Guest blogger Kate Tuttle: As we all know, in recent weeks there has been a spate of suicides by teenagers who were bullied for being gay, or for being suspected of being gay. In the wake of these tragic deaths, many schools and youth groups are rushing to create programs aimed at helping teens recognize and fight back against bullying and exclusionary behavior. Among the higher-profile efforts are "It Gets Better," a Web-based project (soon to become a book) spearheaded by gay writer Dan Savage and his husband.
And then there's "Bullied," a documentary produced by Teaching Tolerance, the educational wing of the Southern Poverty Law Center. It follows the court battle one bullied gay teen waged against a school district that failed to protect him. The film is accompanied by a teaching guide and is intended to be used in schools to help teachers, students and administrators begin to talk about the problem.
Who could argue with the idea that adults, if we do nothing else, should help teenagers rise above the damaging and even dangerous effects of such bigotry and hate? Shockingly enough, though, some people do argue against it -- specifically, the group Focus on the Family. This group has suggested that programs aimed at anti-gay bullying are themselves "intolerant" of Christians, and represent an effort not to protect children, but to promote a "gay agenda."
To this group, civil rights for all equals (somehow) an attack on them. I guess they feel attacked when they can no longer demean gay people as abnormal. They've even launched a website, TrueTolerance.org, in which they argue that when schools acknowledge the equal rights of gay students, it somehow pushes straight kids toward a gay identity. When I read that they think kids should be protected from being pushed "into prematurely embracing a sexual identity based on the demands of special-interest groups," I wanted to ask them, "Don't you realize that this is what has always happened to gay kids -- only you're the special-interest group?"
I'm no theologian, but it seems to me that if you think your religious liberty and civil rights depend on suppressing the rights of others, maybe it's time to rethink your mission. Me, I like the spiritual sentiments expressed by the blogger at Momastery, who argues that even the word "tolerance" is problematic. In a post entitled "A Mountain I'm Willing to Die On," she writes (in a letter to her son, Chase):
"If our goal is to be tolerant of people who are different than we are, Chase, then we really are aiming quite low. Traffic jams are to be tolerated. People are to be celebrated .... Every person is divine."