Alex Blaze

Religious Right mad that gay person nominated to Education position

Filed By Alex Blaze | June 30, 2009 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: bullying, Department of Education, drug abuse, Family Research Council, Kevin Jennings, schools, violence

The stopjennings_DCExam_062909_lg.jpgFamily Research Council has decided to take on one of Obama's appointments, and they're going after openly gay nominee to head the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, Kevin Jennings. Jennings also happens to be the former head of GLSEN, a queer org known for promoting Gay-Straight Alliances in schools.

To me, it makes little sense to roll drugs and violence together into one office (and exclude other non-curricular school issues), implying that they're always linked. But there we have it, and considering how much violence is directed towards queer students in schools, it makes sense to put someone in charge who understands it and who has worked for a long time on the issue.

But the FRC, which opposes any federal effort to stop anti-gay bullying, took out an ad in the Washington Examiner (right, click to enlarge) asking for the nomination to be withdrawn. While they picked a few choice quotations from Jennings's memoirs about his drug use as a youth and a one that implies that he's an *gasp* atheist, the real issue is the fact that he's a gay man who's been nominated for a high-ranking position in the Department of Education.

And that's what this is always about, really: the children. Every time these folks hear about gays and kids, they go crazy because they just can't stand the idea that kids might not learn that gay relationships are inferior or to be ashamed of their own sexualities. And since this group thinks that the "real agenda" behind any program that attempts to reduce anti-gay bullying is to get "schools in America to affirm the gay lifestyle," it's not surprising that they'd take extra care to derail this nomination.

Personally, the quotations they pulled for the newspaper ad (if they're true and actually representative of the context of what he was saying, and with the FRC we can't really know), then all I can think is that Jennings is a much more qualified person for the job than I would have thought an Obama nominee would be. While he has a great perspective on the violence part of the Office, it also seems like he might take a sane approach to the drugs part as well. Considering the fact that the Supreme Court even had to rule that strip-searching teens for drugs that they don't have a strong reason to suspect an eighth-grader has is unconstitutional, it's apparent that many schools have happily taken part in some of the more extreme aspects of the War on Drugs. I think it'd be great for someone to tone that back.

And, if there's anything we can learn from Clinton, Bush 2, and Obama, it's that you don't have to be 100% drug-free your whole life to achieve the most powerful job in the world. Even though I've never even smoked pot, I can still see that "Just say no" is ineffective and that the force with which we're "fighting" drugs is disproportionate to the threat they pose.

This is an important position and it would be great to have a gay person in it so that anti-queer violence in schools doesn't continue to get ignored. Which is exactly why the FRC wants to keep Jennings out of it.

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"And that's what this is always about, really: the children. Every time these folks hear about gays and kids, they go crazy because they just can't stand the idea that kids might not learn that gay relationships are inferior or to be ashamed of their own sexualities."

So true.

Well, partially true. They also go crazy because they actually believe that gays are out to recruit, seduce and/or rape their kids.

Rick Sours | June 30, 2009 2:16 PM

To quote what I have previously written: "Both my Partner John and myself were raised in religious families. We were taught that the Old Testament is simply to be seen as literature and our faith was based on the New Testament. There is nothing anti Gay in the New Testament.We were taught that we should always ask ourselves the question what would Jesus do? Sadly in my opinion many religions have loss their focus and been hijacked by the religious right. That being said what right do they have to get in our face so to speak?"

I just sent a message to Obama, my Senators and my Representative, asking them to support Kevin's appointment. Y'all should too.

You know the fundies are gonna send their trash.

It's a bit entertaining to think that what the Family Research Council thinks are the most damning traits in a nominee are what I'd point to as that nominee's most positive traits!

Or, at least, it would be entertaining if it weren't for the real, sweeping influence of the religious right.

Kevin's only "negative" as far as I can tell is that he doesn't bullshit anyone; great quality in someone who gets things done, not so much for politics.
Good for Obama.