Religion in schools has long been a dicey issue. Throw a little gay into the mix and, well, you’ve got a full-on mess!
Federal Judge J. Owen Forrester recently ruled that Georgia Tech University must stop funding gay “safe space” pamphlets that allegedly deride homophobic religions.
The pamphlets offered an overview of various religions and noted, quite controversially, that many religions take Biblical tales “out of context” to justify discriminatory behaviors. They went on to outline specific religions, describing some, such as the Church of Latter-Day Saints, as “anti-gay.”
God-fearing activists of the Alliance Defense Fund objected, saying the school was inherently favoring more liberal religions. Georgia Tech said otherwise, defending the packets as simply informative. Forrester, however, saying the Safe Space materials show a “clear preference of one religion over another…” He went on to order the school to remove the pamphlets.
The debate, however, has raised some serious First Amendment questions:
Steve Sanders, a Chicago appellate lawyer and former public university administrator, said that some of the materials at issue “might strike some readers as rather shallow and tendentious,” but he added that “I think you have to squint awfully hard to conclude that, as a First Amendment matter, they either denigrate or proselytize on behalf of any particular religious perspective. While the materials may betray a certain political or cultural point of view and we can debate the extent to which universities should be in that business, I think it was something of a stretch for the court to say they amounted to government favoritism toward one set of religious beliefs at the expense of another.”
Georgia Tech called the ruling “moot” because they no longer stock the Safe Space pamphlets.
but if a religion is anti-gay why shouldn’t they be called anti-gay, wouldnt they be happy to have their stance recognized?
I guess it’s a matter of phrasing and context. I would wager that the pamphlets, yes, may have correctly identified some religions as “anti-gay,” but they would have done so in a manner than drew a negative and socially unacceptable association with this label.
In other words, you could label a religion as both “anti-gay” and as in “defense of Biblically sanctioned relationships.” Both would be factually correct, but they both make judgments about the religion’s stance on LGBTQ lifestyles and, obviously, the former is negative.
I’d have to say I agree with the court’s ruling and rationale. To parody Rousseau, I may disagree with these religions’ stances, but I don’t support any effort by the government to squash them, either directly or, as in this case, indirectly.
First of all, I would have to see exactly what the pamphlets say.
Second, if a religion is anti-gay and it is taking Biblical quotes out of context, one should be able to say that as well. For only one example, the Hebrew word Yadha (to know) only has connections to sexual relations 6 or 8 times (and even here we vary from tenuous to direct) out of several hundred times. To note this fact in a pamphlet is not “my interpretation” vs. “Your interpretation”.
Along with the above, how ironic I’m wishing various “religions” tell the truth! Either you read the Bible directly word for word, like you would read a newspaper (which leads to obvious absurdities such as trees talking in Exodus) or you use the historical/critical method. Most religions mix the two depending on which one fits what they already teach.
re: my last sentence – denominations mix the two to fit what they already teach –
How sad is that – past practice trumps the truth!
But, it’s true that most religions are anti-gay. It doesn’t take a pamphlet to inform people that those who try their darndest to deny every kind of right to gay folks are doing so under the guise of religion.
I really don’t like how – in schools over here in Ireland, at least – religion teachers beat around the bush with the gay issue. Why can’t they just say that most churches treat homosexuality as one of the gravest sins ever, believe it can be “cured” and believe in constant disrespect (in the form of loud religious leaders, like the Pope, calling followers to arms over ‘defending’ society from homosexuality etc.) towards one of society’s most vulnerable groups. And then let those pupils decide whether or not the Church is right for them , and whether their gay friends are really sinful, society destroyers.
I remember hearing from a teacher in one of the all-girls school’s in my town that one of their new religion teachers stated the Catholic Church’s stance on homosexuals to a group of 16 – 17 year olds and they were absolutely horrified by it. This shows that most teenagers really don’t understand what religion thinks of gay people.
It’s Georgia Institute of Technology. Not University.
“if a religion is anti-gay and it is taking Biblical quotes out of context, one should be able to say that as well.”
Yes, but ‘out of context’ is rather subjective. This is not a proper activity of a public institution. At worst, give each denomination the right to submit a 500 word (max.) statement and leave it at that.
Oh dear. the Conservative crybabies are making a big f–king deal out of nothing.
If ALL religions are equally criticized (Christianity, Islam, Judaism), then nobody has any right to complain about being singled out for being anti-gay.
I believe in the rule of Equal Offenders Opportunity.
I support separation of church and state in a way that cuts both ways.
I think the decision was basically right. I want to see ones that limit the right wing’s activities now.
The Mormons (aka Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) claim NOT to be anti-gay, though. Even though they are.
Konrad – I know what you mean, but I think I went out of my way to as simply as possible to plant the seed of idea that shows MOST of it is not subjective. I have mountains of religion books, everything from Boswell to the guy who wrote “what the Bible really says about homosexuality.” This kind of forum does not lend itself to lengthy expositions or even a book review.
Another idea – Americans are so used to believing whatever they want because of freedom of religion (and I’m in favor of that) but also we have a rich tradition of not confronting the truth; the American way is the only and best way etc. Precisely because (I assume since I haven’t read it) this pamphlet puts out the truth that makes some people uncomfortable. I don’t want the college involved in the religion business either, but recall in the middle ages it was strongly debated whether or not women even had a soul! Hate is hate and it must be addressed. If you can’t at least try to open people’s eyes in a diverse setting as a college, when and where do you suggest it be tried?
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