Andrew Belonsky

Focus Rebrands "Day of Truth" As "Day of Dialogue." Should We Be Buying It?

Filed By Andrew Belonsky | November 11, 2010 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Day of Dialogue, Focus on the Family, News, politics

Exodus International left a gaping hole in the "Day of Truth," a conservative counter-protest to the LGBT-inclusive "Day of Silence," when they ended their sponsorship earlier this year. colorful-school-rainbow-lockers.jpg

When Exodus, an "ex-gay" group, made the announcement last month, they specifically cited to the spike in gay suicides in their rationale. President Alan Chambers insisted "All the recent attention to bullying helped us realize that we need to equip kids to live out biblical tolerance and grace while treating their neighbors as they'd like to be treated, whether they agree with them or not."

Now another right wing organization, Focus on the Family, has taken over lead sponsorship of the event, which they're rebranding as the "Day of Dialogue."

It's tempting for cynics to dismiss this new direction as nothing more than a publicity stunt. I admit that was my first thought. And, yes, from an institutional, PR angle, Focus on the Family's announcement reeks of self-interest.

But we're all well-advised not to dismiss this turn of events.

Despite the name change, Day of Dialogue maintains the same mission statement as "Day of Truth."

"[The day] will boast a new name while maintaining the same goal it's had since its 2005 inception: encouraging honest and respectful conversation among students about God's design for sexuality," Focus' forthcoming press statement will read.

The event is meant to oppose the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network's "Day of Silence," during which students take a "vow of silence to bring attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in their schools," and take an explicit stand against bullying.

"Any form of bullying and harassment of others is always wrong, including making fun of others, speaking down to them and saying things that hurt people," says the event's corresponding website. "Christian students in particular should be bold in speaking up to oppose that kind of behavior because it goes completely against the model Christ gave us."

Surely Focus on the Family simply wants to paint itself as more understanding, empathetic and inclusive. But while the group continues to endorse anti-gay politicians and legislation, like DOMA, which they still vigorously support, its rebranding strategy rings empty, at best.

That doesn't mean it won't be effective.

A recent Pew Research poll reflects what we could all guess: younger generations are more inclined to accept gay marriage, and gay people in general, than older generations. The youth, having grown up accustomed to LGBT people on television, music and other media, view sexuality as less of a "big deal" than their parents or grandparents. And that trend will no doubt continue to grow. Focus' "Day of Dialogue" may even help that along.

While Focus on the Family as a group continues to be a thorn in the side of gay rights, their "Day of Dialogue," even if born of a churlish attempt to shore up public opinion, may in fact help students see the lavender light and open their arms to their queer peers.

Focus can't, after all, control what the students say, right? Or other students' rebuttals?

If you ask me, dialogue's better than thrusting some "truth" upon students.

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The timing strikes me as an attempt to backpedal from the obvious ties their previous strategy had to bullying. (Bad publicity = fewer donations.) I don't see this as any improvement over their theology, of course, but like Andrew Marin's "Love Is An Orientation" campaign, it's better than vitriol.

I have to say, however, that I am impressed at the speed of their response. I wish the moderate Christians had half the response time, but I'm still waiting. They have to wake up to the need for action.

I like the idea of turning around the dialogue to better benefit. In fact it makes sense to follow a day of silence with a day of dialogue remembering those we have lost from Tyler Clementi to Harvey Milk and their legacy.

Also, I imagine they might be putting together "talking points" for their parents and students. It would be a good idea to put together some for ourselves, it won't be hard as their arguments ring so false.

It is time we as a community scuddle the Day of Silence. I have spoken at local high school classes during diversity week which included the DofS. It is disruptive in the classroom setting. It is anti-Harvey Milk who would NEVER have told any gay person to be silent.

It is conducted at the wrong time of the school year in April instead of at the beginning of the school year. Much of the trouble the glbt students endure during the school have taken place. Much of that might be prevented by doing something earlier in the school year.

It would be much better to promote Gay History Month in October. Students could be taught about historic GLBT persons and recent history of the GLBT movement which could include talks about discrimination and bullying.

Dialogue doesn't sound too bad to me. Get these theologs to quote full verses of scripture calling for the death of glbt people instead of the half "it's an abmomnation" stuff and then if they won't admit that gay people should be stoned then simply tell them they really don't believe the bible.

Ask them why a leading Greek scholar named Berkley, who taught at Wheaton College, translated 1 Cor. 6:7-8 using the word "voluptuous" instead of "effeminate"

What did Paul have against "voluptuous" people? Without voluptuous women we would not have those great Rubens painting.

Point out to the theologs homosexual is new word in the english vocabulary that the so-called authors of the bible had no knowledge of.

And lastly point out to the theologs the ENTIRE bible is a first class Fairy Tale.

It's not supposed to be disruptive. They're told to talk if a teacher asks a question.

There is also NO chance in hell that they'd promote LGBT History Month. In all of the schools I've been to, they only promote (and I use that term loosely) Black History Month.

They also have always made a point to destroy the purpose of the Day of Silence by completely disregarding WHY we engage in it.

I think the Day of Silence should be moved to the beginning of the year, when bullying is the worst. Or maybe start something similar for the beginning of the year.

I live near the large University of Texas at Austin, and there, the Day is effective for maybe three weeks. Then, bullying picks up again. If this is true of other schools, I think there should be an emphasis on continuing the Day's message throughout the year.

The existence of the Day of Silence shows that teachers and school officials aren't doing their jobs. There are effective anti-bullying programs, and every school, university, and workplace should implement one. Anti-LGBT harassment is at least sometimes prohibited by Title IX (for schools) and Title VII (for the workplace). So far, the courts haven't ruled that all such harassment is prohibited. They may reach that point if the federal government and many state governments keep failing to act. In fact, the massive, controversial Ninth Circuit may already be there.

Section 42 prohibits "obvious abuse," and it adds additional circumstances where anti-LGBT harassment is likely prohibited. So far, I don't think this law has been used to prohibit traditional sexual harassment, such as an unwanted proposition or unwanted sexual language. One example of behavior prohibited by Section 42 is calling someone a racial name, such as the n-word, to their face. I can't imagine a court ruling today that it's lawful to call LGBT people names to their face. In fact, a couple of Section 42 rulings -- I believe in the late 1990s -- specifically applied it to antigay name-calling. The law itself doesn't specify groups of people.

Any harassment that can be expected to threaten or immediately incite violence is covered by Section 42 case law. Surely suicide can be seen as a form of violence. Harassment that can be expected to disturb the tranquility of members of the community has historically been covered as well, and this would seem to include name-calling and other bullying. However, the US Supreme Court hasn't affirmed the latter since the 1940s, if I recall, and some lower court decisions since then have chipped at this idea.

Unfortunately the day of dialogue won't promote anything except the expectation that the Christianists are to be heard. They don't listen and they don't want to listen. They just want their position of condemnation to be legitimized.

"According to my interpretation of the Bible, you're going to hell. These daily beatings/intimidations you're subjected to are something you deserve, unless you turn to Jesus and change your ways. Just thought you should know that."

Is proselytizing legal in public schools if the students do it?

Regan DuCasse | November 12, 2010 4:54 PM

FOtF: What essentially goes against Christ's model is forgetting completely the moral implications of
treating another the way you'd want to be treated.
Loving a neighbor the way you'd want to be loved.

This commandment requires empathizing because that's from where the most ethical judgments and actions flow.
What Day of Truth is doing, is giving young Christians an excuse to NEVER LISTEN to or BELIEVE a young gay person who knows they did NOT choose to be gay.
First and foremost, who is anyone to deny the experience and self knowledge of another person?
Christianity and being Christian isn't about hinging on ONE issue, and running with it to deny the humanity of another person to justify oppressive laws and bigotry.

If anything, FOtF's message is anathema to Christian teaching that allows for the reality of our human progress.

If FOtF is unwilling to place historical context on using the Bible as a tool of brutal and discriminatory socio/political hierarchies, then they are being cafeteria Christians who are choosing a convenient scapegoat.
And requiring gay people to answer to THEIR 10 BC principles in a 21st century world that isn't at all like it was when the Bible was being written.
And for a very good reason.

52 Sundays aren't enough? They couldn't get out all of the anti-gay "dialogue" during FCA or Bible studies before and after school in the building? They don't bring up Deuteronomy at See You at the Pole?

I hope the students get their talking points down quickly. There's not much time between bells.

But really, as someone who was really evangelical in middle school, it's hard to use statistics and reality against someone who holds up the Bible as the only truth. Heaven and hell are the consequences of proselytizing, not LGBT suicide and bullying.

How are Christians going to have friendly conversations with LGBT students? How is there any nice way to tell someone "you are going to hell unless you turn yourself over to god."? There isn't. This (in my opinion) is going to hurt students more than it will "help" them. Absolutely pointless.