Tomorrow Iâ€™m off to Washington, DC for some venues Iâ€™m not accustomed to, nor do I necessarily enjoy. This summer I worked with the First Amendment Center on some guidelines to help public schools deal with cultural and religious conflicts. This one, Public Schools and Sexual Orientation: A First Amendment framework for finding common ground is designed to help schools deal with sexual orientation discrimination and harassment without undermining those parents, students of faith who have moral objections to homosexuality.
I helped Dr. Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center broker and draft this agreement with representation from educational, gay and lesbian, as well as religious groups. Hereâ€™s some of the language from those document:
In recent years, many public schools have increasingly become a front line in the escalating debates over homosexuality in American society. Conflicts over issues involving sexual orientation in the curriculum, student clubs, speech codes and other areas of school life increasingly divide communities, spark bitter lawsuits, and undermine the educational mission of schools.
The advice in this guide is built on the conviction that we urgently need to reaffirm our shared commitment, as American citizens, to guiding principles of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The rights and responsibilities of the First Amendment provide the civic framework within which we are able to debate our differences, to understand one another, and to forge public policies that serve the common good in public educationâ€¦
Under the First Amendment, a school is both safe and free when students, parents, educators and all members of the school community commit to address their religious and political differences with civility and respect. A safe school is free of bullying and harassment. And a free school is safe for student speech even about issues that divide us.
I will appear with representatives of the First Amendment Center, the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network and the Christian Educators Association at the release of this new publication nationally on Thursday, March 9 at a press conference held at the National Press Club at 9:00 a.m. EST and followed up with a forum discussion on CSPANâ€™s Close-up, which will be aired on Friday evening at 7:00 EST. (We haven’t gotten final confirmation that it will air this week, so if it doesn’t, check it out next week.)
I am always amazed at the doors God opens to me. After the media activities on Thursday, Iâ€™m going to spend the evenings with some friends Sara and I met in New Zealand a couple of years ago who have just moved to DC to work for the New Zealand government. Then on Friday Iâ€™m going to meet with a man involved in reconciliation work in Africa before heading upstate Maryland to spend the weekend with some folks near Haggerstown. Then a few dear friends of mine are meeting for lunch in Bethesda before I catch my return flight home to California.
If you think about all of this, pray for me. Just when I think the whole BridgeBuilders things is winding down, God opens some pretty strange doors. I also got a call two days ago to address a convention of school attorneys in Washington state in April. Curiouser and curiouserâ€¦