of their (actual or perceived) sexual orientation or gender identity. That’s the concern! Note that a number of other personal characteristics – including religion – are already protected in this way.
It’s important to remember that this bill didn’t arise in a social vacuum. Gay teens are increasingly at risk of suicide, and this is an attempt to save their lives.
But hey, what’s a couple dead kids to the ideologues of neoconservative Christianity?