Will Texas Vote to Prohibit Marriage Altogether?
Oh, this is great. Down in Texas there's nothing that worries them more than two guys or two girls getting married. So, like some other states, they proposed a law against gay marriages.
Except they didn't really look at how they worded this thing. So now, the people of Texas will vote on a new law. The referendum ballot says you're voting for or against:
"The constitutional amendment providing that marriage in this state consists only of the union of one man and one woman and prohibiting this state or a political subdivision of this state from creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage."
Let's walk through that:
a. marriage in this state consists only of the union of one man and one woman
b. this state or a political subdivision of this state [is prohibited] from creating or recognizing any legal status identical or similar to marriage.
In other words, the state cannot recognize the institution of marriage that it just defined.This web site
has a quote from a Texas lawyer saying, "I'm gonna get rich as a result of this." (It is a terrific, shrill web site, go see it -- it's one of a kind, trust me.)
Yeah, a law that defines marriage and then prohibits it. That'll protect the institution, good going.
Fishback on the GLSEN Conspiracy Theory
A few days ago, I posted something here
about a statement on the CRC's web site that says we are a "front" for GLSEN, the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network. I blogged what I thought had happened, that their moles on our listserve had seen a misdirected message and they had blown it up into a conspiracy theory. They were so confident in their inferences that they felt it was appropriate to alert the entire world that TeachTheFacts.org is a "front" for GLSEN.
David Fishback, former chair of the citizens committee that evaluated the most recent health curriculum, had replied to that message on our listserve, and in the comments here an Anonymous commenter kept the speculation alive about what his role was in all this. Mr. Fishback read the comments and decided to respond. Here is what he sent us:
Anonymous is all in a lather because he/she thinks I am involved in some sort of clandestine activity. It is kind of hard to take that seriously from someone who won't say who he/she is on a public discussion forum.
Anyway, I will now disclose organizations I have contacted over the last months as so many of us have worked to keep sensible health education revisions on track:
American Medical Association
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
American Psychiatric Association
American Psychological Association
Jewish Community Relations Council
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
Gay and Lesbian Educators Network (GLSEN)
So, Anonymous can say, "Horrors, David Fishback is in contact with the American Medical Association." Yep, that is really a scary, left-wing group. The people at the AMA national offices were very nice. They put me in touch with Dr. Paul Wertsch, immediate past-president of the Wisconsin Medical Society who is now Chair of the AMA's advisory committee on GLBT issues. Dr. Wertsch was kind enough to come to Montgomery County on his own dime to address the Teachthefacts.org community forum last month.
Of course, I'll stack up PFLAG against PFOX any day of the week. PFLAG, a truly grassroots organization of people who have done so much to help so many, is a group of which I am a proud member. I was honored to have the opportunity to present DC Metro PFLAG's Faith in Action Award to Episcopal Bishop John Chane at its 2004 Gala. That same year, Congressman Richard Gebhardt was the keynote speaker. One of DC Metro PFLAG's most active members has been former Republican Congressman Steve Gunderson.
I recently spoke on a panel at the National PFLAG meeting, which was held in Bethesda this year, along with Dr. Jack Dresher of the American Psychiatric Association. PFOX's Richard Cohen was in the audience. Didn't ask any questions, though.
I contacted GLSEN as part of my research regarding how other school systems have dealt with sexual orientation in their curricula.
So why did someone from GLSEN ask about a conference call on the TTF listserve? This is the burning question that so agitates Anonymous. The answer is very simple. National PFLAG has organized a few conference calls on health education issues; I was invited to participate, and I was happy to do so. People from GLSEN participated, as well. It is well known that I am involved with Teachthefacts.org. Perhaps we were remiss in exchanging e-mail addresses, but it is not surprising that a GLSEN person wanting to know about another conference call and not having contact information would make such an inquiry on the TTF listserve. Perhaps Anonymous thinks it sinister that I would actually speak with people who share my view - and that of every mainstream American medical and mental health professional association - that homosexuality is not an illness and that people can be perfectly happy living their lives consistent with their sexual orientation.
Jim described my involvement with Teachthefacts.org very accurately. I know Anonymous would love to make it appear that anyone who happens to agree with the American Medical Association on these issues must be my surrogate. Well, if you are convinced that my views (and those of the mainstream health care professionals) are completely wrong, that no reasonable person could hold them, then you have to think that I must be some kind of Svengali.
Here is the truth: Over the last several years I have been gratified to learn that people in our community understand or are open to learning the real facts about sexual orientation. I have found this in churches and synagogues, among elected officials and everyday people. I am grateful and proud to live in Montgomery County.
Yet, Anonymous seems to think that all this effort to end the deafening silence in the MCPS curriculum is nothing more than the work of shadowy groups working through one person in the County. I greatly admire the Teachthefacts.org founders and organizers. They exhibit public spiritedness at its best. I did not have to start an organization or lead it in order to advance my views in our community. So many people spontaneously rose up to carry that banner. And I am pleased to join them. Still, Anonymous comforts him/herself by asserting that Teachthefacts.org must be some sort of a “front.”
In September, the Gazette reported that Michelle Turner (who, like me, was a member of the old Citizens Advisory Committee; but, unlike me, is now president of a group taking a strong position on the wisdom of the Board’s November 2004 decision) spoke at the convention in Missouri of Phyllis Schlafy's Eagle Forum. Does that make her or CRC a "front" for Phyllis Schlafly or James Dobson (who bankrolled PFOX and whose Family Research Council pays Peter Sprigg, PFOX's rep on the new CAC) or Richard Cohen (who is president of PFOX - and also was expelled for life by the American Counseling Association) or Jerry Falwell (whose Liberty Counsel handled the CRC/PFOX lawsuit) or Anne Arundel Delegate Don Dwyer (who has sought to make a name for himself attacking efforts to provide equal rights for gays and keynoted the CRC "town hall meeting" last March). Of course not. Michelle is her own person. I suspect that she associates herself with Schlafly, Dobson, Falwell, Cohen, and Falwell because she shares their views -- maybe not every single thing, but the basic thrust of their approaches and worldviews.
HPV Vaccine in The Post
Tomorrow morning's Washington Post
has an article on a topic we've talked about here before. There is a very common virus, called human papillomavirus or HPV, which can be spread through many kinds of contact, including sexual intercourse. HPV is a primary cause of cervical cancer. Recently, vaccines have been developed which seem to completely block HPV infection.
This is crazy, I think you'll agree:
A new vaccine that protects against cervical cancer has set up a clash between health advocates who want to use the shots aggressively to prevent thousands of malignancies and social conservatives who say immunizing teenagers could encourage sexual activity.
Groups working to reduce the toll of the cancer are eagerly awaiting the vaccine and want it to become part of the standard roster of shots that children, especially girls, receive just before puberty.
Because the vaccine protects against a sexually transmitted virus, many conservatives oppose making it mandatory, citing fears that it could send a subtle message condoning sexual activity before marriage. Several leading groups that promote abstinence are meeting this week to formulate official policies on the vaccine. Cervical Cancer Vaccine Gets Injected With a Social Issue: Some Fear a Shot For Teens Could Encourage Sex
Can you believe that?
"What the Bush administration has done has taken this coterie of people and put them into very influential positions in Washington," said James A. Morone Jr., a professor of political science at Brown University. "And it's having an effect in debates like this."
The vaccine protects women against strains of a ubiquitous germ called the human papilloma virus. Although many strains of the virus are innocuous, some can cause cancerous lesions on the cervix (the outer end of the uterus), making them the primary cause of this cancer in the United States. Cervical cancer strikes more than 10,000 U.S. women each year, killing more than 3,700.
The vaccine appears to be virtually 100 percent effective against two of the most common cancer-causing HPV strains. Merck, whose vaccine is further along, plans to ask the Food and Drug Administration by the end of the year for approval to sell the shots.
The thinking is that if the vaccine is given to children before they have become sexually active, they won't be infected with the virus when they come into contact with it -- which nearly everyone eventually does.
Officials of both companies noted that research indicates the best age to vaccinate would be just before puberty to make sure children are protected before they become sexually active. The vaccine would probably be targeted primarily at girls but could also be used on boys to limit the spread of the virus.
"If you really want to have cervical cancer rates fall as much as possible as quickly as possible, then you want as many people to get vaccinated as possible," said Mark Feinberg, Merck's vice president of medical affairs and policy, noting that "school mandates have been one of the most effective ways to increase immunization rates."
That is a view being pushed by cervical cancer experts and women's health advocates.
"I would like to see it that if you don't have your HPV vaccine, you can't start high school," said Juan Carlos Felix of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, who leads the National Cervical Cancer Coalition's medical advisory panel.
But that's only the sensible side of the discussion. Unfortunately, in these bizarre times, there are people who think it would be better to let a women get cancer.
"Some people have raised the issue of whether this vaccine may be sending an overall message to teenagers that, 'We expect you to be sexually active,' " said Reginald Finger, a doctor trained in public health who served as a medical analyst for Focus on the Family before being appointed to the ACIP in 2003, in a telephone interview.
Look, I don't know where these kinds of people come from, or how they got that way. Now they're in positions of power in the federal government, making medical decisions that affect all of us.
Last week, when the membership of the citizens advisory committee was announced, one school board member, Gabe Romero, voted against it. He didn't make a statement, so we don't know what he didn't like about it. He may have objected to the presence of Peter Sprigg on the committee. But the first theory that occurred to ... just about everyone ... is that he objected to the fact that the CRC's seat was left vacant.
The next day, the local branches of the Internet seemed to come alive. A number of different groups suddenly found it interesting that Romero is up for election in 2006, and wanted to talk about who should run against him. I'm not in on the political insider stuff, but even I was seeing these messages.
I can't find a list of his campaign officers, but for a long time the rumor has been that CRC President Michelle Turner is Gabe Romero's treasurer.
And then I see these minutes from a CRC meeting where they were planning their March Hate-Fest, and were considering speakers for it. And guess who was on that first list.
Yes, there's Gabe Romero's name. It says Michelle will contact him.
For those who weren't following this story back then, I'll tell you. Some of us attended the CRC "town hall" meeting in March, and it was one of the most disturbing things we have ever seen. One speaker after the other stood up to spew what one of them called "hate and fear of the homosexual agenda." It was beyond creepy, it was sick. Even the leadership of the CRC, knowing they had accidentally crossed the line in public, told reporters that they didn't really agree with their own speakers. But of course they knew what they were going to say, that's why they selected this particular group of extremists. And their crowd loved it.
We taped the talks, and made mp3 files out of them. Here, listen for yourself: CRC HateFest speeches
Romero has always seemed like a nice guy to me, and he did vote for the new curriculum the last time it came around, in November, 2004. But is this the kind of company he keeps?
Gabe, the people of the county are watching for a statement from you. You can clear this all up very easily by telling us what your position is.
What is your affiliation with the far-right group called Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum?
Blade Readers Are Paying Attention
Hey, I just posted a thing saying that the GLBT groups are certainly keeping an eye on the Montgomery County sex-ed battle. Right now the new citizens committee is chartered to evaluate curricula on the topic of "sexual variation" (the state's term for it). Some people want to put some crazy stuff in about reparative therapy and "ex-gays" and negative stereotypes of gays, and others -- that would be us -- want to see the subject treated objectively, factually, and accurately. Gay folks should have an intense interest in how this comes out.
As soon as I posted that last thing, somebody pointed out to me that the Washington Blade
, the local gay paper, has a little article that gets to the point of how this is looking to them. Here's the whole thing:
The Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg has been appointed to Montgomery County’s Citizens Advisory Committee, which will advise the school system on revisions to the county’s sex education curriculum. Sprigg was nominated by the group Parents & Friends of Gays & Ex-Gays. The Board of Education accepted PFOX’s only nominee despite a request that each organization with a seat on the committee nominate three people. The board of education rejected the sole nominee from Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, Henrietta Brown, who had served on the committee before. CRC joined PFOX in opposing the previous sex ed plan because it included gay topics and a condom demonstration. In rejecting Brown, the board said that nominees are not allowed to have served on the committee before. CRC is now considering legal action to force the board to accept Brown, officials said. They claim that the board of education has violated a legal settlement reached in June. “We already have the suit prepared,” said Mat Staver, president of Liberty Counsel, which is representing CRC. “CRC is considering what to do.” The agreement signed by the board of education, CRC and PFOX allows the board to maintain control over who is selected for the committee. It states nominees from CRC and PFOX are “to be selected by the Board … provided such representatives are Montgomery County residents and are otherwise qualified.” Teach the Facts, NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays will also be represented on the committee. Anti-gay conservative wins seat on Mont. Co. curriculum committee
A rational person would look at Peter Sprigg and ask, why in the world does any community put somebody like that on a panel to evaluate anything? The readers of The Blade
should be very wary of this appointment, which signals that the school board is willing to listen to one of the most extreme gay-haters in the country.
CRC's Latest Lie: A Sudden Realization
Ah, I just realized something. The Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum web site this week has an ugly statement, sour-grapes thing, where among other things Michelle Turner says:
TTF has become the front for GLSEN - Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network.
TTF is us, of course, Teach the Facts. We blew it off, but last night I started wondering, where in the world did they get that
And then it hit me.
Last week the Teach the Facts Yahoo group got an email from somebody at GLSEN, asking "when your next conference call was taking place." David Fishback responded to this, saying, "I will contact you off-listserve. Conference calls have not be under the auspices of Teachthefacts.org."
(Sorry David, it wouldn't have been ethical to correct your spelling.)
TeachTheFacts.org doesn't have any conference call. My assumption, which I believe is correct, was that somebody over at GLSEN got confused. The email appeared to come from somebody trying to find some information for their boss, and it looks like they just asked in the wrong place. It sounded like Mr. Fishback knew what was going on and was going to deal with it, and that was the end of that, as far as Teach The Facts is concerned.
Not that we owe the world an explanation, but I was wondering myself, where they got this particular weird accusation.
Anyway, listen. We know that CRC long ago planted moles on our Yahoo group to spy on us. Whatever, we got no secrets, they've been listening in all year. Apparently they saw this email, and not really knowing anything that's going on, they reported back that we had some super-double-deep-undercover intrigue happening with GLSEN.
Which of course makes us a "front" for that organization. I suppose that was their best guess, given the evidence ... Take one misdirected email and construct an entire conspiracy theory out of it.
Just for the record, we got nothing against GLSEN, they seem like a great organization, and I'm sure they're paying attention to what's going on here in Montgomery County. They are welcome to join our group and participate in our conversation (if they haven't already), just like CRC does. And nobody should be surprised that the gay advocacy organizations keep a close eye on what's happening here. I would if I were them, because the outcome of this controversy will affect them.
It has been my impression that some of the GLBT groups are monitoring our county's controversy very closely, but are staying out of it so far.
We are not surprised when CRC makes stuff up, we see it in the papers all the time, but just to be clear: TeachTheFacts.org is not a "front" for GLSEN, or for anybody else.
Let's Be Polite Bulbs
We have been very happy recently to see that people who do not agree with us have joined the conversation. We appreciate hearing your views, and really there's no way this controversy will be resolved if we don't talk to each other. In recent weeks some stuff has come out that I personally had never thought of, and it's been interesting.
But we've got a little problem. There are a bunch of people signing in as "Anonymous," and it seems that their anonymity gives some of them the "courage" to make personal and sarcastic remarks, call names, and generally act like jerks. They're often not making a point, not being funny, just soiling the discussion. And then people react to them -- I'm as guilty as anybody -- and then the conversation takes a nose dive.
So far I've been letting it go, because no single statement was so far out of line that it deserved to be deleted. Actually, a few were, but by the time I saw them people had already responded, and it had slipped into the middle of the thread somewhere.
We saw what happened at the Original Recall site, as well as the current CRC Forum, where name-calling is the most you can hope for. I'm not going to let that happen here. I really don't have the energy to babysit this site every minute of the day, but I will check in frequently, and if I see something I don't like the tone of, I'm just going to delete it. For a little while, at least, I'm not going to try to be fair, I'm just going to eliminate things I don't like, until the tone lightens up sufficiently. And of course that doesn't mean opinions I disagree with; I do mean tone
. We will behave like little ladies and gentlemen when we come here.
Hopefully I won't have to delete anything. Please, try to remain civil in your discussions here. That includes our side, let's not lose sight of what we're doing here.
And it includes me.
... I wonder if I'll get mad at myself when I delete my own comments ...?
Andrea Sees What's Happening
Following my bliss
is a blog published by Andrea, who describes herself like this: "I am an actor/early childhood music teacher/yoga teacher wanna be." I've quoted her here before, and I'm just about to do it again.
Because she gets it.
Her post links to this week's Post
article -- here's the whole thing:
Yet again, the members of Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum continued to act like spoiled brats and not play by the rules. They again refused to submit 3 names to the MoCo school board so that a member could be picked to sit on the new Family Life and Human Development curriculum committee. The appointment was already postponed by 2 weeks because of the failure to submit the names by the original deadline. The Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum are demanding that the same woman who was on the previous board be re-appointed - something that is not allowed by the board rules. Now the group is threatening to sue MoCo schools again until they get their way.
Great examples to be setting for your children, dont'cha think? - Not following directions, not compromising, and threatening other people when you don't get your way. I know that those are the values that *I* want to instill in my children. Maybe they should petition to get those values added into the curriculum, too?
This continued stalling and threatening is just another tactic in the coordinated movement by the extreme right/conservatives to stop schools from teaching information that students NEED TO KNOW, and putting religion over science. Unfortunately, this could very well be a model case for other extremists to start doing the same thing in their communities. I am very concerned that with this case and cases regarding "Intelligent Design" that our school systems will cave to the pressure and public schools will start to become Christian schools. If you have a specific set of religious values that you want taught to your children, then you should send them to private school or home school them yourself. Children in public schools deserve to have accurate information that is free of religious undertones and messages. The sex-ed controversy continues
This is what we like to see. Somebody who can read between the lines and understands what's going on.
And as an extra bonus, I see that Andrea has posted about our group and our blog, and has been commenting here today (more sophisticated than most of us, she figured out how to put her picture next to her comments). Give 'em hell, Andrea!
Do They Really Believe This Stuff?
I loved this, looking back at the minutes from the CRC's February 3rd meeting, which was attended, we see, by a representative from the Republican Party and somebody from Concerned Women For America, a radical rightwing lobbying group:
John had fabulous news on the legal front. He is filing a freedom of information act demanding that the BOE turn over the video. He is also sending a letter of liability (using the CCV letter on the health risks of homosexuality) to the BOE. This puts them on notice that if my 8 year old boy decides to be homosexual because of the flawed teaching of the MCPS, and contracts AIDS, they could be held liable. He is also preparing an injunction to ask for a stay of rolling out the curriculum based on the fact that the BOE did not follow their publised guidelines in releasing the curriculum. The liability letter can be leaked to the press. However, legal suits are expensive, which brought us back to discussing fundraising.
Never mind that they are planning their "last minute" lawsuit months in advance -- let me say that one part again, slowly:This puts them on notice that if my 8 year old boy decides to be homosexual because of the flawed teaching of the MCPS, and contracts AIDS, they could be held liable.
We couldn't make this stuff up.
CRC Just Wants to Be Friends With the Board
Many times over the past year I have found myself copying and pasting entire articles from The Gazette
into blog posts. They have just been really good about covering this story. The controversy has two sides, and neither side has any grounds for saying that The Gazette
has been unfair to them.
And here they go again. This morning's paper had a good story about the new citizens committee:
The county school board has named 14 of 15 members to an advisory committee that will review sex education lessons, a move that has one group considering legal action.
The board did not name a member to fill a seat reserved for Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum.
"That seat on the committee will remain vacant until CRC submits a qualified nominee," board President Patricia B. O’Neill said in a prepared statement released at Monday night's meeting in Rockville.
CRC’s board of directors plans to meet Thursday to consider whether to go back to court over an agreement that settled a federal lawsuit against the school board by CRC and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, said John R. Garza, a Rockville attorney who is CRC's vice president. Sex ed committee almost full: Ineligible nominee rejected by board
First of all: nice headline. I like the ring of that phrase, "Ineligible nominee rejected by board." That is
Well, they could have said it the opposite way, they could have said "Ineligible nominee accepted
by board," since PFOX never nominated three people, but they put Peter Sprigg on the committee anyway.
Look at that stuff, threatening another lawsuit. Ah, they love it.
Hey, I just remembered something.
Back in January -- the thirteenth, to be precise -- the CRC administrator sent this message to the rest of them:
The only thing that is going to get their complete attention is:
1. Continuing outrage streaming in to their castle headquarters
2. John Garza proceeding immediatley with his lawsuit. (Lawsuits tend to get peoples attention - merit or no merit because it forces them to deal with their legal team on a continuing basis)
3. 50,000 plus signatures between the paper petition and the on-line petition.
4. Tabulation of all the outrageous things said about us and this issue, and posted on both web sites.
5. Massive email campaign to inform and INFLAME.
In other words, aggressive tactics.
(You can read this and other hair-curling dialogue in a Google cache HERE
. It is fascinating.)
Point Number Two is clear. They don't sue because they have a case, they sue because it "gets people's attention - merit or no merit."
They're just suers at heart. Tramps like us, baby we were born to sue. Sue for the money, sue for the show, sue to get ready, now go cat go. I can't stop suing you ... Please, somebody stop me.
More from The Gazette
Garza said there was "a very good chance" that the group would ask a county Circuit Court judge or U.S. District Court Judge Alexander Williams Jr. to enforce the agreement as CRC sees it. In May, Williams issued the order stopping the revised curriculum from being taught.
"It may be that [CRC leaders] decide to capitulate and that it's not worth fighting with the board," Garza said. "Because there are plenty of other members of CRC who are qualified to serve."
Garza said the group wants to sit down with the school board to resolve their differences. More litigation "will hurt our chances of ever getting to meet with them," he said.
No kidding, Sherlock.
Hurting your chances of meeting with the board, eh? Hmmm, how about going to every meeting they have and talking about rimming and anal sex and eating poop, what would that do to your chances? What about starting a group to recall all of them, would that make them want to meet with you? How about suing them, taking tens of thousands of dollars of money that could have gone of our kids' education, and then refusing to follow the rules -- is that what you do to make them want to meet with you?
Hey, remember when some school board members, including Sharon Cox, were going to go out to Germantown to meet with them? What was that headline? Oh yeah, I remember: Cox avoids Germantown meeting after receiving threats
. I was at the board meeting where Michelle Turner had to apologize to the board for CRC members threatening them.
It's easy to see, they are really concerned about making a good impression on the board.
Recently there has been some discussion, and apparently some confusion, about the parental notification process for the Family Life and Human Sexuality curriculum. The fact is, a parent must actively give permission
for their child to attend the classes. There is one example of a permission form on the MCPS web site
Last night one of our members went to the Family Life Meeting to preview the Health curriculum material at their high school. Interestingly, though it was open to the public, she was the only person who bothered to attend -- most people have confidence in the schools. Anyway, at the meeting she picked up the current permission form, which is a little different from the online sample. I will add these differences to the example below:
FAMILY LIFE AND HUMAN SEXUALITY AND HIV/AIDS PREVENTION
SAMPLE PERMISSION FORM
Student Name Daytime Phone Number of Parent/Guardian
Please check YES or NO for each of the three questions below.
I give permission for my student to receive instruction on human sexuality. YES _____ NO _____
I give permission for my student to receive instruction on sexually transmitted
diseases, including HIV/AIDS. YES _____ NO _____
I give my permission for my student to view the video and receive instruction on proper use of a condom for sexually transmitted disease prevention. YES_____ NO______
If you did not give permission for either of the above units, please circle the title of one of the alternative units of instruction listed below that you would like your student to be assigned as independent study.
1. Abstinence only. Student assigned this unit will receive information about sexual abstinence and no information about methods of contraception.
2. Self-esteem, personal and family relationships, and environmental health. Students assigned this unit will receive no information about human sexuality.
3. Independent study project. Students assigned this project will be required to select and complete an independent study project on a health-related topic.
If you do not give permission for your student to receive instruction on proper uses of a condom for sexually transmitted disease prevention, your student will be excused to the Media Center for that 20 minute lesson.
Signature of Parent/Guardian Date
(Please complete and return this form to school by ___________________________.)
This permission slip goes out stapled to a long letter from the principal explaining exactly what the course is about, explaining what the options are, gives phone numbers, etc.
You hear stories of kids taking these kinds of courses without their parents finding out until later. As you see, this doesn't happen in Montgomery County. If you don't sign the slip, your kid doesn't take sex ed. Plus, you can choose what kind of alternative your child will receive. Granted, these are not classes but packets of instructional materials, but then, almost everybody lets their kids take the course.
Here are the names of people appointed to the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development by the Montgomery County Board of Education. For the "Individuals" section, I am reporting what little I could find on the Internet (thanks to Kay for doing a lot of the research!).
- Tracy Fox, representing Montgomery County Council of PTAs
- James Kennedy, PhD, representing TeachtheFacts.org
- Richelle Meer, representing NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland
- Emily Wurtz, representing Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
- Peter Sprigg, representing Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX)
- Eric Kay, representing Montgomery County Region of the Maryland Association of Student Councils
- Carol Plotsky, MD is a pediatrician who is medical staff President at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital. She will chair the new committee
- Subash Duggirala, MD specializes in Preventative Medicine, with a practice in Silver Spring
- Victor Olano, M.P.H. is Public Health Advisor Office of Prevention, Education, and Control National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at NIH
- Matthew Murguia is Director of the Office of Program Operations and Scientific Information in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Division of AIDS, Office of Minority Health
- Maria Peña-Faustino was a delegate to the Republican National Convention, serves on the state Board of Liquor License Commissioners
- Esther G. Pinder, MD is a pediatrician practicing in Silver Spring
- Elinor Walker, PhD is at the Center for General Health Services Extramural Research Agency for Health Care Policy and Research
This looks like a fantastic group of people. I should point out that some of the organization representatives have very interesting vitas extending far beyond the charters of their sponsoring organizations. I really look forward to working with this group.
There's no need to ignore the elephant in the room. The question will be, how much influence can one person like Peter Sprigg have, in a group with actual experts like this. Sprigg is a former actor and Baptist minister who is obsessed with gay people and saying every bad thing he can think of about them. He's entitled to his opinion, I guess, and though his membership on the committee is illegitimate (since PFOX didn't follow the rules for applying), I think it's better to get moving than to quibble. After all, he's only got one vote.
No Surprise: Crybabies Want to Sue Again
The question now will be whether the Montgomery County school district can multi-task. As expected, the CRC failed to follow the school board's policy for applying, and as not surprise the school board did not appoint their single, unqualified nominee to the citizens committee. And as expected, this morning's paper has a picture of a not-very-cheerful-looking Michelle Turner, President of the CRC, and a story about how they are going to sue again.
The day after the Montgomery County school board appointed a new advisory board to consult with educators on revisions to the school system's sex education curriculum, it appears that board members could be facing a new legal challenge.
Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum said it is considering legal action against the school board for violating terms of an agreement that granted it and another group one seat each on the 15-member advisory panel.
Board members last night declined to appoint to the panel a representative from Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, but they did name one from Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays despite a dispute with the two groups over the nomination process.
Board members had been slated to make appointments to the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development on Oct. 11, but they delayed action to allow the groups more time to meet conditions laid out by the board.
Under the guidelines, community groups seeking a seat on the panel were required to submit three names to the board. The applicants had to be Montgomery residents who had not previously served on the committee.
The groups submitted only one name each. Left Off Sex-Ed Panel, Group Weighs Lawsuit
We've been through this before, but here's how it is. CRC and PFOX won a temporary restraining order against the school district. In order to avoid more legal costs, the district's lawyers negotiated with the anti-MCPS groups' lawyers, and they came to an agreement. Part of the agreement was that each group was guaranteed one seat on the committee.
Once that was done, the school board was able to announce that a new citizens advisory committee would be forming, and shortly thereafter they put out the rules for applying. There was an application form, some qualification requirements, a deadline, the usual stuff. But CRC and PFOX felt that they only
had to meet the terms of the settlement agreement, not the board's rules for applying. So, for instance, the board said any groups that wanted to submit a representative should submit three names, And the board said that no one would be selected who had served on a previous citizens advisory committee. But since none of this was in the other document, the settlement agreement, CRC and PFOX said they would not comply.
I'm not a lawyer or a party in any of this, but I do have front-row seats to this game. So let me tell you what this is. There is not a chance in hell that any committee of reasonable citizens would approve the CRC/PFOX brand of gay-hating, anti-safe-sex health curriculum. Not going to happen. People in this county don't like them, don't like what they stand for, don't feel that way, and you're just not going to see them persuading anybody.
So what else can they do? Ah, they can gum up the works. They've already managed to delay the pilot-testing, which should have been done last spring, and now probably won't happen until next year. They did that by filing a bogus last-minute lawsuit, what has been called a "drive-by" suit, and simply baffling a federal judge. They didn't win any argument, the judge was unclear about what was in the curriculum and what was in some background resources. He didn't have anything to say about anything that was going to actually be used in the classroom.
So ... they'll never win by reasoned argument, so instead they're going to take the low road, and just waste taxpayers' money on defending the school district from legal sniping.The Post
Michelle Turner, president of Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum, said the group will not submit another name.
"CRC intends to stand by the settlement, and that settlement said we could choose who we wanted to serve," Turner said.
Members of the group said that according to the settlement agreement reached in June, they, not the board, should determine who would represent them on the panel.
Let me remind you of what the actual legal agreement says:
MCPS agrees that the newly-constituted CAC, for the term during which the consultation on the Revisions contemplated by the Board’s May 23, 2005 resolution will occur, will include a maximum of 15 members and will include one representative of PFOX and one representative of CRC, to be selected by the Board in accordance with Section C(2)(a)(3) of Board Policy BMA, provided such representatives are Montgomery County residents and are otherwise qualified and able to serve on the committee. PFOX and CRC will inform the Board of their nominees in writing by July 1, 2005.
You can read the whole thing HERE
Contrast that little phrase in there, "to be selected by the Board in accordance with Section C(2)(a)(3) of Board Policy BMA," with Ms. Turner's statement, "that settlement said we could choose who we wanted to serve." Go to court, hold up the agreement, CRC loses, pound the gavel, case closed. It would have been easier, actually, just to take our tax money and flush it down the toilet.
But this is a good, effective way to waste time and money. Four school board seats are up for election next year, and I doubt anybody wants this to still be in the papers when campaign-time comes. CRC is counting on the board to back down from the controversy and the expense.
Now ... the question is this: can MCPS defend itself in court and
develop a new curriculum at the same time? I don't see why they wouldn't be able to, these are two entirely separate functions performed by entirely different groups of people.
If the district stops development while they battle in court, then the suers (and that is a perfect word for them) will have won. That's all they want -- to gum things up, slow the process down, so they can get their way without winning the debate.
Board Appoints Committee
Quick one here before bedtime. The school board made its announcement tonight. They let PFOX put Peter Sprigg on the committee even though they didn't follow the process, but CRC had no such luck. Their seat will remain vacant. TeachTheFacts.org has Yours Truly on the committee. MCCPTA, NARAL Pro Choice, PFLAG, and the Montgomery County Region of the Maryland Association of Student Councils all had representatives. The new chair is Carol Plotsky, a pediatrician, and there are seven individuals, none of whom I know, but I will trust that the board screened them rigorously.
Gabe Romero was the only board member who voted against the appointments.
OK, well ... what in the world have I gotten myself into this time?
The Committee Will Be Named Tonight
I'm not going to say much about this. Tonight the MCPS school board will announce the membership of the new citizens advisory committee that will evaluate the sex education curriculum.
The die is cast, the school board knows who they're selecting, they know what is being done inside the system toward development of a new curriculum (or re-introduction of the old one), and they know how they're going to handle the fact that CRC and PFOX have refused to follow the official procedures for applying. The rest of us just have to wait until 9:45 tonight, which is when the board's agenda
says the topic will come up.
The important thing is to keep the process moving. If the crybabies want to file another lawsuit, that should not affect the way the citizens committee conducts its business. Let the lawyers go to the courtroom, the committee to its conference room.
The board has said that nearly 200 people applied for the 15-person committee. They have had plenty of time to study the applications. I'm sure it was hard just figuring out who stood for what, but they had time to look into all of it, and they know the eyes of the country are on them now.
I only hope that the people they select will reflect the community. The people of Montgomery County know what's right.
Peer Review for the Science-Challenged
You know there's a trial going on right now up in Dover, Pennsylvania, where some parents are suing to make sure that the public schools don't teach Intelligent Design instead of science. This trial is opening the debate to public inspection, as both sides get to put their very best arguments on the record.
Dr. Michael Behe, author of a book on Intelligent Design entitled Darwin's Black Box
, was on the stand this week. Here's how the Pennsylvania ACLU's blog sets it up:
It has been stated here before that Behe has not submitted his own work on intelligent design for peer review. At the same time, Behe agreed, when asked by plaintiff's counsel Eric Rothschild if the "peer review for Darwin's Black Box was analogous to peer review in the [scientific] literature." It was, according to Behe, even more rigorous. There were more than twice standard the number of reviewers and "they read [the book] more carefully... because this was a controversial topic."
One such reviewer, said Behe, was Dr. Michael Atchison, head of biochemistry at the University of Pennsylvania veterinary school. "He was selected," Behe said, "because he was the instructor of the editor's wife." While Behe was not in touch with him, "Professor Atchison contacted [Behe]...after the book came out." ACLU blog
The lawyer then introduced a piece of evidence, an article written by this Dr. Atchison. Atchison's article is a kind of introspective piece where he muses about the consequences of introducing yourself as a Christian. He seems like a smart guy, he doesn't want to be crass or put people on the spot, but he is a religious man and if he's going to introduce himself to someone it does seems reasonable for them to know that about him.
And then he describes a situation that proves to him that, as he says, "To accomplish His will, the Lord uses His saints at strategic points." He tells about an ethics class he teaches where, on the first day, he tells the class he is a Christian.
He then switches scenes and talks about how Behe's book had been sent to the publisher for consideration, who was worried that there might be problems with it. Then there are some mysterious ways ...
The editor shared his concerns with his wife. His wife was a student in my class. She advised her husband to give me a call. So, unaware of all this, I received a phone call from the publisher in New York. We spent approximately 10 minutes on the phone. After hearing a description of the work, I suggested that the editor should seriously consider publishing the manuscript. I told him that the origin of life issue was still up in the air. It sounded like this Behe fellow might have some good ideas, although I could not be certain since I had never seen the manuscript. We hung up and I never thought about it again. At least until two years later. Mustard Seeds
Then the book comes out, sells 40,000 copies ...
Here, you might be interested in seeing how this man of faith interprets the way it all went down:
Then it struck me. This was all the result of my identifying myself as a Christian in class. By identifying myself as a Christian, I played a small, but crucial part in influencing 40,000 people. The plot unfolds. Behe's book needs to be published. The Lord places the manuscript in the hands of an editor. The editor's wife "just happens" to be in my class. The editor needs advice on issues concerning science and faith. Meanwhile, in class I identify myself as a Christian. The editor's wife tells him, "I know someone you can call." Suddenly, I can see how mustard seeds move mountains.
Now, I'll admit, I'm partial to this mustard seed business. My mother wore a little mustard-seed necklace for, I think, her whole life, at least as long as I was alive. It comes from a parable in Matthew, Chapter 13. And this guy adapts it pretty well here, this is a good example of the power of the tiny mustard seed, if you look at it from his point of view
But look. A guy's religion connects him through the social network to an editor who asks him about a book. He comments positively on the book without reading it.
The author seems to really believe his book was peer reviewed. Rigorously.
Tell me, how are going to argue with that? They think this is how science works.
Cabin John Backs Down
We fight over a sex-ed curriculum. Sometimes we tell reporters it's just one little part of the big culture war. And it is: there are several other fronts in this war. One that we kind of keep an eye on is the fight over evolution. The other side in our sex-ed fight pretends that it's not a conflict of religion with science by carefully not quoting scripture in their public statements. Same in the evolution controversy. The religious extremists pretend that Intelligent Design is something different from creationism, by carefully not mentioning any Creator by name. Like oh yeah, it might be Paul Bunyon.
This morning's Post
had something that sort of jumped out at me. Marc Fisher wrote about some teachers at Cabin John Middle School, over in Bethesda, who gave eighth-grade students a list of the 100 top books that have been banned, and asked them to read one of them.
Now, that is
pretty nervy, though obviously there's a point they're trying to make. It's about censorship, and the fact that The Man has tried to shut down some great literature. But of course it turns out that there are people who actually favor
censorship. Apparently a couple of them called the school -- the school won't say how many, except that it was "less than five." Naturally the school backed down and retracted this great, challenging assignment.
There were a couple on the list that maybe you really wouldn't want your kid to read, but most of the books are just fine -- see the American Library Association's list HERE
. As October is Banned Book Month, it seemed like an appropriate assignment.
So what do you think it means, when a couple hundred parents think an assignment is ok, but "less than five" complain, and get their way? Is this sounding familiar? --It's exactly what we have with the health curriculum.
Anyway, one section of Fisher's column, in particular, jumped out at me. He wrote:
"The parents flunked the assignment," says parent Chris Rigaux. "I don't blame Montgomery County for trying to avoid another court battle, but this was a chance to use books like [Hinton's] 'The Outsiders' to teach about very different lifestyles than we have here in Bethesda, Maryland."
Rigaux's and Strang's sons went ahead and read banned novels and discussed them at home. But Strang is left with a question: "How can I build a resilient child in this world when this is how schools react to pressure?" Views of the Few Send a School Into Retreat
So there it is ... trying to avoid another court battle. In this whole school, this columnist was able to find two parents who didn't like some of the books on the list. But that's all it takes.
My first thought was that this lockdown over at Cabin John was a direct consequence of the lawsuit over the sex-education curriculum earlier this year. The CRC and PFOX took tens of thousands of the school district's money, wasted hundreds of hours of people's time, drew negative national attention to Montgomery County, and now the schools are afraid to try anything that might be controversial by anybody's standards.
At the same time, I could just hear CRC's lawyer John Garza whining at the school board, saying "Send us a curriculum that's not offensive." Right, a curriculum that's not offensive to anyone, sure thing. If two or three people can totally undermine a teacher's brilliant idea, then oh yeah, we're on our way to not offending anyone. And what kind of watered-down education could ever meet that standard? I shudder to think.
Technical Virgins, Doctors, and Church Ladies
We are never sure exactly what it is that the critics of the Montgomery County sex-ed curriculum really want. They say they like the current curriculum, but then they complain about it all the time, and blame everything that happens on it. Kids misbehaving on the school bus? It's because of the sex-ed classes they take. They say they don't want the schools to teach abstinence-only, but then they crusade on and on about how risky condoms are, and how people shouldn't have sex at all until they're married, and complain that the condom video only gave "lip service" to abstinence. They say it's not about religion, but then they talk about chastity and some so-called moral values that they seem to hold, which don't follow from reason and are almost certainly derived from religion.
Of course it's not just here in Montgomery County, these people are confusing everybody everywhere. They have giant national organizations that get on their collective high-horses over stuff, boycotting this or that, or banning books or fighting their school districts or whatever. What do they want? Nobody knows, because it has nothing to do with reality. Like, they do not believe that homosexuality is natural, or they believe it goes against God's teachings, or something. Okay, so ... then what? Are gay people supposed to just stop being gay? You can't figure out what in the world they think is supposed to happen. I don't think they'll be happy until sex ... just ... goes ... away.
This week USA Today
had a kind of interesting article about how kids are reacting to these impossible mixed messages.
They have figured out how to be "technical virgins."
Ten years after Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky's relationship made oral sex a mainstream topic, there's still plenty of debate over whether oral sex is really sex.
"There's not only confusion; there's fighting over it," says J. Dennis Fortenberry, a physician who specializes in adolescent medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine. "People disagree fairly vehemently."
The latest fuss is spurred by new federal data that found that more than half of 15- to 19-year-olds have received or given oral sex. Although the study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not ask the particulars of these encounters, research conducted in pre-Clinton times, along with more recent studies, suggests that teens largely fall on the "it's not sex" side. 'Technical virginity' becomes part of teens' equation
they have to mention Clinton in this... Oh those liberal media.)
Technically, I guess, a virgin is a female whose vagina has not been penetrated by a penis, or a male whose penis has not been inside a vagina. So there's your definition.
Now, some teenagers are going to be thinking about how to work around that definition so they can enjoy sex without, you know, losing that virginity that everybody keeps talking about. And it turns out to be easy.
A study published in 1999 in the Journal of the American Medical Association examines the definition of sex based on a 1991 random sample of 599 college students from 29 states. Sixty percent said oral-genital contact did not constitute having sex. "That's the 'technical virginity' thing that's going on," says Stephanie Sanders, associate director of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University and co-author of the study, which the researchers titled "Would You Say You 'Had Sex' If ...?"
Now this article is going to go around a couple of sharp curves here. Watch this:
What constitutes sex tends to be defined in a culture and varies with the times, Fortenberry says.
"In certain times in the history of the world, certain kinds of kissing would be considered sex," he says. "Not too many years ago, a woman would have been considered a 'loose woman' if she kissed a person before marriage."
But a new book from the Medical Institute for Sexual Health, an Austin-based non-profit that has worked for abstinence education with the Bush administration, doesn't waffle. In Questions Kids Ask About Sex, oral sex is clearly sex.
"Sex occurs when one person touches another person's genitals and causes that person to get sexually excited," the book states. "A girl or boy who's had oral sex doesn't feel or think like a virgin anymore, because he or she has had a form of sex."
Melissa Cox, who edited and contributed to the book, is a Denver-based medical writer who also edited a publication for Focus on the Family, an organization devoted to Christian family values.
She says a medical panel for the institute determined that oral sex is sex because it places young people at risk for sexually transmitted diseases and infections, puts them at risk for long-term emotional harm and opens the door for other sexual activity.
Maybe that didn't seem strange to you, but to go from quoting "a physician who specializes in adolescent medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine" to somebody who writes for rightwing Christian groups, mmm, do those seem equivalent to you? Like, does this lady have any qualifications
? You may have noticed that none were mentioned.
This is exactly what we've got in our county. The doctors are clear about how to approach the subject of sex, whether it's sexual orientation, safe sex practices, or developing a comprehensive outline for understanding the dimensions of sexual identity. And then you've got people from these religious groups, who want sex to go away. And the church ladies pretend that they are discussing the topic on the same level as the doctors.
Isn't that special?
Part of the problem, of course, is that different people have different goals. The doctors are concerned about public health issues, mainly having to do with disease and unwanted pregnancies. The church ladies want teenagers to be little ladies and gentlemen. For them, even if oral sex is not sex (and of course, we're just defining a word here, we're not looking for any statement of fact), it's still bad. And it needs to stop. If there were no health risk to it, I doubt the doctors would have much to say about it.
See, this isn't easy. Sex won't go away, sorry, but it just won't. We're built for it. You can sandbag the river at one point, but it's going to spill over somewhere else. Been that way since the dawn of time. We need to teach our kids what's going on and how to deal with it, honestly, thoroughly, and objectively.
Thinking About Plan A
So ... what would happen if MCPS delivered a sex-ed curriculum, and it was exactly the same
as the curriculum that the school board approved unanimously last year, but with the offending background resources removed?
And what would happen if the citizens advisory committee voted to accept it? And what would happen if the crybabies refused to apply properly for the committee, and weren't there to vote?
I'm just thinking about Plan A. We could see a proper sex-ed curriculum in classrooms in the spring, couldn't we?
The Citizens for a Responsible Curriculm have no sense of decency.
Someone pointed me to a post on their web site, where they try to badmouth a speaker from our forum last month. I'm not going to link to it, you need to register to read it anyway.
Robert Rigby, Jr., spoke at our September 25th forum about his seventeen years' experience with reparative therapies (therapies intended to change a patient's sexual orientation from gay to straight). After discussing it with us, he chose not to go into a lot of personal details in his talk, but his presentation at the forum was moving and emotionally intense for all present. This was obviously a very difficult thing for the guy to do, to speak in public about his hopes and fears, and what some would view as his failed attempts to overcome his homosexuality.
The Washington Blade
described his talk at our forum pretty well:
Rigby, who currently works as a special education math teacher at Falls Church High School, said that he tried to live as an ex-gay from the time he was a teenager until 1998.
"During those 17 years, my life was a disaster," Rigby said. He said that he experienced 19 visits to the hospital and two suicide attempts as he tried to grapple with the depression caused by repressing his sexual orientation.
"The reparative therapy only made this worse," Rigby said. "It only reinforced the notion that something was fundamentally wrong with me."
Rigby said that he wanted to become ex-gay because he thought being gay was wrong.
"I sincerely thought they were a bunch of perverts and sinners and wanted nothing to do with them," Rigby said.
Rigby said he finally came out after beings suggested to do so in a sexual reorientation therapy session. He said the experience and effects of coming out has changed his life.
"My life has become remarkably stable and happy," Rigby said.
It was an emotional segment in the forum, a very personal few minutes while he talked.
Now, I see that the nuts at CRC really think they're going to undermine him with this kind of bizarre personal attack. They have a big post up, trying to make it sound like he is trying to fool everybody. For instance, they say:
He was featured at the recent TTF forum as a gay man who allegedly spent many years involved in reparative therapy and then admits he could not change his sexual orientation and suffered bouts of depression and suicide attempts. He failed to name the particulars of that therapy. In an e-mail to Parents and Friends of Ex-gays and Gays he admitted that he is bipolar.
He talked about his bipolar diagnose on the stage at the TeachTheFacts forum, too. In fact, listen to what he said:
Since I ended my involvement with the ex-gay stuff, I haven't experienced any severe depressive or manic episodes, nor have I been admitted to a hospital. I've worked for the same company for six years, lived in the same city, had the same friends, and formed a solid relationship with my family. I can not express how remarkable this stability is to me. When I was involved in reparative therapy, I thought I was sentenced to bouts of shame and sadness, to unstable relationships, to perennial mental illness. That turns out not to be true.
The CRC post then cites some ... I don't know what, these aren't "studies." They quote a press release by a shrink at a Christian college, a government web site that is completely irrelevant to the discussion, and then "Dr. Robert Spitzer, from his peer reviewed journal." If you know about Spitzer's publications you know where this all comes from. It is not clear what the point of these things is supposed to be, unless the mass and density of unrelated-but-academic-sounding information is intended to tip the scale toward the CRC's point of view.
This is unbelievable, it is not human, certainly not civilized. They write;
Depression and suicidal tendencies are not caused by his having homosexual feelings, nor because he tried to change them. He is bipolar and we know this bipolar condition causes depression and suicidal thoughts. He is not being truthful.
Can you imagine posting something on the Internet discussing something like this? They seem to have no idea that they are talking about a real person, and obviously a person who has gone through some very hard times. And you're going to accuse him of lying about his psychiatric diagnosis?
What kind of person does that?
I keep remembering the CRC's Ruth Jacobs telling the school board about the "game" where one kid holds another kid's head in the toilet while they flush it again and again. That's what this is like. I feel like my head is being held in their toilet, just reading this.
They write further:
Another issue, I don't believe TTF and others are aware of is Mr. Rigby's support and admittance of the existence of ex-gays. He in a 6/26/2002 email to Fairfax County Public Schools, stated his support of no harassment for ex-gays in the Fairfax school system. This is truly admittance that there are really ex-gays in the first place!
That is to his credit. This is what he said when he was trying to get the Fairfax County School Board to pass a sexual orientation non-discrimination rule:
"I myself and my organization will defend to the utmost any person who identifies as "ex-gay" against discrimination or harassment; I consider such people members of my community, even if I disagree with them;"
Why in the world would we -- or GLSEN, who obviously supported him in his statement -- care if he defends the rights of "ex-gays?" I would defend the rights of "ex-gays," even without knowing if such a thing exists. You want to be "ex-gay?" Cool, fine with me, people don't need to hassle you, maybe you'll grow out of it. Robert Rigby, Jr., spent a lot of time with these kinds of people -- who would be surprised if he defends them? And what is this supposed to prove?
It is amazing to see that CRC thinks that defending the rights of people you disagree with is some kind of contradiction or indicates moral weakness. It just says so much.
Several of us had lunch with Robert before the forum, to meet him and see what he might want to say, and he was perfectly candid with us. He talked about maintaining connections to PFOX and others from his old life after he left the group. He even talked about that in his presentation at the forum. Why would we care? And why would CRC try to say that we're not aware of something? They'd be the last to know what we're aware of.
Robert gave an incredible talk at the TeachTheFacts forum, and it was because of his honesty and openness, not because he claimed to be something he wasn't. He presented himself as a nuanced thinker, a person with a lot of empathy for others who were going through what he'd gone through, a very real person.
Finally, the CRC writes:
Another issue, his bibliography on the back page of the program from TTF Forum, states that he came out as a homosexual in 1998 and in 2000 he co-founded the local chapter of Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN.) Remember GLSEN opposes ex-gays and does not acknowledge they exist. Rigby made his support and admittance of ex-gays in 2002. Their founder, Kevin Jennings has stated on GLSEN’s website that he believes reorientation therapy is "quackery".
Why are Mr. Rigby's views in direct conflict with the organization he represents?
Maybe the gay community should ask Mr. Rigby why he "double talks" and misrepresents the facts. Maybe he isn't a good choice to have as a spokesperson.
Mmm, I wonder how the CRC got a cover of the program from our forum. Guess they sent somebody undercover. Wow, this is real Spy Versus Spy stuff.
Listen: Robert Rigby, Junior, had the courage to stand up in front of more than a hundred people and tell them about the most private parts of his life. He grew up gay, tried to "get over it" through various kinds of therapies -- he didn't tell the crowd the half of it, but what he actually went through was incredible. And now he says he doesn't agree with those who claim to be "ex-gays," but he will defend their right to express themselves.
And for that, the CRC will try to make you believe he is a liar or a hypocrite, that he "'double talks' and misrepresents the facts."
They are moral cowards. That's all there is to it. This posting on the CRC forum is a personal attack of the lowest order, lies built on assumptions built on hatred and directed at a guy who deserves lots and lots of respect for what he did and the character it showed.
Failure By Inaction Will Not Be Acceptable
In Tuesday's school board meeting, several board members and the superintendent commented after the announcement that they were giving the anti-MCPS groups two more weeks to apply for the new committee. It started when board President Pat O'Neill called on board member Steve Abrams:
PO: All right, Mr. Abrams.
SA: Specifically I want to reference the comments that were made by Michelle Turner this morning. In conjunction with the correspondence that Mrs. O' Neill has stated, I think from my perspective, I think we want to make this thing work right and we want to make sure that the focus of this advisory committee gets to the task of providing us with insights onto an appropriate curriculum to be implemented during the second semester of this school year. Very fortunately, we have a little bit of time but not a great deal of time.
So I would certainly urge the three groups to take the opportunity they have to prefect their applications to the process. It should be quite clear to them what the process is, what the qualifications are, what the expectations are. I'm hopeful that we will be able to go forward and see a full advisory committee appointed on the 24th but certainly that decision rests on the applicants.
This struck me as a positive comment. Abrams is a Republican, a conservative, and he plays his cards close to his chest. We never know how excited he is about the curriculum or the controversy, but he seems fair and he pays attention, and he did vote for it the last time. And here he mentioned a pretty ambitious but perfectly reasonable plan to get the curriculum up and running for the Spring semester. He doesn't want to waste time, he wants to get this thing off his desk, up and running, and that's what we want, too.
Then board member Sharon Cox spoke up:
S. Cox: Just a point of information. I thought I heard Mr. Abrams say "the curriculum to be implemented in the Second semester of this school year" and the green sheet that we originally passed said that the recommendation would be brought to the Board by the end of the school year but it did not, you know, with training issues, etc., it may not be implemented in the second semester. (CROSS TALK) I just didn't want to set, create an expectation to the public.
Ah, the public. We do have an expectation, actually. We expect our kids to get a first rate education in Montgomery County public schools.
S.Abrams: I appreciate that. I didn't mean to misspeak but clearly when we deferred last years, we deferred the portion of the curriculum that would normally be given towards the latter part of the second semester. Ideally, we would certainly like to see something if ready.
This interlude of spontaneous discussion ended with a pessimistic, even fatalistic, summary by Superintendent Weast:
Dr. Weast: Yeah. I think it's going to be as you can see a fairly complicated process. I've talked to Jody [?] and she gave me a report this last week that she just believes that probably it's going to be very difficult to achieve that spring implementation. Now that doesn't mean that we won't have what we currently have and which has stood the test of time but she believes because of all the attention that has to be paid to each of these details, that we probably won't get that rolled out in that time frame.
In fact, she was certain that she wouldn't get it rolled out in that time frame. And I kept telling her please try but you understand.
OK, look, I don't know who Jody is, but what do you say you get somebody in there who can
They've got half a year to put together two 45-minute classes -- and it's already been done once. Plan A: Throw out offensive background resources, vote on it, and go. Elapsed Time: near zero.
And if the crybabies miss the meeting ... oh well. They did have seats.
And that thing about "what we currently have and which has stood the test of time?" Did he mean that? Dr. Weast is on record saying that a new curriculum was overdue -- he said that last year, as I recall. This thing hasn't stood the test of time, it's way out of date and it needs to be replaced. Let's not get sentimental about how well the old curriculum has stood the "test of time."
We supported the board's adoption of the curriculum last year, and now we support their efforts to develop and approve another one. We will not support them if they sit around doing nothing. And we will make sure people notice.
The MCPS Board of Education just gave us two big fat weeks of Absolutely Nothing. For now, we will trust that they did this on sound legal advice, but it's still two weeks gone.
We will not agree to failure by inaction.
Dr. Beyer Responds to Garza's Comments
In yesterday's Board of Education public comments, CRC attorney John Garza made a statement about sex reassignment surgery that was, well, you don't know where that came from, really. There was nothing in the proposed curriculum about sex reassignment surgery, nor was anything ever recommended. There was a definition of the word "transgender" for tenth graders, and that's as close as it came. Regardless, yesterday Garza shared his thoughts on the subject with the Board, the Internet, and the television audience.
A TeachTheFacts.org member, Dana Beyer, MD, has written a response to Garza's statements. Dr. Beyer is a physician and surgeon, trans woman, chair of Trans Equality Maryland, senior medical advisor to National Center for Transgender Equality and the DES Sons International Network, presenter on sex and gender to the International Behavioral Development Symposium. She is also a former and possibly future candidate for delegate, district 18.
First, here's what Garza said yesterday:
Good morning friends. May I ask each of you to not encourage our young children to chop off their body parts? I am talking about the medical procedure known as sexual reassignment surgery. The board continnues to be swayed by groups such as Advocates for Youth, PFLAG, GLSEN, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood. These groups believe the answer to a individual's transgenderism is to undergo sexual reassignment surgery. These groups assert that transgenderism is "as natural as being straight." The new and improved sex education curriculum that each of you backed to the point of losing a federal lawsuit, affirmed this view of transgenderism. Do you still believe this?
Will you promise, right now, to at least mention the other side? Will you tell our children that last December, Dr. Paul McHugh, Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, urged psychiatrists to put an end to sexual reassignment surgery for individuals with gender identity disorder?
Will you, right now, promise to tell our children what doctors at Johns Hopkins discovered during follow up studies of people who had sexual reassignment surgeries? Will you tell our children that they found that these individual's psychological condition had little or no change? At least the doctors are honest and truthful. Bear in mind that Hopkins is the place that pioneered sexual reassignment surgery. Plus, a second study backs that up.
I conclude by quoting Dr. McHugh on the topic of sexual reassignment surgery, he said "We have wasted scientific and technical resources and damaged our professional credibility by collaborating with madness rather than trying to study, cure and ultimately prevent it."
Don't cause our children to stumble. Don't be swayed by PFLAG, GLSEN and NARAL. Instead, reach out to the parents of the children in your care. You will be richly rewarded.
And Dr. Beyer's response:
I have tried not to deal with this subject on this blog, because it's not relevant to the ongoing debate. It's very relevant to me, of course, and I believe it elucidates many important issues related to sex and gender. But transgender issues were the most minor topic in the sex-ed curriculum.
It is also obvious that Garza, Watson and Jacobs have serious problems with sexuality, obsessing about various aspects that the average, well-adjusted adult does not. Be that as it may, I will leave it to others to parse this out, and I will present the science once again, as I did last month to the BoE.
Gender variance is an increasingly visible aspect of life, for various reasons. But it should be understood that the medical profession has been dealing with it since the 1960's. Since then, the overwhelming majority of medical professionals, including psychiatrists and psychologists as well, have concluded that human beings have a sexual, or gender, identity. That is, we all know, in our minds, that we are male or female. And over the past ten years neurological research has discovered that rooted in an area of the brain called the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus is composed of smaller regions called nuclei and subnuclei. One in particular, in humans, the BSTc, appears to be the controlling area. In males this is a particular size and shape, with a certain number of nerve cells; in females it is grossly different. Autopsy studies have shown that transsexual women, who were born with female gender identities and male genitals, have a female BSTc. Note: The size of the brain region correlates directly with gender identity, not the presence or absence of a penis.
Over the past thirty years medicine has come to recognize this. Psychiatrists tried, oh, did they try, to fix the brain to fit the genitals. Aversion therapy, electroshock therapy, shame, humiliation - whatever came to mind. Nothing worked. Eventually, a consensus developed that the mind could not be changed, and a new generation of neuroscientists logically chose to determine why. They discovered the brain results I've mentioned above.
So it is obvious that if you can't change the brain, you change the genitals. This is what Mr. Garza and his friends find so abhorrent. I don't suppose they would consider tumor excision to be "chopping off body parts." I haven't read anywhere that they feel cosmetic surgery, including hair transplantation, is against Biblical precepts. But there is something that really excites them about women having their penises fashioned into vaginas.
This is really no big deal today. The procedure is routine, done thousands of times annually in the US, even more often abroad. It is one of the most successful surgeries in medicine today, and the satisfaction rate is 95-98%. Few surgeries came that close. I know. I'm a surgeon.
Mr. Garza lists NARAL, PFLAG and other social action groups, ignoring the fact that American medicine approves of sex reassignment surgery overwhelmingly. That's why those groups support the transgender community. Based on the facts.
Now I will come to the core of his argument, the religious extremists' favorite poster boy, Dr. Paul McHugh. Dr. McHugh is a cuddly sort of fellow, beloved by his students and patients. He is no longer a Professor at Hopkins, but is an Emeritus Professor. That means he's retired. He has specialized in eating disorders. He advises the Vatican as well as President Bush.
But he knows little to nothing about sex and gender. He arrived at Hopkins in 1975 with the express desire to shut down its sex reassignment surgery. This he did, and he commissioned a study to justify it. The Meyer study, published in 1979, is well known as a hatchet job, methodologically flawed and useless, and ignored by everyone without a bias against trans people. All studies since that time have supported gender transition and genital reconstruction surgery. All. Which is why the extremists always call on Dr. McHugh, because he is the only person of note to take their position.
I'm sure he likes the attention. Given that he knows little about the subject, one must wonder why he's been obsessed with the issue for over thirty years. But I will give him some credit. Until last year, he refused to acknowledge the existence of a gender identity, and its source in the brain. But he was overwhelmed by evidence provided by his colleague, Bill Reiner, in his path-breaking study on physically intersexed children. Reiner's study conclusively showed that we all have a sense of our sex irrespective of our genitals, and, even if we have no genitals at all from birth. So maybe Dr. McHugh will finally face facts and join the rest of us. Until then, it is his madness that is on display, and his professional credibility that is in tatters.
And, by the way, for all of Dr. McHugh's titles and accolades, he's never published his ideas about sex and gender in a peer-reviewed journal. Sound familiar? Nor has he been willing to debate the issue. He just publishes where he can outrage and not have to face criticism, in Catholic journals like First Things.
What Do They Want, Really?
The three main local papers each delivered yesterday's news in their unique way. The Post
was informative, accurate, thorough, they interviewed a couple of the players. The Gazette
, too, was direct, factual, well-written, very concise (of all the media, I'd have to say their coverage has been the best through all of this). And of course The Times
made it sound like ... well, here's their headline: Picking of sex-ed panel rankles family groups
. Mmm, "family groups," sure, that's what this is about, rankling family groups.
But let's pick out the news here. All three reporters, it looks like, interviewed CRC President Michelle Turner. We want to figure out what's going on here, let's see what she said.The Post
has her like this:
But Michelle Turner, a parent and president of CRC, which submitted one nominee, said the board's request violates the terms of a settlement the two sides signed in June. Turner said the agreement allows CRC and PFOX -- not the board -- to designate whom they wish to serve on the advisory committee.
"We have a signed settlement that we would each be able to choose our representative," Turner said. "For them to change the rules -- what kind of ethical practice is that?"
She said the new conditions don't apply to their representatives because the board made the changes after the two sides signed the agreement. A representative for PFOX could not be reached for comment.
and there's a little more, toward the end...
For now, CRC is not budging, and Turner said the group would not submit additional names. It is unclear, however, whether CRC's nominee, Retta Brown, will be permitted to serve because she was a part of the original committee that worked with Montgomery educators on the previous curriculum. O'Neill said the board recognizes that CRC and PFOX are entitled to seats under the terms of their agreement, but if the two groups decline to follow the rules, their seats might go unfilled.
OK, so CRC wants to interpret the agreement as saying that they, and not the school board, will select their members for the committee. Even though the agreement itself says they will be selected by the board, according to standard policy.
And they want to call this a "change" of the rules. But of course the rules weren't made yet when the agreement was signed -- why would you have deadlines and qualifications and application procedures for a committee that you don't even know is going to exist? Are they really going to take that argument to court?The Gazette
had this from the same lady:
Reached by phone after the board’s decision, Turner responded to [board member] Abrams' comments, saying the settlement agreement did not include any mention that a nominee could not have served on the disbanded committee.
"He, having a law background, ought to know that if you sign an agreement, you are bound by that agreement," she said. "And writing a resolution or policy subsequent to the agreement cannot have bearing."
Turner said her group has no intention of changing its nomination, adding that the group was in contact with the Orlando, Fla.-based Liberty Counsel, which provided CRC and PFOX with legal help when it sued the school board.
"If an organization changes an agreement, it could certainly lead to further litigation,” Turner said. "But I’m not a lawyer, so I can only speculate. ... We acted in good faith with the Board of Education and ask them to reciprocate."
OK, great quotes. This is as clear as it gets, they want to sue, they "have no intention" of following the rules. They think they only have to follow the settlement agreement, not the board's rules. Mmm, OK, good luck with that one.
And then The Times
Michelle Turner, president of CRC, said the schools negotiated an agreement in June with the understanding that her group and an ex-gay group would designate one person each to sit on the committee.
Days after the June 27 agreement, however, the schools said each group would submit three names, and the schools would pick the representatives.
"We had a signed agreement with the schools in good faith, and as soon as we signed it, they designed a policy to undermine it," Mrs. Turner said.
"I think it's an underhanded little game to play," she said.
From The Times'
quotes, we see that Ms. Turner feels that it was a dirty deal for the board to establish rules for application for membership on the new committee, or at least for the board to expect CRC and PFOX to follow them. Like they were trying to trick them or something.
In case their thinking is not clear, Ms. Turner read this statement at public comments in the morning session:
In order to ensure true representation on the new Citizen's Advisory Committee for Family Life & Human Development, the seat issue was very important to the CRC and PFOX during settlement negotiations.
For that reason, we (you, PFOX, CRC) agreed to one seat each for PFOX and CRC and that the CAC would be limited to 15 people. At no point prior to signing the agreement did the school noard inform us that there would be a change in the rules under which you have operated in the past. At the time we signed the agreement, the old practice existed where we -- CRC & PFOX -- would designate a person for that seat, and unless otherwise not qualified, then the nomination was to be accepted.
The agreement required CRC and PFOX to submit the designee by July 1. As of July 1- the new policy did not exist. Thus we cannot be bound to the new policy. The new policy did not come into existence until more than a month after the settlement agreement was signed.
I believe it is in the best interest of MCPS and you, members of the Board, to honor the agreement as it was originally intended and bring this matter to a close. It is up to you.
Well, all-righty now.
Here's the legal question, it seems to me: When MCPS and these two anti-school-district groups signed that agreement, was there any reason to believe, using common sense, that no other policies would apply to them
I don't know a lot about this stuff, but I'll bet lawyers have a Latin phrase that means "This document does not imply anything that is not stated in this document." Don't know what that is, but I'll just betcha there's some fancy phrase for that idea, which must be common in contract law. This is our agreement, and we haven't agreed on anything else.
Look at the wording of the settlement HERE
Section 6 is the relevant one -- here it is in full:
6. MCPS agrees that the newly-constituted CAC, for the term during which the consultation on the Revisions contemplated by the Board's May 23, 2005 resolution will occur, will include a maximum of 15 members and will include one representative of PFOX and one representative of CRC, to be selected by the Board in accordance with Section C(2)(a)(3) of Board Policy BMA, provided such representatives are Montgomery County residents and are otherwise qualified and able to serve on the committee. PFOX and CRC will inform the Board of their nominees in writing by July 1, 2005.
There is no other mention of limitations or privileges for the complaining groups. The committee will include one member from each group.
Oh, but there is this:
9. Nothing contained in this Agreement shall be construed to diminish or enlarge the legal right of MCPS to develop, revise or implement curriculum, including curriculum that provides information on sexual variations and promotes tolerance of others regardless of sexual orientation.
Yes, the school board retains all its regular powers to do what it needs to do to develop curriculum. Like define a process for applying, spell out requirements for membership, set some deadlines, stuff like that.
Sorry you lawsuit-lovin', gay-hatin' groups don't like the way this is working out. Really, I'm sorry.
Now dry your eyes, come up with three valid names, and try to make it look like you really do care about developing a curriculum for our kids.
Anti-MCPS Groups Fail to Apply for Membership: Board Gives Them One More Chance
I left work early today to attend the meeting, but the MCPS Board of Education did not announce the membership of the new citizens committee. Instead, they gave CRC and PFOX (plus a student group called MCR) two more weeks to apply.
Of course those groups knew when the deadline was, and they know what the rules are. They just don't think they have to follow the rules. CRC President Michelle Turner was very clear in public comments this morning, that they don't think they should have to follow the rules. They think that they only have to adhere to the legal settlement, and that the Board policies regarding application to the committee, including deadlines, qualifications, application procedures, etc., are only for other groups.
Just to document the progression of things, I am blogging here three letters that were sent by the school board to the President of the CRC. As you read these, you will see that there is no question they knew what they had to do.
Here’s what the President of the school board sent to the President of CRC back in July:
July 28, 2005
Mrs. Michelle Turner
Silver Spring, Maryland
Dear Mrs. Turner:
As you are undoubtedly aware, the Board of Education, at its meeting of July 27th, approved the enclosed resolution to reconstitute the Citizens Advisory Committee for Family Life and Human Development Committee, along with the charge to the committee. One of the seats on the committee has been reserved for a representative of the Citizens for Responsible Curriculum.
Please find enclosed a copy of the press release and the application form being utilized to solicit applicants for the committee. Pursuant to the terms of the adopted resolution, please submit to the Board your nominee and two alternate nominees, provided that they are bona fide residents of Montgomery County and have not served on this committee previously.
The Board anticipates making its appointment of the committee membership, from among those nominated, at its meeting of October 11, 2005.
The board was also kind enough to remind the CRC, the day before applications were due, that theirs had not yet been received. Just a friendly reminder, y’know.
TeachTheFacts.org didn’t get any reminder, we had to mail our applications in, ourselves. CRC is getting red-carpet treatment here.
September 8, 2005
Mrs. Michelle Turner
Silver Spring, Maryland
Dear Mrs. Turner:
The deadline for the applications from both individuals and organizations to the reconstituted Citizens Advisory Committee for Family Life and Human Development is September 9, 2005, as set forth in the press release and application form previously sent to you. I wanted to take this opportunity to reaffirm that a seat on this Committee has been reserved for CRC and to request that you submit a nominee and two alternate nominees who are bona fide residents of Montgomery County and who have not served on the Committee previously.
You were formally advised by Board President Patricia O'Neill, by letter dated July 28, 2005, of the Board's action the previous evening establishing procedures to reconstitute the Committee and of the Board's charge to the Committee. This followed correspondences dated June 29, 2005, in which you were informed of the possibility that procedures, which had not been adopted at that time, could ask for multiple nominees and were requested to submit three names.
To date, the Board has not received any applications from individuals stating that they are the nominee or alternate nominee of CRC, nor a letter of endorsement from your organization. You attention to this matter would be appreciated. If it is more convenient for you, feel free to fax the information to me at (301) ***-****.
Several weeks after
applications were due, the board sent CRC this extra-special pretty-please-with-sugar-on-it.
October 3, 2005
Mrs. Michelle Turner
Silver Spring, Maryland
Dear Mrs. Turner:
With the close of the application period having passed for those interested in applying for the Citizens Advisory Committee for Family Life and Human Development, I note that the only application which the Board has received from the Citizens for Responsible Curriculum was the one you signed on behalf of Henrietta Brown, and faxed to the Board office on September 8th. However, as Board President O'Neill advised you in her letter of July 28, 2005, pursuant to the Board's resolution of July 27th (a copy of which was provided you with the letter), individuals who served on the committee previously are not eligible to serve on the reconstituted committee. My letter of September 8th to you also referenced the requirement that applicants not have served previously on the committee. Inasmuch as Ms. Brown previously served on the committee, she is not eligible for appointment per the language of the Board's resolution.
As both Mrs. O'Neill's and my earlier letters stated, the Board's resolution also calls for the organizations to submit a nominee and two alternate nominees who are otherwise qualified (i.e. are bona fide residents of Montgomery County and have not served on the committee previously). Given that the Board is not scheduled to makes appointments until its October 11th meeting, I am requesting again that CRC submit a nominee and two alternate nominees that are fully qualified for consideration by the Board of Education for appointment.
The language of the resolution clearly states that a seat on the committee has been reserved for CRC. Therefore, it will not be filled until such time as qualified nominees are submitted to the Board of Education. Thank you for your consideration.
So, there we were, sitting in the board’s meeting room today, more than a month after the application deadline, and Mrs. O’Neill read a letter expressing the board’s intention for now. They’re going to give the CRC another two weeks.
This must be some kind of legal CYA, because everybody knows they have no intention of applying. It loses the county two weeks of time when we could have been working.
Statement by Patricia B. O’Neill
President, Board of Education
October 11, 2005
I want to thank the many residents and organizations of Montgomery County who submitted applications for membership on the 15-member Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development. More than 180 individuals applied for the committee, and their willingness to serve reflects well on the citizens of our community and their support of our public school system. Among the applicants are many experienced and knowledgeable individuals who have expertise in the fields of health, education, public policy, and related areas, and many are parents of students in our school system.
These applications have been thoroughly reviewed and considered by the Board of Education. Today, in closed session, the Board completed initial work to identify applicants to be appointed to the committee. Representatives of four organizations, seven community members at large, and one high school student member have been tentatively identified, as has a potential committee chair. The Board plans to take public action to appoint the committee on October 24.
The Board had planned to take final action today, but we are still awaiting qualified nominations from three organizations that have reserved membership on the committee: Citizens for Responsible Curriculum (CRC), Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), and the Montgomery County Region of the Maryland Association of Student Councils (MCR). The organizations were notified prior to today that the names of qualified nominees with two alternates have not yet been submitted.
In action on July 27, 2005, the Board of Education directed that the reconstituted Citizens Advisory Committee be comprised of 15 county residents who had not previously served on the committee including eight members at large, one of whom is to be a high school student; and seven representatives of organizations, including one representative each for CRC, PFOX, and MCR. All organizations were asked to submit one nominee and two alternate nominees.
The committee, which will serve in an advisory capacity to the Board of Education and superintendent, is to consult with professional educators within the school system in the course of their developing, implementing, and evaluating the family life and human development program, consistent with the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR).
Let me spell it out to you. The CRC wants to sue. They want to waste the people's money, they want to waste everybody's time, they want to drag this thing on in the boardroom and then go to court and drag it out there.
They are not going to follow the application procedures. Then, when the Board assembles the committee and leaves their seats vacant, they can sue and say that they were "promised" membership in their legal agreement. They can say the school board violated the agreement by starting the committee without them.
Even though the problem is really that they have never applied.
They need to submit names of three people from each group who live in the county and have never served on the committee before. We did it, according to the board over 180 people managed to apply for this 15-person committee, but CRC just can’t manage to get their homework turned in.
Why would they do that?
Because they know they'll never win by playing fair. They know that if there's an honest discussion, they'll lose it. This is the only chance they have.