Guest Blogger

How On Earth Did I Get Here?

Filed By Guest Blogger | July 19, 2009 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living
Tags: Betty Greene Salwak, indiana, religion, religious faith, sunday school

[EBetty Greene Salwakditor's Note: Betty Greene Salwak is a transplanted Floridian living in Indiana with her husband of 30 years and their two children. She began her professional life as a Language Arts teacher, became a sales trainer during her corporate period, and was plucked from the congregation of her church to write a five-year curriculum for the elementary Sunday School. She has been the curriculum director of the Sunday School for the past eleven years.]

I'm straight, married 30 years. I'm a Christian Sunday School director. I'm writing a guest post on Bilerico. Wait. Did I take a wrong turn?

I took a turn all right, but it was in the right direction, just a few short years ago. I came to realize that it was time for me to step up and stand against what I knew was a gross injustice. I was seeing people who claimed to be Christians spewing hateful invective in the name of God against people who were gay. Those malevolent tirades are far and away the loudest shouts being heard by the LGBT community. The only other voice nearly as loud says there is no God.

Those people have nothing to do with the loving God I know, the One whose grace and unconditional love is for all people, just as they are, just as he made them to be. Unfortunately, the voices with that message have been a mere whisper in the wind. It was time to stand and be heard. But how could I get anyone to heed me? I had a lot to learn.

I needed to know more about the gay community. About three years ago a gay friend linked me to my first blog; it was by some guy who called himself "Joe.My.God." Well. Joe's blog was (and is) intelligent, moving, funny, informative, and very very angry at Christians. Links from his blog led me to more, and over the past three years I have developed some genuine and important friendships with gay, lesbian, and even a few straight bloggers. Those Internet friends have been wonderful in sharing their wisdom, insights and feelings. I feel privileged to know them and have been lucky enough to meet a few.

I have learned of the anguish of rejection and the stinging betrayal experienced by those raised in churches which call them "objectively disordered," sinners, even abominations. I've read far too many times of self-destructiveness and even suicides by young people who could not reconcile their faith with the person God made them to be. This has to stop.

I am convinced that the vast majority of straight Christians are ignorant of the terrible impact of their silence, that they would speak up about their support if they knew it would literally save lives. I am doing everything in my power to tell them that this is the time. It is my fervent hope that the civil victory that is imminent will eventually be shared by most churches during my lifetime.

It was on a link from JMG that I found Bilerico; it's been quite awhile since I first started reading and eventually commenting here. I lurked for a long time, wondering if my comments would be welcome. But it was an announcement on Bilerico that led me to my first-ever meeting with and for the gay community last spring. It was the Family Equality Council's OutSpoken seminar, teaching LGBT families and allies how to address the public and the media in terms that would be clear, concise and not inflammatory. I still refer to that handbook, because it appears that my role has emerged as "interpreter" between the gay and Christian communities, two populations that--while not necessarily exclusive--believe they have reason to distrust each other.

While my online friendships grew, I read just about everything I could get my hands on. I have a small but powerful library of "gay and Christian" books intended for pastoral staff, allies, questioners, and LGBT Christians. I have amassed a long list of online resources. My family will tell you that this is like a part-time job for me; I spend about twenty hours a week staying informed. While my own church is quite welcoming in a general way, I dream of the day when we issue a written invitation to the LGBT community. I am making myself available as a resource while I continue to learn more. We've taken the first steps toward becoming inclusive. When someone asks, "What's next?" I want to be ready with the answer.

I think it's important for Bilerico readers to understand that I am not an anomaly. I'm just louder than most, and we can change that, you and I. While I urge my fellow Christians to speak up and welcome you with open hearts and arms, you can tell your story. For it is with your stories, of faith welcomed or turn away, that you will reach hearts and change them.

How I got here is not nearly so important as how I get where I'm going--full equality and a loving, grace-filled welcome for all--with the help of the LGBT faith community.

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Thank you, bless you, good luck!

Hi Betty...

I'm not a Christian or Straight but i have a Straight Christian friend (a United Methodist) who is totally 2 would really click! She's the coolest Christian i've ever met...and just a good person all around! Intelligent and liberal in all regards. You two would have alot to talk about; you seem to have alot in common. She probably spends 20 hrs/week just emailing with me about LGBT news/events and listening to my own personal experiences with homophobia i've encountered in my lifetime! She's even made some beautiful Christian posters supportive of LGBT people. I dont know anyone who can hold a candle to her ...she's already won my coveted "Most WONDERFUL Straight Christian woman on the PLANET Award" ;). Maybe you could? I think you 2 should correspond...maybe you could start your own group or something?

And btw you said: "While my own church is quite welcoming in a general way, I dream of the day when we issue a written invitation to the LGBT community. I am making myself available as a resource while I continue to learn more. We've taken the first steps toward becoming inclusive. When someone asks, "What's next?" I want to be ready with the answer."

My advice: don't reinvent the some Unitarians they already have the BLUEPRINT on how to welcome LGBT people *unconditionally*. Frankly they are the *only* church i trust or ever will(oh i forgot the MCC - but that's a Gay church, so it doesnt count). I'm an atheist and a Lesbian and *I* feel totally welcome at our local UU church the few times i've been there.
By their front door prominently placed (not in a dark corner somewhere) they have a BIG welcome sign to LGBT people...and they have a Rainbow flag in one hall! They even have an OUT Lesbian co-minister, Mary Ann Macklin: . I could introduce you to her if you want - she's awesome. If you want perfection or near perfection when it comes accepting LGBT people - the only ones that are there already are the UUs!

Good luck and thanks for your support! Its always great to have fabulous Straight ALLIES! Its a total novelty for those of us who came out in the bad ol' days when "straight ally" was an oxymoron and virtually nonexistant.

Linda Giovanna Zambanini
Bloomington IN

Sorry for taking so long to comment here, Linda. I always appreciate more information. I have an ever-growing list of contacts with welcoming churches, and I'll add yours to it. Every single church has its own personality and each must find its own way to an open and affirming welcome. I have found a great deal of help from many different sources.

Any church that is just in the beginning stages must expect years of teaching and learning before reaching the point of that "written invitation" I so want to see. It is simply the way it is. But the example set by the UU church, the MCC, and those welcoming branches of numerous denominations are all guiding lights for anyone who chooses to take up the struggle for what is right.

Reading this post brought tears to my eyes.

I grew up in a Christian missionary household. I traveled the world, preaching the gospel.

I came out to my family when I was 17 and I had to do it 4 more times after due to their denial. The last time I came out, I also told them I wasn't a Christian and that seemed to do the trick.

14 years after my first coming out, I made some headway with my parents. It got really rocky there for awhile, and just when I thought things were getting better, they recently said I was an abomination based on what the Bible says. When I said that they were too abominations according to the Bible, they said it didn't address them.

Even throughout our rockiest times, I never thought my parents would pick and choose verses in the Bible to condemn me but excuse themselves. This came as a shock to me and I don't know for sure how to proceed.

I'm in a loving relationship with a man I want to marry. So far, they haven't met him and are very reluctant to.

I too have acted as at translator between the LGBT population and the Christian population because I have come from both worlds. Excluding those who truly hate us in the Christian community, most Christians don't - they only act from misguided teachings. It's extremely hard to communicate that to the LGBT population.

Thank you for your hard work. Without people like you, I sometimes feel my efforts are fruitless. Today, I have been encouraged.

Thank you. And God Bless You!

That's some website, UnitetheFight! I especially like the recommended reading. Another bookmark!

Travis ballie | July 19, 2009 1:54 PM

Hello Betty,

Thank you for this post you are a welcome ally. I just wanted to point out that, while you claim to be interested in lgbt issues and faith, you spoke exclusively about sexual orientation, in particular gay and lesbian issues in Christianity. If I may suggest the followin links to explore the lives of bisexual and transgender individuals as they explore their faith:

Trans christian faith:

bisexual Christian faith (more of a discussion post):

I notice that there is not much of a central resource for trans and bisexual faith issues that came up easily on the top of the google search page. I know there are amazing resources out there, perhaps a gaih org can spend some money for online marketing to promote the more comprehensive sites.

Thank you for the links, Travis. I don't mean to be exclusive, but most of my contacts are in fact gay. I'm expanding my horizons as best I can, and I appreciate the help.

One more link:
Trans-inclusive Jewish resource.

Thank you, Susan. I've bookmarked this one too.

As a historian/theologian I find myself often editing my true feelings towards christianity as practiced.

It is the embodiment of misogyny.
It is about shaming and distruction of self esteem.
It is the tool (along with the other two Abrahamic religions) the perpetuates the patriarchy...
It is totally anti-life and celebration of living.

And for the past 1800 years the single greatest source of human misery by a factor of at least ten.

It's too late to redeem it's "image" for among non-christians the word has come to mean bigotry, hatred, intolerance to an extent you probably cannot image.

As a Pagan theologian I rarely say this directly but every christian who practices the spiritual nature of the religion is directly responsible through inaction for the fanatical, rabid, hate driven expressions of the zealots.

It's far far too late to correct this.

A. J. Lopp | July 19, 2009 3:15 PM

Although there is some truth in your remarks, they are both unfair and far too harsh. You criticize Christians for their bigotry, yet it is obvious that you find bigotry against Christians to be a serious temptation for you. (By the way, so do I --- and I fit into the Christian cubbyhole about as well as I might any other.)

Largely, the accusations you make at Christianity specifically could be said of any major religion in general. The Muslims have intolerant fundamentalists, and wage jihad. The Jews also have intolerant factions and wage war for religious reasons. I'm not at all sure that Christianity has caused more human suffering than Islam --- except maybe simply because Christianity is 700 years older.

... every christian who practices the spiritual nature of the religion is directly responsible through inaction for the fanatical, rabid, hate driven expressions of the zealots.

Here you have a valid point, but your wording is off.

First, you say "every christian is ... responsible ... through inaction" --- but it is exactly this Chrisitan silence and inaction that this posting author comes to work against. See her as agreeing with you to that extent.

Secondly, it is the eschewing of the spiritual message of Christianity in favor of legalistic, fundamentalist literalism that leads to such hate-motivated zealotry. The central figure in Christianity is Jesus of Nazareth, and he did not display such hateful zealotry. Instead, his major teaching regarding how humans treat each other, was simply, "As you have done this unto others, so you have done it unto me." It is this spiritual message that the deficient, destructive forms of Christianity that you speak of have lost completely. (Here, I don't mean to be giving a sermon, I mean to be discussing the characteristics of Christianity itself, as opposed to the mis-teachings and mis-applications of many supposed followers.)

Finally, saying "It is far, far too late to correct this" shows that you are more attached to damning your target group than you are to encouraging an improvement in their practice and behavior. Again, I suggest you consider whether the expression "bigotry against Christians" makes any sense to you, and how it might differ from valid criticisms which are made with constructive intent.

The world doesn't need fewer Christians, it needs better Christians.

The world does not need fewer Jews, it needs better Jews.

The world does not need fewer Muslims, it needs better Muslims.

More than needing fewer atheists, the world needs better atheists.

If you have chosen to be a pagan, then my encouragement for you is to strive to be a better pagan. Good Luck at that.

P.S. The author of this post came to us in good will, and for that I think she should be welcomed instead of attacked. If you are a pagan, then you must have some type of beliefs about good spirit, and maybe bad spirits. It should be apparent that her spirit is not party to the attacks from Christians that you speak of.

Thank you, A.J., for such an eloquent response.

Transheretic: While I will accept that my ignorance did cause harm, we must not mistake ignorance for malice. I am not willing to bear the burden of blame for all cruelty committed in the name of God since the beginning of time; nor will I accept the responsibility for the actions of today’s religious zealots whose behavior I am determined to stop. I will accept that I am in a unique position to make a difference, and I am acting on that in faith.

It is perhaps too late for many who have been hurt far too deeply by the Church. I suspect that you might be one. But having also once mistaken the actions of men for the actions of God, I will not give up hope for those who wish to know a grace-filled welcome into a community of faith.


I am a lifelong Pagan (AJ hear yourself with the "choice" expressions, you who chose? to be gay?)

I have Salem witch trial victims on both sides of my family tree, I've spent a lifetime holding out the hand of friendship to christians.....when I transitioned, it was my "christian" friends of more than thirty years standing who turned their collective backs on me, seems being a Pagan was not as big a problem for them as being a woman, quite telling.

The first wave of Fundies in Ohio (mid seventies) did everything in their power to utterly destroy my life....I was an "out" Pagan spokesperson. They succeeding in doing considerable damage.

Throughout a long life, when someone has "annouced" their christianity to me, it preceeded attempts to cheat me, lie outright to me or even harm me.

That's the baggage I carry. My daughter became a Baptist.....bigotry applies only if you have no basis for your feelings, I have a lifetime of basis for them......

If christians stuck to the contents of the Q document (the actual teaching attributed to JC) there would be no problem....but none do. In a long life I have met many Christ like Pagans and not a single Christ like christian.

While I have made it clear here that I am a Christian (for what I believe are obvious reasons), you won't find it "announced" anywhere else except, I hope, in my behavior. Whether it matters is entirely up to you.

I deeply regret the pain you have been caused. There are Christlike Christians out there; I have met some who greatly inspire me. But my faith isn't about me. In profound gratitude for the grace I have been given, I am compelled to share it in any way I can and especially with those who have been marginalized. I am seeking justice for those who have been denied. That's you too, and you are free to accept or ignore my efforts. But I won't stop trying.

I am a daughter of the Great Mother Goddess....not remotely interested in a god I feel I am personally morally superior to.....that's it in a nutshell.

Betty, you come to a LGBT blog and tell us you are not a homophobic bigot.....and you expect what reaction? It seems to me if you followed the actual teachings attributed to Jesus, that would be the absolute minimum you could claim. Do not expect me to give you kudos for that.

Go out confront the christian bigots that are evident everywhere.....then tell me of your efforts. Words from christians mean less than nothing in light of 1600 years of bloodbaths in the name of the "Prince of Peace"....only actions mean squat.

You'll notice I never attacked you, but the very first response to my comment was a personal attack on me.

I take people as I find them, I extend the assumption of goodwill to everyone.....unless they feel the need to tell me they are christian, then, for me, the burden of proof they are an actual decent human being in on them.

A. J. Lopp | July 20, 2009 2:53 AM

I did not mean to attack you personally, and re-reading my own comment, I do not see where I did. If you read a personal attack in my words, please point out the exact sentence(s) that make you feel attacked, and I hope we can come to a better understanding.

I did say that I think you would benefit from some careful thought about what constitutes bigotry from Christians, and also what constitutes bigotry toward Christians. That is not the same as me calling you a bigot --- I carefully avoided that. And I stand by what I actually wrote.

P.S. I also don't get your remark about the "choice" expressions. You are welcome to elaborate on that, too, if you care to.

I feel compelled to add that your "need" to "share" (shove?) your "grace on others strikes me as the height of hubris...and that is part of my problem with your religious traditions.

The Divine is within everyone whether they chose to acknowledge that or's not your's to give or share but the birthright of every living thing...

The Great Mother does not require you to believe in Her, will not punish you for not doing so....for She is you already.

You'd have me denounce the Divine within myself to submit to a patriarchal poppa god who's teachings scapegoat the feminine? I think not. I've always found it remarkable any woman could embrace the Abrahamic religions.

And for what it's worth, while the teaching attributed directly to Jesus do not say a word about gay men and lesbians, they do talk about those of us who are trans or born intersexed....and those who attack us do so in direct opposition to those teachings. Further, according to Isaiah 56 someone born a hermaphrodite, it declares me among the actual chosen above all others....interesting eh?

You might expand your horizons for as a bi-sexual woman of intersexed/transsexed history, I also could not but notice you did not address that and then claimed relative ignorance.

Rick Sours | July 19, 2009 5:08 PM

There has been and continues to be so much pure
raw hate expressed to the LGBT community by so called Christians. To this day there are many
churches in which members of the LGBT community
are clearly not welcome. For many in the LBGT
community the hurt and rejection is so deep they
will never ever trust any religious body. A
straight contributor can write how she is the
new found bridge to the LGBT community but when all
is said and done she is straight and has all the
privileges afforded to being straight. Members of
the LBGT community, at the end of the day, are still Second Class citizens. It is clear that many
heterosexuals individuals feel a need to tell the
LBGT community how we should think or feel but
how do they really know? They have not been subjected to discrimination as have LBGT individuals. Until some sees the world through the
eyes of someone who is LBGT can they truly understand.

Thank you for being a voice for change in a sometimes unwelcoming community. I thought I'd offer one more link - the work of Mel White and SoulForce, based in the Twin Cities/Minnesota but active throughout the U.S.

"freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance."


Now this website is one I know well. Everyone who is interested in a peaceful but positive resolution should check out Soulforce.

Betty, thank you for this great article. Don't let some trans people make you second guess your direction in life. I am also a trans person and I'm a member and on the board of a affirming, independent Christian Church, call Gentle Spirit Christian Church, at: I know that Pastor Paul Turner would love to communicate with you.

The trans community is very fractured, very wounded and very much in fear many mainline churches. Some will never heal from their wounds, and if you hear what they have gone through, you would understand.

When you proceed from this moment on, include us all, by saying "gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community," but even with that, many will not feel included. You have a beautiful soul, so don't stop your journey. We will all be there with you.

Monica, your church offers exactly the sort of welcome I dream of for my mainstream church. I can see that anyone would feel quite welcome there, including me.

There has been monstrous cruelty committed in the name of God, and a gentle spirit is required of those who would try to overcome it. So much pain, so much hurt, so much anger. There is a great deal to be done.

I would welcome conversation with your pastor.

You can contact Pastor Paul Turner at [email protected] or [email protected] You can also listen to his weekly sermons on line through the podcasts. Let him know where you are from, why you are writing and that I asked you to contact him. Let me know how it goes. I'm at [email protected]

Turns out I have more to say. Any voice that is speaking out for the change we're all seeking needs to be welcomed - in my view, that means especially a voice from within the Christian community is welcome and much needed. We cannot afford to divide and make enemies when we need to work together.

Mel White is a gay Christian pastor. In his book "Stranger at the Gate" he makes the case that it is precisely the Christian Church that is responsible for fostering the beliefs that drive hatred and non-acceptance for the LGBT community in western culture, and unless we can change Christian thinking (and Christian hearts), we won't have accomplished much. Leaving the church or telling someone they shouldn't be a Christian won't help us do that. Some Christian churches are starting to get the message.

I tweeted two Bilerico blogs yesterday - this one, and "Changing Hearts and Minds one Wedding at a Time." I think they make quite a pair. Simply by being out and genuine, a gay pastor changed the mind of an evangelical.

And I'd like to offer one more link for those in support of marriage equality. Hersband & Wife run a lesbian advice column and radio show, and they are planning a year-long bus tour - fifty weddings, fifty states in fifty weeks. Definitely worth supporting:

Tom Brown | July 20, 2009 8:38 AM

Thanks for your encouraging post, Betty. I hope your example of caring helps to bring your congregation to the point of becoming gay-welcoming. Toward that end, your church might consider teaming up with a nearby gay church, or a gay-affirming church, for a project like starting a food pantry or cleaning up an environment. Once your straight church members get to know LGBT people on a personal level, it will be harder for them to hang onto hate, fear or mistrust. And vice versa. Too many gay people who are still religious huddle in little gay-oriented churches without reaching out to the straight world.

Tom, this idea won't leave me alone. I'm exploring this as a step for our church in its journey toward intentional inclusiveness. Thank you so much.

Thanks for being a fellow Hoosier AND an bridge between the gay and church communities. We need more folks like you!

Dear Projectors,
I'd like to add that this lady is the real thing. I've met her, conversed with her and seen how she handles crises and challenges. Before I got to know her, I was worried that she was just a church lady using the gay online community as a replacement for soap operas and maybe as a substitute for coming out of a closet. Those suspicions soon evaporated. I'm happy to report that she is someone whose words you can trust and whose mind and heart are admirable. Plus, she is even prettier than her photo suggests. I hope she will post here often. She has some stories worth hearing.

I'm a trans woman and I'm an atheist. I'm one of those who was deeply harmed by Christianity as a child. It was only recently that I learned to work past my prejudices against religion. That journey would not have been possible without encountering Christians who rejected transphobia and homophobia.

Beyond question, there is a deep need for the calmer, more level headed adherents of religion to make their voices heard. Change can only be wrought by those on the inside. Religious institutions aren't going to listen to outsiders such as myself.

So, thank you for your words and your actions, Betty. Welcome to the conversation here at The Bilerico Project and keep up the good work.

Rick Sours | July 20, 2009 11:31 AM

RE: "I still refer to that handbook, because it appears that my role has emerged as "interpreter" between the gay and Christian communities, two populations that--while not necessarily exclusive--believe they have reason to distrust each other."

One further point, I strongly disagree with the
the idea that the Christian communities have reason
to distrust the LGBT community. The LGBT community
is NOT preaching raw hate toward Christians.


Thanks for your post. We need people like you reaching across the abyss that divides Christian communities and the LGBT communities from both sides.

For more resources on trans people of faith, check out and its founder, Chris Paige,

I also suggest you contact Allyson Robinson. Allyson is an ordained minister and the Associate Director of Diversity at HRC (an organizatin that I and many other trans people refuse to support becuase of their history of using the rights of trans people as a bargaining chip to benefit the LGB community), who also happens to be transgeder. I know that she would be happy to support your efforts to make the Christian community a more welcoming place for LGBT people of all stripes.

Thank you for what you are attempting to do.. As a trans woman and a former pastor who lost not only church connections but all friends due to my transition... I can only say... wish i had met more people like you....

my theme has basically been... Please God Save Us from your followers

Haha, don't worry so much about how you got here, but the fact that you showed up. Seriously, great to see straight people interested in sexuality/gender issues.

It's truly ironic, how some people can spew so much hatred against gays simply for the 'love' of God. I think all we need is a little more understand from one another. But until that time comes...

Thank Betty. Thank you for making a stand. ;-)

Thank you for being a loud, proud and engaged ally in the struggle for equality...and welcome to Bilerico.

I did see that article, Linda, and I love it!

Betty... you'll like this video about an HRC conference that was just in DC about including LGBT people in faith:

I am really grateful for all of the links that are being recommended.

Betty, you're welcome! I know you've received alot of wrath from some people here who've obviously been very hurt by the Christian religion and so called "Christians". I understand their pain because i'm quite aware of how hateful and homophobic the majority of Christians are toward LGBT people. Yes, sadly, probably the majority. But that doesnt mean you are ALL alike. On the contrary, you are obviously a good hearted person and a truely good Christian (without the quotes!) who is an LGBT ally. I feel bad if you've had your feelings hurt here. I understand their anger but think its misplaced on you. I dont think you've come here to hurt or castigate anyone. No matter how mistreated we've been we shouldnt take out our anger on those who come in goodwill to befriend us and be our ally in the cause! That's my belief. We can use all the help we can get to win our equal rights under the law and if you want to help us... great! It's much appreciated in my book!

Personally, I dont have an axe to grind in this battle...i have always been an atheist and did not grow up in a fanatical Christian fundie home as some here probably have. And I'm Italian-American but always said: "Thank god i didn't grow up Catholic!" (Oh the guilt of it all! ;)) Even though I feel like Christianity is just the currently socially acceptable mythology of our era, i will stand up for anyone to practice their religion, and believe whatever they believe as long as they dont use their religion to oppress us or any other group. So, while i absolutely despise fundamentalists of any religion (christian, jewish, or muslim) I don't view you with any suspicion. The Fundies, the Catholic church and the Mormons, THEY are our enemies - not people like you. We need more allies *just like you*!

David Mixner recently said about the upcoming National LGBT March on DC in Oct: " is time to ask our straight brothers and sisters to walk by our side as blacks and whites marched together in the 1963 March on Washington. Let this nation see this shining, powerful, determined civil rights movement that won't rest until we have full equality and freedom!..." I couldnt agree more. We need our Straight allies at this point in the history of our civil rights movement.

As i mentioned before i have a wonderful Christian straight ally friend who is very similar to you in her dedication to LGBT rights and who truely tries to follow the teachings of Jesus - not the hate filled, out of context verses of the old testament. I appreciate her and her friendship so much. So hang in there! And thanks for being our ally!

Hi Betty,
I made a long post/reply here which included info about the Unitarians on 7/26. For some reason it was posted way back at the top with the 7/19 posts. You haven't commented on it yet so i have a feeling you didnt see it up there. I'd be interested to get your take on it. :)
Ciao! of my facebook friends just posted it! Looks like you have some christian company! I'm glad to see this:

Community columnist: Following God’s will in stand on GLBT rights


Great article! I do appreciate seeing others willing to speak up, and I think we'll be seeing more and more as this issue is continually brought to the table. Education is the key.