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Religion & Law: Mirror of Justice
Responses re GLBT curriculum
By Rob Vischer
One reader suggests:
I guess my approach is that educators ought to either get control over the offending students in *any* incident, regardless of whether it involves a minority, or throw the serious offenders out of school. It all goes back to respect--schools should not expect that kids are all going to like or embrace one another--just that they will respect the dignity of each individual. Perhaps a school's position should be stated like this: "There have been incidents that have been brought to our attention concerning disrespectful and hurtful slurs directed towards individuals who are from same sex families. While we realize that there are differing views on same-sex issues, our job is to provide an education and positive environment for every student. These comments are wrong and will not be tolerated."
In the suggested policy, what if we substituted "different races" for "same sex families?" Should a public school be explicitly neutral about the moral status of same sex families because we are so early in the conversation about homosexuality compared to race, or because there is a difference in the substantive moral claims represented by homosexuality vs. those represented by racism? And if it is about the substance of the moral claims, how do we state the difference in a way that is accessible and persuasive in a public school setting?
Another reader recounted his own journey on these issues:
I recently came upon an article in Mother Jones magazine, of all places, in which the author, a psychologist, argued quite convincingly that the best we can determine is that there is, in some elements of the population, a sliding scale of sexuality, so to speak. A firm supporter of same sex marriage, his prediction was that it would only be a few years before society would move beyond the orientation discussion and accept the idea that the desire to affirm love in marriage should be legal for all consenting adults. If he is right, then the GLBT lexicon is simply another manifestation of the identity politics which have been a part of our political discussions, for better or worse, for years. It is a lexicon, however, that is apparently not based in physical reality.
At first glance, this psychologist?s argument that we should move ?beyond orientation? appears to be a refreshingly forthright position. After all, who can argue against love? But it may not be that simple, for if we are not talking about specific, identifiable orientations that are part of nature, then what is really being proposed is that everyone should be allowed, in the name of individual freedom, to have the union of their choice legally recognized by the state, with all the access to benefits, etc, which that recognition includes. Again, that doesn?t seem too unreasonable, but presumably, then, we as a society are good with polygamy, polyamory, and pretty much any other choice or arrangement which is desired by two or more consenting adults. After all, consenting adults are consenting adults, so what grounds would there be to stand in the way of arrangements which might make marriage between same sex couples seem positively conservative?
Slippery slope arguments can be risky, but if we are at the point -- absent conclusive evidence of a biological basis for specific sexual orientations- of expanding the rights of consenting adults beyond the boundaries traditionally imposed by biology and related social attitudes, then we should probably factor into our speculations the range of possibilities that can be found in the burgeoning intersection between bio-technology and the assumed right to do with our bodies what we will, so long as it doesn?t interfere with another person?s right to do the same. I won?t take any more of your time to go into that area, but I?m confident you know where I?m heading.
You?ll notice that I haven?t even mentioned the theological elements of all this. Indeed, while I am preparing to be accepted into the Catholic Church at the coming Easter vigil, I have been determined to keep some distance between the secular and sacred perspectives on this one issue alone. It?s the one topic on which I still find myself somewhat at sea, but when I follow the path of reasoning I?ve laid out above (and this is the short version), I can?t help but wonder if, when I do finally find land, it may be terra firma that the Church has had staked out for quite some time. To that end, in the interest of intellectual thoroughness and to try to understand fully the Church?s perspective, I?ve decided to wade into JP II?s ?Theology of the Body?.
For the moment, however, I?d only say, in response to your musings, that for all the reasons laid out above, I think we adults have got some more thinking to do before we turn to the matter of how and what to teach our children.
Good arguments, and to be clear, I am not confident of how we should resolve any of this -- these are difficult issues to wade through in any context, much less with children, much less in a public school. I do think it's a way-too slippery slope to move from figuring out how to facilitate the inclusion of children from families headed by same-sex couples to a fear that we'll be recognizing the rights of consenting adults to do anything they wish. It's also of limited relevance to the situation faced today by public schools. My school principal does not need to articulate a logical stopping point to the constitutional reasoning of Lawrence v. Texas; he does need to figure out how to make children of same-sex couples feel welcome in his school.
Finally, I'll note an interesting string of comments about my posts over at Rick's other blog, Vox Nova. I'm happy to say that only a few of them directly accuse me of failing as a Catholic and as a parent. I think bright-line answers are easy for people who are not close friends with gays and lesbians. If you think those friendships render me morally culpable, then we probably don't have much else to talk about. But for those who do count gays and lesbians as their friends, or as parents of their children's friends, I'm curious: what do you tell your kids before they have a play date with those friends, or have dinner at their house? Do any of us really give our kids a warning that they're entering an immoral home just because a same-sex couple lives there? Should we be training our children to relate to same-sex parents differently?
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