Precinct 333

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

When Tolerance Equals Intolerance

Students in Kentucky's Boyd County are required to participate in a "diversity training." The program, though, does not practice respect for diversity. In fact, it is explicitly opposed to freedom of speech and freedom of religion -- at least if that means believing and saying that homosexual activity is immoral. Or so says a suit filed by the Alliance Defense Fund.

“This mandatory ‘diversity training’ hardly teaches diversity. It not only puts a gag on students who disagree with homosexual behavior, it also actively attempts to change their moral beliefs,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Kevin Theriot. “The Supreme Court is clear on this matter: Americans have an absolute right to their beliefs. This training obviously crosses that constitutional line.”

All middle and high school students in Boyd County schools are required to attend the “diversity training.” School policies and practice do not permit parents to opt their children out of the training, even if it violates their personal beliefs and morality.

In the training session’s video, school employees and other individuals state that homosexuality is a characteristic that cannot be changed and that school policy prohibits any student from telling another student that he or she believes homosexuality is “wrong.”

According to the complaint filed today, “Students are required to undergo this training without expressing any disagreement. This effectively forces the students to speak in agreement with the School District’s view that homosexuality is a safe and healthy lifestyle that cannot be changed.” To read the full text of the complaint, go to

Now I know that there are going to be folks who show up here and argue that the position taken by the school on homosexuality is the correct one -- that it is an immutable characteristic not a chosen lifestyle. That isn't the point, and is really irrelevant. Rather, the problem is that the school district is taking a position on a moral issue addressed by religious beliefs and teachings of students and their families and churches. The school is insisting that it is the arbiter of MORAL AND RELIGIOUS VALUES, and is prohibiting constitutionally protected speech. That goes far beyond the bounds of any legitimate educational mission.

The great irony here is that the training is required under the settlement of an ACLU-litigated suit over the district's refusal to recognize the Boyd County High School Gay-Straight Alliance. In agreeing to recognize the rights of members of that organization, the district abrogated the rights of every other student in the district and their parents. Where is the tolerance and respect for diverse views in such a settlement?


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