Monday, October 31, 2005

Pastors protest school forum on anti-gay bullying

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Iowa pastors to protest school forum on bullying and gays Pastors meet to discuss how to fight 'gay agenda' BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) | Oct 31, 8:33 AM A group of southeast Iowa pastors plan to launch an organized protest of a school-sponsored forum planned for Tuesday focusing on bullying and its affect on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender students. The Burlington School Board will help host and participate in the GLBT Youth in Iowa Schools Task Force meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at James Madison Middle School. The group of pastors said they are opposed to focusing the attention on school safety for that specific group of students. "We're just strongly against it," said the Rev. Steve Perkins of St. John AME Church, who attended a meeting of pastors Thursday to discuss strategy for opposing what some among them described as the gay agenda. Perkins and his fellow ministers do not want to see GLBT students singled out as a specially protected class of student. If that happens, the ministers fear that proponents of the homosexual lifestyle will gain access to the hearts and minds of Burlington youth. "We do want safety for all kids," Perkins said, "and for them to have an opportunity to learn on an even playing field." The pastors intend to fill the school board room at the administration building for a scheduled 8 p.m. School Board work session Monday. A new harassment, bullying and hazing policy adopted by the board in August prohibits acts of intolerance, harassment, bullying or hazing based on race, color, creed, gender, religion, marital status, ethnic background, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, physical appearance or socio-economic background. The policy defines harassment, bullying and hazing and outlines punishments for students or staff found to have engaged in any of those behaviors. The policy also calls on the district to educate students about cultural diversity and promote tolerance of individual differences. Board President Frosty Krummel, pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Burlington, would not elaborate on his own opinion about the other ministers' misgivings about the Burlington schools becoming involved in GLBT issues. He did point out, however, that there are other Burlington churches listed among the forum's sponsors, and noted the existence of a "wide diversity of legitimate Christian opinion." Within his own faith, Krummel said one could speak with five ministers and get five different opinions on the subject of homosexuality. Krummel didn't seem to oppose the forum or the district's participation in it. "It's an educational forum," he said. "If you can't have an educational forum within the educational system, where can you have them?" The school district is sponsoring the event with the Iowa Department of Education, Iowa State Education Association, Iowa Association of School Boards, Southeastern Community College, the Burlington Human Rights Commission, the Burlington Public Library, Zion United Church of Christ, Trinity Lutheran Church and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Assistant superintendent Jane Evans is on the schedule of speakers. She plans to give an overview of the district's recently adopted Olweus Bullying Prevention System. Superintendent Mike Book is scheduled to make some introductory remarks. Original Source: click here