Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Consensus Guidelines Do Nothing for PFOX

As I noted in the previous post, PFOX sent out a press release (read it HERE), implying that the First Amendment Center's new consensus guidelines for teaching about sexual orientation (they're HERE) included something about "ex-gays." They quoted a scholar from the Center:
According to Charles Haynes, a primary drafter of the guidelines and Senior Scholar at the First Amendment Center, the ex-gay viewpoint in public schools is protected by the First Amendment and should be heard.

Haynes explained that incidents such as the one last year in Montgomery County, Maryland, might have been avoided had guidelines like these been in place. In that case, Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) successfully sued the Montgomery County School Board for failing to include the ex-gay viewpoint.

I emailed Dr. Haynes to find out what he had said.

At first he was, I thought, too vague:
I said that our guide encourages school officials to include all stakeholders in the dialogue about how to address these issues. I said nothing (and the guidelines say nothing) about what the outcome of that dialogue should be... What schools include in their curriculum will depend on the outcome of the process -- and the vote of the school board. Our guide is a suggested process for reaching those decisions, not a prescription about what to include or not include in the curriculum. In that sense, then, the ex-gay viewpoint should be at the table along with other perspectives when these decisions are made.

I pointed out to him that The headline for this PFOX press release was "SEXUAL ORIENTATION CONSENSUS GUIDELINES INCLUDE EX-GAYS," which, since the guidelines themselves did not mention the topic, apparently referred to your comments, and asked him to clarify.

His reply:
Let me try to be clear: "Including" in my comments has to do with including people in the dialogue... including various perspectives in the process of deciding what the district will do. I said nothing, the guidelines say nothing, about what the final curriculum should be... Those groups supporting the process in the guide disagree about what a good curriculum might look like... Our task was to agree on a process for dialogue. If the PFOX headline means: the process recommended in the guidelines calls for including all sides, then that is correct. In my comments, I said that the guidelines call for including all sides in the process. I did not comment on whether on not school should teach about ex-gays or anything else.


The First Amendment Center encourages use of First Amendment principles in the decision-making process. That would mean, I said, that the ex-gay group should be at the table. As to what the curriculum should or should not include, that is a matter for local communities to decide.

OK -- is that clear? "Including" ex-gays means you include them in the process. It does not mean including them in the curriculum.

Well, that ain't a whole lot, is it? PFOX was at the table. PFOX had a representative on the citizens committee that studied the previous curriculum for nearly two years. They were outvoted.

They have a representative on the current committee. They're included.

Regarding our situation here in Montgomery County, Dr. Haynes wrote:
It is possible that every effort was made to include all voices in the process... and that some people simply refused to accept the outcome. Even using the best First Amendment framework, the process can fail.

Yes, the process can fail. People can refuse to accept the process. They can undermine the process. They can cost the taxpayers money.

I'd like to put this one to bed. The First Amendment Center's consensus guidelines for teaching about sexual orientation in the public schools are well-enough considered and fair. The basic premise is that all sides should be included in the process of curriculum development, and all sides should act like grown-ups and show a little civility to one another. If that happens, then the process can be a constructive one where the result will reflect the will of the community.

The previous MCPS citizens advisory committee did include very diverse viewpoints, including a good number of representatives of conservative groups. It was, it seems to me, orderly, civil, and allowed minority viewpoints to be expressed, discussed, and voted on. And, in every vote, somebody wins, and somebody loses. And the current committee of course includes CRC and PFOX, and shows every sign of being a well-organized and fair group.

It appears that PFOX wants to pretend that this document somehow supports their mission. It does support their presence in the discussion. But they were in the discussion already, so it doesn't add anything. At most, this just gives Montgomery County an attaboy for doing the right thing.

To be clear: the First Amendment Center's consensus guidelines do not say anything at all about "ex-gays," and the author of the document makes it clear that he has not given an opinion on the subject.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well PFOX did this all by themselves while desperately seeking anything or everything that might give them a ray of hope in trying to legitimize their platform even if it is a "lie."

Now wonder if CRC is promoting the PFOX new press release? Nevermind...CRC Precious "Retta" posted it on their forum as if it were true.


March 16, 2006 7:59 PM  
Blogger digger said...

PFOX has reported me, of all people, as acknowledging that reparative therapy works and supporting the ex-gay movement, based on a misconstrual of a personal email I sent to Ms. Griggs years ago; they go on to accuse me of hypocrisy as a result.

If we can persuade anti-gay groups to be polite and to listen to other people, as seems to be the intent of this First Amendment release, we've taken a positive step.

On the other hand, I know when we've spoken to the school board about fairness, inclusion, fighting harassment and tolerance, and the other side stands up and discusses fisting, semen and feces, it can't help but further our efforts. It just makes the whole discussion kind of yucky.

The reality is that anti-gay feelings and efforts aren't based on reality, but rather on gut prejudices and bigotry. Even when people assert religious reasons for opposing acceptance and tolerance, I always wonder if they really are just using religion as an excuse to support more basic, gut-reaction prejudices. Certainly when people quote the 1st chapter of Romans without having read the second, I'm certain that their concerns aren't religiously based.

PFOX is a relatively unpolished, immature organization. They do themselves no favors with press releases such as this one.

Not a sermon, just a thought.


March 17, 2006 8:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Certainly when people quote the 1st chapter of Romans without having read the second, I'm certain that their concerns aren't religiously based."

Robert, this reminds me that I owed you a conversation about tolerance and the Bible. At least one translation I had made the word you were talking about "tolerance", so you may have half a point. How much Christians should be involved in politics is an open question. Could you send me yor e-mail to EHollis4123, my dummy anonymous account? I know you gave it to me before but it's lost somewhere in the maze of comments.

"Not a sermon, just a thought."

Hope McLean Bible Church doesn't get you for plagiarism.

Just kidding.

March 18, 2006 2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, Robert. That's

March 18, 2006 3:11 PM  

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