A prominent evangelical organization has picked up a student initiative that counters the promotion of the homosexual agenda, just a month after another Christian ministry pulled its support for it.
Focus on the Family announced on Thursday that it is the new sponsor of the "Day of Truth," except now the ministry has changed the name to the "Day of Dialogue."
"After Exodus stepped away, we wanted to make sure the program was continued," Gary Schneeberger, vice president of communications for Focus on the Family, told The Christian Post. "We consider it valuable and believe in what the program stands for – which is making sure more than one perspective on the issue (homosexuality) is heard in schools."
Last month, Exodus International, which provides support for those with unwanted homosexual desires, said it would no longer sponsor the Day of Truth because of the "adversarial" tone it came to take on.
The Day of Truth was established by the Alliance Defense Fund in 2005 to "counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda and express an opposing viewpoint from a Christian perspective." It was launched in response to the "Day of Silence" – an initiative of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Educational Network – which encourages students to remain silent throughout the day. The annual event was designed to "illustrate the silencing effect" that bullying and harassment has on LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) students.
Exodus had supported the Day of Truth for four years and spearheaded the effort for one year. Its announcement last month to end its support came in the wake of a string of teen suicides. In September alone, four youths who were believed to have been victims of anti-gay bullying, ended their lives.
As the new sponsor of the initiative, Focus on the Family is taking some precaution.
Schneeberger stressed that the Colorado Springs-based evangelical group has zero tolerance for bullying of any kind and makes that clear to participating students. And it is asking students not to speak in ways that are condemning, antagonistic, dismissive or demeaning when engaging in dialogue about homosexuality.
"The reality is, God created all of us in His image," Schneeberger noted.
While urging students to reflect Christ's image of love and compassion, Focus on the Family also encourages them to express their faith-based viewpoints.
"We're trying to raise awareness that more than one side needs to be heard on the issue of homosexuality, and we're helping to ensure Christian students have the chance to express their viewpoint," said Candi Cushman, education analyst for Focus on the Family and head of TrueTolerance.org, in a statement. "What is freedom of speech, after all, but a guarantee of the right to have dialogue?"
"Silence is a media op, but dialogue is a learning op," she stated. "That's why we're so proud of the more than 14,000 students who have taken advantage of this opportunity to learn and share."
Regarding the name change from Day of Truth to Day of Dialogue, Schneeberger underscored that the organization isn't asking students to back down on biblical truth.
Rather, the new name is simply more accurate, he said.
"The event was created as a response to the Day of Silence. The opposite [of silence] is dialogue. And to have dialogue is not to abandon truth," he explained.
Focus on the Family's main role in sponsoring the event is to equip students with information about God's design for sexuality – that is in the context of marriage between a man and a woman – and to provide guidelines on how to articulate that respectfully.
The Day of Dialogue is scheduled for April 18, 2011, and is designed for high school and college students.
The Alliance Defense Fund provides legal assistance to students whose free speech rights are violated.