A group of nearly two dozen Republican lawmakers is threatening to pull state funding from an Iowa community college unless they defund an anti-bullying program that the lawmakers say bullies Christians and conservatives.
The Des Moines Area Community College is one of several sponsors of the Iowa Governors Conference on LGBTQ Youth – scheduled to be held next week. The program was founded by Iowa Safe Schools.
The college’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter filed a Freedom of Information Act request and discovered that tax and tuition dollars were being used to cover the costs.
“It’s outrageous,” said Jake Dagel, chairman of the YAF chapter at the college. “My school has decided to use the money that I funded them – to go out and fund an event that’s bullying people with my beliefs.”
Dagel took issue with several of the workshops being offered at the conference – and said they were anti-Christian and anti-conservative.
“Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Right Wing?” is the title of one workshop.
“Learn messages and methods to fight back against propaganda from the extreme right-wing, from Fox News and Rush Limbaugh to Bob Vander Plaats and Jan Mickelson,” read the workshop’s description.
Vander Plaats is president of The Family Leader, an Iowa-based socially conservative organization. Mickelson is a talk radio host at WHO in Des Moines.
A workshop about LGBTQ and the Bible ponders questions like, “Is the Bible an excuse to hate?” and “Can the love between two people ever be an abomination?”
“I have a problem because they are using taxpayer funds to bully people at an anti-bullying conference,” Dagel told Fox News.
Republican lawmakers released a statement denouncing the use of taxpayer funds to support the conference.
“We cannot in good conscience vote to give taxpayer dollars to people or groups who pervert the Bible, teach our youth to engage in dangerous behavior, and target individuals like Jan Mickelson for hatred and bullying,” their statement read.
The lawmakers vowed to vote against funding the community college unless they pull tax dollars from the LGBTQ conference.
Rob Denson, president of the college, told Fox News he will not withdraw funding from the event.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “All I know is the intent of Iowa Safe Schools is to support diversity and protect children.”
Denson confirmed they are sponsoring 50 students so they can attend the conference – costing $1,000.
“We want to make this conference available to a certain number of our students that might not otherwise be able to go,” he said. “As a community college we have many students who represent many of the different categories and we are supportive of all of them.”
Denson said the college’s diversity commission signed off on the contribution.
“We respect everyone’s right to live the life they want to live,” he said.
But Dagel questioned whether Christians or conservatives would be welcomed at the event.
“Being a Christian or a conservative – you would feel like an outcast,” he said. “This is not diversity. Any organization or event that targets individuals is absolutely not diverse.”
President Denson refuted that suggestion – and said the conference “promotes diversity and opposes bullying or any behavior toward diverse populations that is unfair, inappropriate or illegal.”
So what about the conferences targeting conservatives and Christians?
“We don’t have enough information to know that those titles are anything more than attention getters,” he said.”You try to put a title on a conference that develops interest.”
An Iowa Safe Schools spokesperson did not return calls seeking comment.