164. pontificate

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Man being bullied by another man.Just so everyone knows, I haven’t forgotten about the shootings in Newtown, CT. My thoughts are definitely with the families and friends of the victims. However, I wanted to share a somewhat related email I sent this morning to Sue Seul, assistant to the superintendent of the Anoka-Hennepin school district.

There’s been a petition going around on Change.org to Tom Heidemann and the Anoka County School Board to have Bryan Lindquist of the Parents Action League removed from his appointment to the district’s anti-bullying task force.

In March of 2012, the Southern Poverty Law Center put the Parents Action League on their list of active anti-gay hate groups in the United States for promoting “damaging propaganda about the gay community” (see below). Incidentally, the PAL is affiliated with the Minnesota Family Council, the group that formed Minnesota for Marriage to campaign for the failed 2012 Minnesota Marriage Amendment.

ABC Newspapers, the local paper for that area, reported that Lindquist “has come under fire due to statements he’s made that indicate a belief that homosexuals can change their sexual orientation and that the district should distribute information about gay conversion or “reparative” therapy.”

On December 10, the nearly 2,500-signature petition was delivered to the District 11 school board. As recounted in an email sent last night by the petition organizer, Melissa Thompson, the board’s response was not only to reject the petition but also to “[remove] the public comment portion of the video and recorded agenda.” She also urged signers to write to Ms. Seul, which I did:

To: Sue Seul <sue.seul@anoka.k12.mn.us>
From: David Philip Norris

Ms. Suel,

I am writing to express my extreme displeasure at the decision of the Anoka-Hennepin school board to not remove Mr. Lindquist from the anti-bullying task force, and to censor the public comment portion of the meeting where supporters of his removal voiced their concerns and opinions.

As a member of the Parents Action League, a group classified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as one of 27 active anti-gay hate groups in the United States, Bryan Lindquist is no ally to LGBT students in the Anoka-Hennepin district. This is a man who has been quoted calling homosexuality a “lifestyle choice” and a “sexual disorder” — a man tasked with protecting students (particularly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students) from bullying. This is also a school district with an unusually high number of suicides and suicide attempts, the majority of which are committed by LGBT students and students merely perceived as being gay or lesbian.

Mr. Lindquist was recently quoted as saying that “discussion of sexual orientation [should] take place in the homes with parents and not with a teacher in a classroom full of impressionable kids.” There is a difference between avoiding discussion of sexual orientation in the classroom and pretending like LGBT students don’t exist and therefore aren’t being bullied for being gay or lesbian. The school board should be enacting policies to protect ALL students, not just students Mr. Lindquist believes deserve not to be bullied.

Yours,
David Philip Norris

School Boardmember Mike Sullivan stated that “it’s critical to have opposing points of view.” Yet as Thompson was quoted in a KSTP News story, appointing Lindquist to this task force “would be like asking somebody from the [Klu Klux Klan] to sit on the committee that plans black history month.”

She has a good point. While it’s not right to exclude someone because of their religious beliefs, neither does it make sense to put a man who belongs to a group that actively promotes the idea that homosexuality results from “dysfunctional family relationships, experimentation with men or boys, incest, negative body image, peer labeling and harassment, temperament, exposure to pornography, not bonding correctly with your own gender parental figure, abandonment, early trauma such as sexual victimization, and media influences” in a position to protect those very students.

The implication here is the same made by opponents of same-sex marriage and LGBT rights: Why should we give them special rights when they choose to live a perverted lifestyle? The FAQ on PAL’s website states that “to date there is no genetic link to prove they are born that way.” Ironically, on the day that the Anoka school board rejected the petition to have Lindquist removed, results of a study by international researchers were published, who found that homosexuality seems to have epigenetic (rather than genetic) causes, suggesting that we really were born this way.

The only special rights here are the ones being demanded by bigots like Lindquist, the PAL, the Minnesota Family Council and its national affiliate Focus on the Family: to abuse LGBT people under the auspices of “freedom of religion.” These groups all have close ties with the Family Research Council, which has promoted and supported the passage of Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill, further reinforcing the notion that groups like PAL and people like Lindquist are in fundamental opposition to the human rights of LGBT people.

As we put the events in Newtown in perspective and try to learn from it, we must remember that making schools safer doesn’t just mean protecting students from outside threats. It means taking a look at internal threats as well.

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