Religious Right groups are encouraging conservative Christian high school and college students this week to counter last Friday’s “Day of Silence” with a “Day of Dialogue” promoting traditional views on sexuality.
Religious Right organizations have long been hostile toward the Day of Silence, a project of pro-LGBTQ group GLSEN that encourages students to take a vow of silence during a Friday in April. This year’s Day of Silence, the 21st annual observation of the day, was last Friday, April 21, and was supported by social media campaigns and celebrity participation. Says GLSEN, “This quiet but powerful, student-led action raises awareness about the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and discrimination.”
But Religious Right groups charge that it stigmatizes students who hold a traditionalist view of what the Bible says about gender, sexuality, and marriage. Last year, for example, the American Family Association urged parents to keep their children home if the Day of Silence was being observed in their school. As this year’s Day of Silence approached, dozens of Religious Right groups endorsed a “Day of Silence Walk Out” campaign, denouncing “this hijacking of the classroom for political purposes.”
Focus on the Family is promoting another response, a “Day of Dialogue” scheduled for Friday, April 28. Focus on the Family calls the Day of Dialogue “a free speech event for students” that “creates a safe space for students to express a biblical viewpoint in a loving and grace-filled manner.” Focus on the Family started sponsoring the Day of Dialogue in 2010 when Exodus International decided to drop its version, the Day of Truth.
The guide for parents and pastors promotes the Day of Dialogue as an opportunity “to encourage students that they have nothing to be ashamed of when expressing their deeply held biblical convictions.” It includes a PowerPoint presentation that youth pastors and others can use to encourage students to participate.
The student guide asks, “Do you wish your classmates could hear more of the story—like the truth about God’s deep love for us and what the Bible really says about His redemptive design for human relationships? Wouldn’t it be nice if a deeper and freer conversation could happen when controversial sexual topics are brought up in your school?” When it comes to the rights and dignity of LGBT people, history suggests that such reasonable-sounding “live and let live” rhetoric from Religious Right groups should be taken with a big grain of salt.
The Day of Dialogue tells students to remain “respectful and loving” if someone responds in anger, while “remaining confident and bold in communicating your perspective and standing firm on your First Amendment right to share it.” The student guide includes a legal memo from Alliance Defending Freedom clarifying students’ rights to share their religious beliefs with fellow students.
Students are encouraged to distribute “conversation cards” that include a testimony about Jesus and a pledge to oppose bullying. The card ends with, “I also believe God cares about us so much that He designed the best, loving plan for our relationships and sexuality. Let’s talk about it.”
Among the “conversation starters” are materials on the “complementary qualities” of men and women. Focus on the Family assures students that God “has a special place in His heart for people who messed up sexually” and can heal and transform “sexual brokenness.”