Anti-bullying: Gay agenda, or not, the most vulnerable are losing
Anti-bullying movements, accused by conservative Christians of having a gay agenda, do tend to focus on gay victims because studies show they’re bullied most; but anti-bullying hype inflates what bullying really is. Both sides may be missing the point: helping the most vulnerable.
At first glance, a national, annual anti-bullying program that took place earlier this week appeared fairly run-of-the-mill. Organized by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the “Mix it Up at Lunch Day,” encourages students to sit with someone in the cafeteria with whom they would not normally socialize. It’s a way to build tolerance, organizers say, and thus reduce bullying.Skip to next paragraph
is a longtime Monitor correspondent. She lives in Andover, Mass. with her husband, her two young daughters, a South African Labrador retriever and an imperialist cat..
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While we might be skeptical about the effectiveness of this sort of anti-bullying effort – and we certainly wonder about the social dynamics that go along with that lunch period – it didn’t strike us as all that different from any other anti-bullying program you might see any day, anywhere, in this bully-crazed country.
Except this time there was a controversy.
Controversy, I might add, that sheds light on one of the more interesting tug-of-wars going on beneath the surface of the national anti-bullying movement.
A news story we ran earlier this week looked at how the Mix It Up at Lunch Day became the target of protests by the American Family Association, a conservative Christian group that sees anti-bullying programs promoting “tolerance” as also promoting an “immoral” and “pro-homosexual lifestyle.”
A month before the Oct. 30 event, the AFA began sending alerts to its supporters and encouraging parents to keep their kids home from school that day. It helped organize a telephone campaign against the schools that had already signed up to participate in the Mix It Up at Lunch Day – an effort effective enough that a number of schools asked to be removed from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of participants. The Associated Press quoted Bryan Fischer, the AFA’s director of issue analysis, as saying the Law Center was covering up the “real agenda” of the anti-bullying lunch program, and that efforts like this were “particularly insidious.”
It might be tempting for more liberal types to brush aside this battle against Mix it Up at Lunch Day and assume the controversy stems from the lonely actions of one, angry right wing organization.
This, however, would be a mistake. The AFA is neither alone in its concerns, nor in its growing opposition to anti-bullying efforts.
A recent report by the left-leaning People For the American Way detailed how a number of conservative, “family values” organizations, from the Family Research Council to the California-based Protect Kids Foundation, are increasing their opposition to anti-bullying campaigns – especially those that specifically address the victimization of kids who are, or who appear to be, gay.