CULTURE DIGEST: Churches urged to deter bullying against homosexual students ...

Baptist Press
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Posted: Oct 29, 2010 5:15 PM
CULTURE DIGEST: Churches urged to deter bullying against homosexual students ...
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Churches are being asked to help prevent bullying, particularly bullying based on homosexuality, after several cases that led to suicide have been in the national spotlight.

An initiative called the Golden Rule Pledge, which began two years ago to advocate for the application of the Golden Rule in schools, has made lesson plans and class activities available for free download to help churches address bullying.

Warren Throckmorton, a psychology professor who cofounded the Golden Rule Pledge, said some Christian conservatives believe legislation prohibiting bullying based on homosexuality in effect communicates approval of homosexuality.

"My view is that evangelicals need to put ideological worries aside and become part of the solution," Throckmorton, of Grove City College in Pennsylvania, wrote for CNN.com Oct. 5.

Throckmorton said he hopes youth leaders can use the Golden Rule resources to raise awareness about the need to treat all people with respect, regardless of differences of opinion.

"A middle school student who is bullied every day doesn't care about religious differences," Throckmorton said in a news release.

The resources, available at goldenrulepledge.com, are designed for use in youth group or Sunday School settings, and the materials encourage adherence to the Golden Rule and other teachings on civility and mutual respect.

"Christians and Bullying Prevention" can be conducted for youth in grades 7 through 12 in a 90-minute session or in two parts, providing exercises to dramatize the problem and solutions as well as a biblical basis for bullying prevention.

"Bullying Role Play" uses the story of the Good Samaritan, while "The Freshman in the Lunchroom" is a skit intended to serve as a prompt for discussion to help students recognize the roles within a bullying scenario.

"Recent headlines with regards to students taking or attempting to take their lives should be a wake-up call to all Christians to train our youth to not only stand against all forms of bullying but to equip them to be used of God in putting an end to it in the schools where they attend," Bob Finch, director of missions for the Pike Association of Southern Baptists in Kentucky, said.

"I believe this program can be used to equip and empower them to do just that in a way that will also show their classmates the love of Christ," Finch saiddded.

FIREFIGHTERS WIN 'GAY PRIDE' CASE -- An appellate court in California sided with four firefighters who sued the city of San Diego after they were forced to participate in a "gay pride" parade that left them traumatized.

In 2007, the firemen asked to be excused from participating in the parade but instead were required by their superiors to ride in uniform on a city fire engine along the three-hour parade route. The men were subjected to sexual taunts and lewd behavior that caused several stress-related symptoms in the days that followed.

An Alliance Defense Fund allied attorney filed a lawsuit on their behalf, and a jury affirmed their right to forgo the parade. The city of San Diego appealed, and the appellate court confirmed the verdict. If the city appeals again, ADF said it is prepared to take the matter to the California Supreme Court.

"This has been a concerted effort to say, 'If you have some kind of traditional moral faith, you have the wrong answer. We're either going to silence you or we're going to compel you to take part in an activity and approve it,'" Joseph Infranco, ADF senior counsel, said.

"We hope this ruling will end the city's attempts to defend its act of compelling people to participate in sexually charged events against their moral and personal convictions."

The Thomas More Law Center, which also was involved in the case, described the four men as devoted husbands, fathers and Christians.

In its Oct. 14 ruling, the court concluded that "the record contains substantial evidence to support a finding that the sexual harassment experienced by the firefighters during the Pride Parade was severe and pervasive, thus altering the conditions of employment and creating a hostile or abusive work environment."

By 2008, the San Diego Fire Department changed its policy to say parades should be staffed only by volunteers, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

"Government employees should never be forced to participate in events or acts that violate their sincerely held beliefs," Charles LiMandri, West Coast regional director of the Thomas More Law Center and an ADF attorney, said. "The jury saw this, and the court wisely upheld that ruling.

"The jury's verdict recognized the firefighters' right to opt out of activities that they consider morally offensive and that subject them to harassment."

'CHRISTIAN ROOMMATE' AD CHALLENGED -- A Michigan woman is facing a civil fine and possible "sensitivity training" after she posted a sign on her church bulletin board saying she was looking for a Christian roommate.

Someone saw the sign and reported it to the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan, which admits to training people to "play the role of a home seeker" and file discrimination complaints. The housing center then reported the woman to state housing authorities.

The complaint says the ad "expresses an illegal preference for a Christian roommate, thus excluding people of other faiths," FoxNews.com reported Oct. 22. Had the ad not included the word "Christian," it would not have been illegal, the housing center said.

"If you read it and you were not Christian, would you not feel welcome to rent there?" Nancy Haynes, executive director of the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan, told Fox News.

The woman could face several hundreds of dollars in fines and "fair housing training so it doesn't happen again," Haynes said.

Alliance Defense Fund is representing the woman free of charge, saying the government's actions violated her First Amendment rights to freedom of association, and ADF has asked that the complaint be dismissed.

"Christians should not live in fear of being punished by the government for being Christians," Joel Oster, ADF lead counsel, said. "Not content to just lock Christians and their beliefs into the four walls of their church or home, some groups also want to invade those walls and force their own ideas upon them by force of law.

"This should be frightening to every single person, no matter what faith you are or what your politics are," Oster said, according to CitizenLink.com. "My goodness, the government is coming into your house and telling you who you can seek out as a roommate. What is next?"

Oster said the woman was not prohibited by federal or state law from seeking a Christian roommate.

Erin Roach is a staff writer for Baptist Press.

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