Yesterday, the SF Chron reported that five teachers at a San Leandro high school were refusing to display in their classrooms the student-made and district-mandated posters which promote tolerance and understanding of gay and lesbian students – essentially anti-hate speech posters. The teachers refused due to religious beliefs.
Today, the Chron reports the issue is resolved, the Gang of Five have agreed to display the posters. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/01/26/BAGHRGT0GD1.DTL&hw=San+Leandro+tolerance&sn=002&sc=534.
I doubt that these teachers have had a change of thinking or heart - and posters don’t eliminate homophobia – though they may remind folks that they need to watch their language and their actions. But I wonder about those teachers – I question their ability to be fair to students who are homosexual, clearly these teachers disapprove quite strenuously of those students’ “choices.” I suspect their homophobia will simply go underground and manifest as covert ops and passive-aggressive behaviors. One letter-writer to the SF Chron editor suggests that these teachers should not be forced to display these posters - let students be ware that these classrooms are not safe places for them.
I’m not sure how promoting tolerance and understanding of others, and demonstrating to students that hateful speech is unacceptable, furthers these teachers’ religious beliefs. Of course, I’m assuming they are Christian and ask, where is their Christian love? The Pope just recently published a papal document discussing love – the need to raise up on high love of neighbor and love of God. I don’t know if any of these teachers are Catholic, but my understanding of Christianity – or at least of Jesus’ teachings, is that love of neighbor, love of humanity, t and olerance, understanding, compassion – are noble attributes we should aspire to. We should indeed love our neighbor.
But love is interpretable and manifests itself in many different ways. Perhaps, in the minds of some, the appropriate way to express love of your fellow human beings is to call them names, chastise them, and harass them for being who they are (even though they are causing no harm to anyone). Perhaps expressing love of neighbor is appropriately done by trying with all your might to convince someone that the essence of who they are is evil, a wicked choice that can be overcome by willpower.
Holes abound in this argument, of course. We would certainly chastise a neighbor who does something illegal, criminal. We wouldn’t tolerate physical aggression against ourselves or those dear to us. We wouldn’t be tolerant and understanding of a person who breaks our laws, harms us and ours, etc.
Yeah, those teenaged homosexuals are definitely a threat here. I can see why those teachers cannot tolerate them or willingly embrace the notion that they should be treated with respect in their learning environment.
Oh dear Lord, please preserve us all from the love of such Christians as represented by those five, upstanding teachers in San Leandro. Amen.