Christians Divided Over Student Response to LGBT 'Day of Silence'

For the past few years, Christian groups have been divided over how to respond to the annual Day of Silence.

Some urge parents to pull their children from school that day in protest. They say the observance is not as innocuous as it seems.

Others encourage Christian students to attend school and show support for school safety for all students, not just gay ones.

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"We agree that every student should be protected from bullying and harassment, and that no student should be hurt or ridiculed, no matter who they are or what they believe," said Candi Cushman, education analyst at Focus on the Family, according to the ministry's publication, Citizenlink.

"But parents need to be aware that the Day of Silence unnecessarily politicizes and sexualizes the school environment, paving the way for classroom lessons that advocate and normalize things like same-sex marriage and cross-dressing," added Cushman, whose ministry supports the Day of Truth, a faith-based counter-event that encourages dialogue.

Since 2001, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) has been officially promoting the Day of Silence as a time where students across the nation can learn more about anti-LGBT bullying in schools.

Over the course of the day, students from middle school to college take some form of a vow of silence in an effort to encourage schools and classmates to address the problem of anti-LGBT behavior. Teachers are also encouraged to discuss the meaning behind the day and observe several minutes of silence with students to show solidarity with victims of anti-gay bullying.

The event, organizers say, is designed to illustrate the silencing effect of this bullying and harassment on LGBT students and those perceived to be LGBT.

While Christian groups condemn bullying of gay students, some have accused GLSEN of using the day to indoctrinate students and get them to lobby for the homosexual agenda - reason enough for them to encourage parents to keep their children at home.

In making their case, the groups – which include American Family Association, Concerned Women for America of Illinois, and – point to Day of Silence materials such as the GLSEN data sheet "How to Get What You Want – With an Ask!" which encourages students to use the Day of Silence to push for a more LGBT inclusive school environment and policies.

"[T]here is more than an anti-bullying message being pushed," Focus on the Family Action commented, after taking a closer look at the materials.

FOTF, however, is not among the groups calling for parents to keep their kids at home on Friday – this year's Day of Silence. Instead, it has encouraged parents to allow their children to participate in the Day of Truth, which falls the day before Day of Silence.

The Day of Truth, sponsored by Exodus International, promotes dialogue among students on the issue of homosexuality. Students who participate in the Day of Truth hand out cards that read: "People with differing, even opposing viewpoints, can freely exchange ideas and respectfully listen to each other. It's time for an honest conversation about the biblical truth for sexuality. Let's get the conversation started!"

Exodus senior director Jeff Buchanan said the day was purposely called Day of Truth because there is a foundation of truth about sexuality found in the Bible.

"When I was a young man, I struggled with unwanted same-sex attraction and found that God not only had answers, but could change my heart and my life," Buchanan said in a statement. "We hope Christian students across the country will take advantage of this opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ to peers who may be in a similar situation looking for answers."

Besides protesting and counter-promotion in response to Day of Silence, another alternative is the Golden Rule pledge.

Warren Throckmorton, associate professor of psychology at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, and Michael Frey, the Western Pennsylvania regional director of Campus Ministries for Campus Crusade for Christ, are urging students to pledge to "treat others the way I want to be treated."

"There can be no doubt that GLBT students, as well as others who appear different, have been the target of bullying and violence. We believe Christians should lead the way to safer school," said Throckmorton, who frequently comments on issues related to homosexuality.

Meanwhile, Frey said "participation in the Golden Rule Pledge helps to demonstrate Christian respect and concern and builds bridges instead of walls."

This year marks the 14th annual Day of Silence – the 10th to have GLSEN as the official organizational sponsor for the event. According to GLSEN, students from more than 8,000 K-12 schools, colleges and universities organized Day of Silence events in 2008.

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