In Minnesota, Religious Right Fights Anti-Bullying Policies, GSA’s

On Friday we asked whether Focus on the Family would hold its ground in opposing anti-bullying programs that take into account the harassment of LGBT students in light of the five reported suicides in September that resulted from anti-gay bullying. Andy Birkey of the Minnesota Independent reports that the Minnesota Family Council, like Focus on the Family, is stepping up its fight against anti-bullying programs and support groups like the Gay-Straight Alliance:

The Minnesota Family Council (MFC) is pushing back against efforts to improve the climate for LGBT students in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, where community members are mourning suicides by four LGBT students in the last year. The real issue is “homosexual indoctrination,” not anti-gay bullying, says MFC’s Tom Prichard, who says the students are dead because they adopted an “unhealthy lifestyle.” MFC’s campaign against anti-bullying education comes as national religious right groups mount a similar campaign in the aftermath of nearly half a dozen suicides by LGBT students around the country in the last month.

Prichard asserts that the suicide death of 15-year-old Justin Aaberg was not due to anti-LGBT bullying. Aaberg took his life in July, and his mother and friends say anti-LGBT bullying played a factor Prichard claims that “homosexual activists” are “manipulating” his death to get homosexual indoctrination programs into the school district.



“I don’t think parents want their kids indoctrinated in homosexuality,” he said, adding that Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), often the only safe space for LGBT students on campus, should be removed from schools. “It’s sad and harmful for kids to celebrate homosexuality when in fact it’s not a healthy lifestyle,” he said.

Prichard went on to float in his blog the discredited claim that the murder of Matthew Shepard was not actually an anti-gay hate crime:

The manipulation of this tragedy is reminiscent of the Matthew Shepard tragedy. Shepard a homosexual was brutally murdered by two men who robbed him. It was asserted that Shepard was murdered, because he was homosexual. It turns out that wasn't the case. No matter. Shepard's tragic death served an important ideological purpose for homosexual activists.

Focus on the Family, unsurprisingly, had words of praise for the group’s efforts:

“Once schools are forced to include special categories for things like sexual orientation or gender identity in their policies, that has been used as leverage to get in homosexual-themed curriculum for kids as young as kindergarten [and to introduce] so-called ‘diversity training’ for high school students and teachers,” said Candi Cushman, education analyst with Focus on the Family. “So this just becomes a gateway for homosexuality promotion in the school.”

Update: Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) tells The Advocate: "After all the tragedy that Anoka-Hennepin school district students have endured this year, I find it unbelievable that anyone would suggest that bullying is not a problem."

Prichard, however, stands firm: "People say [gays] have a higher incidence of [mental health problems] because they’re not embraced, or because they’re ostracized. I don’t think so,” Prichard said. “It’s unhealthy behavior."