Professorial �termites� and the ongoing prosecution of diversity, equality, and civility
By Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
Online Journal Guest Writer

Mar 31, 2006, 20:23

�Diversity Day.� Sounds like a good idea, but as reported �for the second time Viroqua High School [in Wisconsin] has cancelled Diversity Day. . . . Speakers were to have included representatives of the African American, Latino, Jewish, Muslim, Native American and gay communities,� as well as speakers from other minority groups such as Hmong (an Asian ethnic group), Buddhists, the physically disadvantaged and the economically disadvantaged. So why was it cancelled again this year?

�Diversity Day in 2004, was canceled after several hundred people signed a petition opposing a speaker on LGBT issues� [link added]. According to World Net Daily, this year�s event was cancelled "after the Florida-based public-interest legal group Liberty Counsel raised a potential challenge, insisting the program include the viewpoint of a former homosexual."

"This time, a fax from Liberty Counsel stated local pastor Don Greven of Bad Axe Lutheran Church and the grandfather of a senior at the high school raised concerns about no Christian, or formerly homosexual, viewpoint being included among the speakers."

�'By excluding the Christian and ex-gay viewpoints, the (Viroqua) District violates the Establishment Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection,' the group said."

Liberty Council intimated legal action if the Diversity Day event were held. According to the Montana News Association:

On March 9, Liberty Counsel sent a letter to the District Administrator, explaining that the censorship of the viewpoints of Christians and former homosexuals violated the Establishment Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection guarantee. Liberty Counsel sent another letter on March 14 to the District Administrator and Board of Education. Two days later, the District Administrator confirmed in a telephone call that Diversity Day had been cancelled.

Mathew D. Staver, president and general counsel of Liberty Counsel, stated: �We are pleased that the District cancelled Diversity Day instead of censoring the viewpoints of Christians and former homosexuals. One of the Diversity Day organizers labeled the former homosexual�s viewpoint as �non-positive.� This is yet another attempt to indoctrinate our youth with the harmful message that homosexuals cannot change. While touting the message of tolerance, homosexual activists refuse to be tolerant of opposing viewpoints. Our youth deserve to know the truth about homosexuality � that people can choose to overcome same-sex attractions and that acting on those attractions results in devastating physical, mental, and spiritual consequences.� [italics added]

As for attorney Staver�s endorsement of so-called �ex-gay� therapies, according to the American Medical Association, �there is no published scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of reparative therapy as a treatment to change one�s sexual orientation.� The AMA �does not recommend aversion therapy for gay men and lesbians.�

The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees, stating �therapy directed at specifically changing sexual orientation is contraindicated, since it can provoke guilt and anxiety while having little or no potential for achieving changes in orientation.�

The American Psychological Association has stated that �groups who try to change the sexual orientation of people through so-called conversion therapy are misguided and run the risk of causing a great deal of psychological harm to those they say they are trying to help.�

The American Psychiatric Association concurs: �gay men and lesbians who have accepted their sexual orientation positively are better adjusted than those who have not done so. . . . The potential risks of �reparative therapy� are great, including depression, anxiety and self-destructive behavior.� The American Psychiatric Association�s position statement is quite clear. It states, in part, �efforts to repathologize homosexuality by claiming that it can be cured are often guided not by rigorous scientific or psychiatric research, but sometimes by religious and political forces opposed to full civil rights for gay men and lesbians.�

Other professional organizations that agree attempting to change a person�s sexual orientation is dangerous, destructive and counterproductive include the American Counseling Association, the National Association of School Psychologists, and the National Association of Social Workers. In 1999, both the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association decried �ex-gay therapies� as �unethical.�

But Mr. Staver�s endorsement of such �unethical� therapies does make sense. According to their about us:

Recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) organization, Liberty Counsel is funded by donations from concerned individuals, churches and organizations across the country. Donations to this ministry are tax-deductible. [italics added]

Note the last, clickable line: �this ministry.� That would account for their faith-based belief in �ex-gay� therapies that have zero medical validity. Connections tell the tale. According to People for the American Way:

Established in 1989, the Orlando, Florida-based Liberty Counsel provides information on �First Amendment religious rights, and legal defense to defend those rights.� The group boasts over 400 affiliate attorneys throughout the United States. In 2000, Liberty Counsel merged organizational resources with Dr. Jerry Falwell Ministries. [italics added]

Mathew D. Staver has been particularly active � and successful � in fighting against equal civil rights for gay and lesbian Americans, fighting for an American Christian theocracy, and fighting against �diversity.� Mr. Staver was �pleased� that Viroqua High�s Diversity Day was cancelled. It wasn�t the kind of �diversity� Liberty Council supports, as was made clear by Mr. Staver�s arguments against allowing students to even hear about �diversity� at Christian colleges and universities:

Mat Staver, president of the Florida-based group Liberty Counsel, says Christian schools like Liberty University are willing to share the gospel message of Christ with homosexuals who are not acting confrontationally. However, he contends, Christian schools have no obligation to welcome militant homosexuals on campus.

�When people like Mel White and his group Soulforce decide to make a very political, highly publicized event -- and not simply to come on campus but to make a political statement as they are doing with this so-called tour across the country � I believe it�s the right of private universities and colleges to exclude their entry into the university or college area,� Staver says. . .

The Soulforce members involved in the so-called Equality Ride tour are acting militantly and not peacefully, Staver contends. Therefore, he feels Christian schools have ever right to refuse to welcome these activists on their campuses. [links added]

Staver and Liberty Council opposed Viroqua High�s Diversity Day because it did not include �Christian� and �ex-gay� speakers, but they found it appropriate to urge that gay speakers not be given access to or a voice at �Christian� schools. So much for �academic freedom� and �diversity.�

Is insinuating legal action against a school district that can hardly afford an extended legal battle �confrontational�? Is Liberty Council�s well publicized legal intimidation �militant� and �confrontational�? Aren�t Liberty Council�s highly publicized actions also �political�? A Christian political-social agenda is, after all, what Liberty Council is all about. The organization is one of the anti-gay signatories of Rev. Don Wildmon�s and the American Family Association�s current boycott of Ford Motor Company for its egregious sins of supporting civil equality and advertising in gay-related publications. (Wildmon�s AFA is also irate that Wal-Mart will be selling the Brokeback Mountain DVD.)

Liberty Council�s crusading president and general counsel is adept at intimidating schools and school districts with legal action. Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr.�s article �Time to stop hiding behind the Bible: Scripture seems to be taken literally only when it�s convenient � such as with gay issues� put it bluntly and simply: �I�ve had it up to here with the moral hypocrisy and intellectual constipation of Bible literalists.� Mr. Pitts was writing an open letter to Donna Reddick, �a teacher who condemned homosexuality as part of a broadcast at Miami Sunset Senior High.�

In a March 24 Agape Press article, Mr. Staver made his usual theocratic comments and implied threats in a piece titled, �Staver: Teacher�s Bible-Based Opinion on Homosexuality No Grounds for Discipline[,] Attorney Suggests School Wouldn�t Win a Court Case If It Comes to That�:

Staver also expresses his opinion that Principal Cox [of Miami Sunset Senior High] is wrong to suggest that Reddick's comments violate the so-called �separation of state� or �discriminate against sexual preference.� . . .

�Everything was pro-homosexuality except for one comment on the last day,� Staver says, �and that�s the comment by this teacher, Donna Reddick. And she clearly was able, in that context, to give her own personal view based upon Scripture being contrary to homosexuality.� [italics added]

�Pro-homosexual� is a favorite phrase of the Christian Right. Most people call it �respect for other people.�

One has to wonder if Mr. Staver would make the same �constitutional rights� argument if a teacher used �Scripture� to speak against Jews or Blacks, divorce, working on the Sabbath or eating shellfish, all of which are also condemned in the Bible.

Staver believes the school might end up facing a lawsuit if it chooses to take action against Reddick because some find her viewpoint objectionable. �I think if the school does anything to censor her or to discipline her [it] would be a violation of her constitutional rights, subjecting the school to a lawsuit I don�t believe that they will win,� he says.

Of course Liberty Council supporter Jerry Falwell had some �thoughts� on the cancellation of Viroqua High�s Diversity Day: �earlier this week, in Wisconsin, a high school official cancelled a so-called �diversity day� when it was learned that a group of Christians, including former homosexuals, wanted to present Bible-based perspectives on homosexuality.�

�Present Bible-based perspectives�? Wouldn�t that be preaching religion in a public school? At last check, that was unconstitutional.

The chancellor of Liberty University � where twenty-four Soulforce Equality Riders were arrested for advocating �diversity� � ended his commentary with �There is no level playing field when it comes to the religious freedoms of conservative people of faith. We are literally viewed as second-class citizens by many in leadership in this nation.� Falwell and the Christian Right do so love to play victim as they victimize everyone and anyone who doesn�t agree with them.

Equality Riders were also arrested at Pat Robertson�s Regents University and at ultra-conservative Oral Roberts University. Despite Liberty Council�s feigned defense of �true diversity,� the concept is forbidden at these �Christian� universities. Hypocrisy, pure and simple.

The Equality Riders also visited Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee. Until this year Oklahoma Baptist had �banned not only the enrollment of gay and lesbian students but also the enrollment of straights who support gays and gay rights� [italics added]. But according to the March 25, 2006 report from, �there were no problems at Oklahoma Baptist. The riders spoke, prayed and sang with students.�

That may be because the school�s policy changed slightly this year: �No longer are straights who support gay issues banned from attending OBU, but GLBT people remain unable to attend openly.� But that change didn�t set well with some �Christian� lawmakers in Oklahoma: "while the riders were making inroads with students at the university, in Oklahoma City the state school board was overturning a policy protecting gay students from discrimination from teachers.

"The previous policy stated that teachers could not 'deny benefits to any student' or 'grant any advantage to any student� based on sexual orientation. The new policy reads, 'the teacher shall comply with all federal and state anti-discrimination laws.' Federal and state laws do not protect students on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity."

How devious and just plain bigoted can you get? And speaking of devious bigots, Lou Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition didn�t want to be left out of any anti-gay activities. Since he doesn�t have his own university, he�s calling upon the flock to support Rep. John Boehner�s Higher Education Act (H.R. 609), legislation spearheaded by David Horowitz whose real goal is to destroy �academic freedom� and �diversity� by encouraging and enabling ultra-conservatives and religious fundamentalists to strike out � legally and with impunity � at anyone who disagrees with them or challenges their far-right ideology.

According to a report by People for the American Way:

On the 700 Club on Tuesday, March 21, 2006 former Republican Presidential candidate Rev. Pat Robertson displayed characteristic anger and frustration at what right-wingers proclaim is another manifestation of liberalism in this country while reviewing (and hawking for sale on the CBN website) the new book by extremist David Horowitz titled, �The Professors: The 101 most dangerous academics in America.� Robertson waxed glowingly about the book which he says sheds light on the radical academics at American universities claiming, however, that it is just a �short list� of the �thirty to forty thousand� left wing professors who he calls �termites that have worked into the woodwork of our academic society and it�s APPALLING.�

Rev. Robertson launched an attack on �radical� liberal professors saying; �They are racists, murderers, sexual deviants and supporters of Al-Qaeda � and they could be teaching your kids!� Later in the program he told his viewers, �These guys are out and out communists, they are radicals, they are, you know, some of them killers, and they are propagandists of the first order . . . you don�t want your child to be brainwashed by these radicals, you just don�t want it to happen. Not only brainwashed but beat up, they beat these people up, cower them into submission. AGGGHHH!!!!� [�Rev. Robertson� link added; bold type was in the original report]

Section 103 of H.R. 609 that Horowitz, Sheldon and Robertson are pushing �is designed to prohibit colleges receiving federal funds from denying students benefits or discriminating against them because of their political or religious beliefs.� (Check out the new �Conservative Tees� ad on Horowitz�s website, then look up the word �hypocrite.�)

�Political or religious beliefs.� Horowitz, Sheldon and the rest of the Christian Right like that wording because it allows them to encourage discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation. A recent example came from the Burlington Free Press:

An Outright Vermont presentation at Williston Central School was canceled Thursday [March 23, 2006] morning shortly before it was set to start after parents questioned school administrators' decision to invite the gay-lesbian youth group to the school.

Several parents complained during a community forum before Outright�s scheduled talks to student teams at the school. School administrators responded by pulling the plug on the talks. This left several hundred students who were waiting to hear Outright�s anti-bullying workshop with no presentation, said Kate Jerman, co-executive director of Outright.

She said she is disappointed that a small group of parents derailed the talks. In doing so, they gave students the impression that harassment based on sexual orientation is not a topic that should be discussed at school, Jerman said.

�The message they got was clearly this isn�t an OK thing to talk about. That�s a lot of damage to the school climate from one very small action.�

Do you think there�s any connection between the Christian Right�s social, religious, political and legal anti-gay activities and increased attacks against gays, and increased fear among gay and lesbian students?

Homophobic Bullying Drives Teen To Suicide.� One report documented that gay and lesbian students are �In Harm�s Way� in the New York City public schools. Another study documented that �Schools Remain Unsafe For Gay Students.� A January 29, 2006 article noted �Anti-gay bullying under investigation: Harassment may have played role in South Florida school violence case.�

Still another report cited student comments: �We were picked on. We were called �queer� and �faggot� and a host of other homophobic slurs. We were also used as punching bags by our classmates, just for being different.� The same report documented that �97% of students in public high schools report regularly hearing homophobic remarks from their peers. . . . The typical high school student hears anti-gay slurs 25.5 times a day. . . . 80% of gay and lesbian youth report severe social isolation.�

Do you think there�s any connection between the Christian Right�s social, religious, political and legal anti-gay activities and the fact that there�s �Widespread Police Abuse Against Gay Americans�?

A report released Thursday [March 23, 2006] by Amnesty International details widespread homophobia � including the use of torture � by American police officers against gays, lesbians and the transgendered.

The report says that thousands of LGBT people across the country are victims of a system that fuels discrimination and facilitates torture, ill-treatment and impunity.

The report �Stonewalled � Still demanding respect� is based on interviews conducted by Amnesty International between 2003 and 2005 with members of the LGBT community, victims of gender-based violence, survivors of police abuse, activists, lawyers and law enforcement officials across the US.

�The interviews reveal a very clear and worrying pattern. Cases of beatings, sexual violence, verbal abuse, harassment and humiliation by law enforcement officials against LGBT people take place on any given day in detention centers, prisons, in the home, and on the street,� said Amnesty in a media statement accompanying the report. [links added]

John D. Moore, author of Confusing Love With Obsession: When You Cant Stop Controlling Your Partner and the Relationship and professor of health sciences and psychology at American Public University, does and said so in a March 8, 2004 article:

When President George W. Bush decided to publicly embrace a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, cloaking his remarks in the guise of religion, he psychologically violated millions upon millions of gay and lesbian youth around the nation as well as the many millions more who are their parents and relatives. In short, Mr. Bush has made it fashionable to declare �open season� on a segment of our society. Make no mistake � his intolerant message was quite clear: �You and your family are not part of the American family.� . . .

Consider what one 20-year-old student wrote in an essay about this topic in a class I instruct on gender psychology: �I have beaten up faggots before, and I used to feel guilty � not anymore! Bush says fags don�t count, so I guess it�s cool to do it.� . . . [links added]

A final note on the Williston Central School controversy in Vermont . . .

The Outright workshops were to be part of Vermont�s �Safe and Supportive Schools� series. At the event a gay teenager was to have spoken with seventh and eighth-graders about his own experiences dealing with hostility from other students because of his sexual orientation. According to both the March 25, 2006 Associated Press report and the March 25, 2006 follow-up story in the Burlington Free Press,

Parents were notified about the Outright talks in a mailing and told that they could opt not to have their children attend. Parents of about 20 out of 260 students opted not to allow their children to participate, Nardelli said.

All parents were invited to Thursday�s orientation, which was designed to allow them to learn more about the speaker series and the Outright talk.

Both sources reported one parent�s reasons for objecting to the �Safe and Supportive Schools� speaker. This from the Burlington Free Press:

Williston father of four Chris Geffken was among the parents at the meeting. He objected to the Outright talk on two grounds: Parents should have been allowed to participate in the decision to invite the group, not simply told in a letter that the visit was scheduled, Geffken said.

And he disagrees with Outright�s mission on religious grounds. �They are promoting a lifestyle that is against our belief system and our faith,� said Geffken, who is Roman Catholic.

Mr. Geffken�s �reasoning� is religious hypocrisy at its most lethal. Based on his Roman Catholic beliefs, he objected to a program meant to keep all children safe in school. That�s the same Roman Catholic church whose hierarchy illegally covering-up decades of child abuse and pedophilia perpetrated by priests the bishops kept shifting from diocese to diocese enabling them to continue their abuses. And Mr. Geffken has the audacity to worry about a single gay teen telling his story?

HYPOCRITE, n. One who, professing virtues that he does not respect, secures the advantage of seeming to be what he despises.� Ambrose Bierce, The Devil�s Dictionary

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