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Wasting Taxpayer Money for Jesus

Timothy Kincaid

March 7th, 2009

Prior to 1984, some religiously devout students in some less supportive locations found it difficult to observe their faith in public schools. While they watched the chess club and fan clubs meet without restriction, requests for a Bible club were routinely denied.

To remedy that inequality, Congress passed the Equal Access Act which said that if a school allowed any non-curriculum student-led organizations, then it had to allow other such organizations to meet. Churches rejoiced and Bible clubs sprang up across the nation.

But, as is often the case, those who sought remedy for discrimination against themselves soon found that such protections also applied when they were the oppressors. And, ironically, perhaps those students who have most utilized Equal Access Act have not been Christian kids denied access by liberal secular humanists, but rather gay and lesbian kids denied access by anti-gay Christians.

The ACLU has now established a long history of using the Equal Access Act to force public schools to allow gay students and their friends to organize and work to oppose discrimination and inequality. In case after case, judges have found that if the Fellowship of Christian Athletes can meet after school in a classroom, then so can the Gay Straight Alliance.

Schools with anti-gay authorities aren’t too pleased about this. And they have frequently tried to bar gay and gay-friendly students from meeting, going to court and indignantly defending their position.

They generally argue that gay clubs are sexual hook-up clubs whose purpose is to advocate for immoral sexual behaviors -and provide sex partners – and that because they are an “abstinence only” school then they have a right to deny this “sex club”. Or they may argue that there is already a generic anti-bigotry club (usually in actuality a black or Hispanic student club) so there’s no need for a club to support gay students. Some – with a perfectly straight face – will argue that if gay students identify as such they will be picked on so the school needs to protect gay students by not allowing them to meet.

These arguments tend to be recognized as the defense of homophobia that they are and judges don’t often find them very persuasive. In fact, I can’t think of a single instance in which the courts found that schools, principals, or school boards could deny equal access to gay students.

About the best that a school can hope for is to be allowed to deny access to all non-curricular clubs. And some have found themselves in the uncomfortable position of having to take proactive steps towards affirming their gay students in what is obviously a hostile environment.

And they are not cheap. The Okeechobee County School Board recently paid $326,000 in attorneys fees only to be told that not only could the GSA meet on campus but that the school board had an obligation to provide for the well-being of gay students. And even if the loss of such a suit is covered by insurance, it plays havoc with insurance rates for schools everywhere.

So why, then, do school boards try so desperately to fight to exclude gay kids? In a time in which communities are hurting and budgets are tight, when parents are losing jobs and tax bases are eroding, why do these elected officials allocate hundreds of thousands of dollars for an effort that is almost certain to be a lost cause?

Well, I think we can find a clue in the Florida Baptist Witness story about the School Board of Nassau County and their desire to keep students at Yulee High School from starting a gay supportive club with the word “gay” in the name. The students were told that they needed to change the name of the organization to exclude sexual orientation in order to comply with school board policy and be allowed to meet.

In other words, you can get together but you can’t be gay.

Leading the charge against these students is Nassau County Schools superintendent John Ruis. He doesn’t want to let the gay students be “in conflict and at odds with regard to somebody’s freedom of speech or expression” and thinks that “you try and deal with [homosexuality] for the safety and the wellbeing of the children”.

But it’s pretty much a forgone conclusion at this point that the school board is going to lose. So why does Ruis continue spending taxpayer money – or risk insurance rates for years to come – on this case? I think I can guess.

Ruis said he appreciated the prayers and support of his church friends like Bryan, pastor of Brandy Branch Baptist, who he taught as a young man in Sunday School.

Nuff said.

UPDATE

In what is surely no surprise to anyone:

A federal judge this afternoon [3/11/09] ordered Nassau County schools to allow a Gay-Straight Alliance to meet at Yulee High School while a court battle over the right of the club to meet is pending.

Comments

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elaygee
March 7th, 2009 | LINK

The aim of any child with any intelligence of any religious, ethnic or political persuasion is to get the hell out of Yulee as fast as possible and never to return.

L. Junius Brutus
March 7th, 2009 | LINK

Seriously, these people are approaching this in a stupid way. Instead of banning these clubs, they can kill them by requiring parental consent. That way, it will be impossible for kids from hostile and bigoted families to be reached by their peers.

And that would be constitutional.

I’m actually glad that they are being stupid. If they pushed for that, they might be more successful.

Dawn
March 7th, 2009 | LINK

Notice how most of the people fighting the gay clubs seem to be people in their ‘mid-life’, I am hopeful that a new generation won’t be as bias.

Lynn David
March 8th, 2009 | LINK

I do love it when a Christian’s prayers go unanswered in this respect.

Jason D
March 8th, 2009 | LINK

Lynn David,
God answers every prayer. Sometimes the answer is “NO”.

Regan DuCasse
March 8th, 2009 | LINK

Good Lynn D!

Here’s what is important. What sexual orientation and gender variance is SHOULD be taught in schools. This is not only an educational situation, but a social one where young people have to learn how to function in a diversified situation.

Homosexuality and gender variance has been around since the INVENTION of any religious belief or organization. This is a universal human attribute, NOT a belief and faith situation that is taught and reinforced in just about ANY environment readily available to those who are like minded.

As I say often, a school would be extremely derelict in it’s obligation to not have ANY history, sociological or human biology books end at 1932.
It’s not right that a school allow NOTHING regarding human sexuality beyond a 2,000 year old OBSERVATION about it.
Did it not occur to this knucklehead Ruis that the opportunities for Christians to meet are vast, varied and not as necessary in a public school as are the safe zones for a gay child?
A child who might not be safe even at home or anywhere else?

Christian children do not have this issue like gay children do to contend with.

I seriously hear complaints about ‘homosexuality being taught in schools as normal’…but not exactly WHY it’s SO terrible and would be more of a burden than say the risks of violence and OTHER negative consequences clearly in evidence?

What is THEIR evidence that teaching the reality, the necessity because of inevitable contact with homosexuality such a bad thing?

Bring that or STFU!

Regan DuCasse
March 8th, 2009 | LINK

Yeesh, my grammar. I meant to say homosexuality has been around since BEFORE the invention of religion.

Tavdy
March 10th, 2009 | LINK

Is it possible, given the vast, rapidly growing and unerringly consistent body of case law regarding the subject, that a school board could be sued for misuse of taxpayer funds?

Timothy Kincaid
March 10th, 2009 | LINK

Tavdy,

Good question. Probably more likely would be that an insurance company refuse to pay to finance the legal defense.

Allen M
March 13th, 2009 | LINK

The desperate measures these schools and other anti-gay groups will go to to deny a safe haven for LGBT children!

It is so pathetic!

Regarding the cost of legal defense I sure wish the insurance companies would refuse to pay one single dime!

Regan, when you get a chance you should check out one of the latest on TH.

http://townhall.com/columnists/Column2.aspx?UrlTitle=gay_marriage_vs_democracy&ns=SteveChapman&dt=03/08/2009&page=full&comments=true&submitted=true&submitted=true&submitted=true&submitted=true&submitted=true

Allen

Duncan
March 14th, 2009 | LINK

Thanks for that link, Mr M. It’s a good article and the comments are well-written. (Although one has “Viola” instead of “Voilà” and another uses “homo sapiens” as a plural, which should be “homones sapientes” – Sorry, I notice these things.) But it worried me that, as he notes, a pro-gay majority could change the constitution to its liking. That’s not a bad procedure for normal laws, but constitutions should not be like that. Their point is to be entrenched and hard to amend.

Allen M
March 14th, 2009 | LINK

Hi Duncan,

TH is actually an ultra-conservative web site that typically has a few articles per week which are extremely anti-gay. This article is one of the more moderate ones but as is typical many of the members go off the deep end to find excuses why gays should not have equal marriage rights or any number of other gay rights issues.

Regan is familiar with them, she and I have deveoloped an online friendship.

I wish I could meet Regan in person, she really is a wonderful and caring person.

Allen

Allen M
March 14th, 2009 | LINK

Hi Duncan,

Your statement confuses me when you said: “But it worried me that, as he notes, a pro-gay majority could change the constitution to its liking. ”

It was the anti-gay side who changed the CA Constitution to take away a pre-existing and fundamental right.

Allen

Timothy Kincaid
March 14th, 2009 | LINK

Allen,

Regan is as lovely, wonderful, and caring in person. Trust me – you would like her.

Yuki Choe
March 14th, 2009 | LINK

Yes, Regan is indeed Ms. Nice. I just cannot believe a person with so much great qualities would notice everything about me and my life halfway across the world!

Allen M
March 14th, 2009 | LINK

Timothy, yes I know. I’m hoping that one day I get the chance to meet Regan in person. She is truly wonderful. In the time I’ve gotten to know her online I feel like I’ve known her all my life even though we never met in person.

Tim, would it be possible for you to send Regan my personal email address? I think you have access to mine, correct?

Yuki, yes tell me about it! :) Regan is indeed very perceptive.

Regan takes time out of her busy life to champion gay rights struggles on top of everything else. That’s how we met on TH and I’ve grown to admire her greatly. She is kind of like a hero to me and you know what she told me once? She said I was the true hero – this is just how selfless she is.

Allen

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