Throughout our history, a disparate group of Americans have made important contributions in a wide variety of fields that helped shape America into the greatest nation on Earth. The labor and innovation that made America the envy of the civilized world has come from all walks of life and it demonstrates the value of a population that includes African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, entrepreneurs, Europeans, and labor groups. There is not one specific group who can claim that they alone made America a great nation, and historically, it has been a struggle for groups to be recognized as contributing to America’s greatness because of prejudice, bigotry, and religious discrimination. It is unfortunate that in this country where freedom and equality are hallmarks that allegedly portray the acceptance and recognition of the entire population, it has taken acts of Congress or state legislatures to recognize that people of all ethnicities and lifestyles are responsible for making America great.
In California this past week after a contentious struggle between Democrats and socially conservative Republicans, legislation passed that finally recognizes the contributions, sacrifices, and suffering of the gay community in shaping America into the great country it once was. The legislation makes California the first state in the nation to include lessons about gays and lesbians in social studies curriculum in the public school system. Governor Jerry Brown signed the landmark legislation on Wednesday, and in a statement on Thursday said, “History should be honest, this bill revises existing laws that prohibit discrimination in education and ensures that the important contributions of Americans from all backgrounds and walks of life are included in our history books.” The vote was primarily down party lines and has drawn criticism from religious and conservative groups that claim such instruction exposes students to a subject that many parents object to. That is not surprising and as usual, the religious right has railed on the legislation as indoctrinating children to accept homosexuality.
The argument that public schools will indoctrinate children to accept homosexuality is shallow and typical of the evangelical Christians who have been indoctrinating the public and school children since the founding of our country. The insane claim that children are forced to accept homosexuality is the same as saying learning about the solar system indoctrinates children into accepting the sun, planets, and moons. What the legislation does not do is force children to accept anything. Homosexuality is a fact of life the same as country music is a fact of life and acknowledging its existence is completely different than engaging, supporting, or enjoying it. Indeed, myriad people hate country music and do not acknowledge it as a legitimate art form, but they cannot deny that it exists and do not have to like or accept it. It is a tried and true tactic that the religious right has used in the past as a scare tactic to continue discriminating against gays.
During the discriminatory Proposition 8 campaign, the religious community made the same argument that allowing gays to marry would indoctrinate 2nd grade school children into the gay lifestyle and their argument resonated with ignorant religious voters who forced their bible-based beliefs on the rest of the population in California. The new law only ensures that instructional materials no longer exclude LGBT contributions the same as laws requiring schools to include the contributions of Latinos, women, African Americans, Native Americans, scientists, and businesses in history although conservative Christians opposed including those groups as well. There will be no lessons teaching 6-year-old children how to be homosexuals, but that is the implication conservative Christian groups and legislators are proffering as a scare tactic.
The new law, S.B. 48 requires the California Board of Education and local school districts to adopt textbooks and other educational materials covering contributions and roles of sexual minorities as soon as the 2013-14 school year and it leaves it to local school boards to decide just how to implement the requirements. The law also does not specify a particular grade level for instruction to begin. That will create problems because in California, like the rest of the country, there are conservative Christians on school boards, administrations, and teachers who refuse to follow the law where it conflicts with the bible. Throughout the nation and even in liberal leaning California, Christian teachers still teach the creation myth as scientific fact and relegate evolution to a mention as a faulty theory regardless that the law forbids religious teaching in public schools. California does allow parents to opt out of any instruction that they find objectionable but it primarily applies to sex education that is taught in middle school.
As usual, conservative Christian groups took exception to the new law and the president of the conservative family group, SaveCalifornia.com, Randy Thomasson said parents will have no choice but to take their children out of public school and home school them to avoid what he said was “immoral indoctrination” of children. The bigot Thomasson continued that, “Jerry Brown has trampled the parental rights of the overwhelming majority of California fathers and mothers who don’t want their children to be sexually brainwashed at school.” Thomasson, besides being a Christian bigot, fails to acknowledge that California public schools follow the Constitution and not the bible. The bigot could not resist making a fool of himself by saying, “This new law will prohibit textbooks and teachers from telling children the facts that homosexuality is neither healthy nor biological.”
Regardless of Thomasson’s fallacious contention that homosexuality is unhealthy and non-biological, California textbooks are not the bible and this is the sticking point for every Christian-inspired discriminatory position. Just because the ancient Jewish mythology says god hates homosexuals, it is not appropriate for public education. If Thomasson and parents with his particular malfunction do not accept the standards in the law, they can take their little darlings to bible school and learn that a voice in their preacher’s head is law and see how far they get in the modern world. Christians have had enough time controlling this country’s education system and it is time for them to stop pushing their unconstitutional beliefs on the entire country. However, true believers and hate-filled Christians will never understand that the bible is not the law of the land.
This new law only recognizes that homosexuals have made and continue to make important contributions to America since its founding. It does not advocate teaching children to be gay any more than recognizing the contributions of Christians advocates evangelical bullying or suppression of women, Muslims, or atheists. The president of the California Teachers Association, Dean Vogel said, “There is no room for discrimination of any kind in our classrooms, our communities or our state,” and that is the heart of the matter. Christian Dominionists oppose any law that eliminates their legal discrimination and hateful bullying of Americans who do not subscribe to their culture of hate. The battle over DOMA, DADT, and same-sex marriage has as its basis a few obscure verses in the Christian bible and is responsible for every atrocity imaginable aimed at the gay community even though the Constitution guarantees that “all…are created equal” and enjoy “equal protections under the law.”
Conservative Christians have demonized the gay community and treated homosexuals as fourth-class citizens long enough and each time legislators correct discriminatory laws, they go insane because they do not recognize the Constitution as the authority of the nation. If Christians want to take their children out of the public school system, then they are doing the rest of the population a huge favor. As an ex-educator, the most inhumane children are those of extremist Christian fundamentalists and they always justify their children’s actions by citing the bible as if it had any place in school. It may be the foundation and primary textbook in parochial schools, but in real America, it is little more than a fairy-tale that espouses genocide, rape, and discrimination; it has no place in society much less in the public school system. Americans are changing and recognizing that every citizen has value and homosexuals are just as worthy (or more) as any conservative Christian in a free society. Unfortunately, the Christian Dominionists do not advocate a free society, but a country that resembles Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and they are working tirelessly to achieve their goal of theocracy and suppression of non-believers.
Californians should be proud that they are the first state in the nation to recognize the achievements and contributions of gays to this country. The Christian extremists may not agree or like it and that is their prerogative, but if they were dying and the only physician available was a homosexual, most of them would forget their bigotry and forsake heaven for more time on Earth. As a testament to the quality of person most gays are, they continue to serve this country with distinction in the military despite the discrimination from Christians, and for that one reason they deserve special recognition in school curriculum. The new law does not give any special recognition, but the same recognition all groups get as a matter-of-course and it is long overdue.
Not all Christians are bigots and decent Americans wonder when followers of Christ’s teachings will condemn the fanatics for the hate-inspired discrimination borne out of ancient Jewish mythology. There are some Christian groups who are speaking out in support of equal rights for gays, but they are few and far between and face ridicule and scorn from the evangelical bigots. This is another baby-step toward finally giving equal rights and recognition to gays for their sacrifices and contributions in making America a better nation. Unfortunately, for every small step forward, the Christian Dominionists are dragging states through the courts to push their radical theocratic agenda on the rest of the country because that is what bigots do best. The good news is that while the conservative Christian bigots are using the bible to teach their children how to commit inhumane atrocities in the name of god, California public school children will be learning about the contributions and sacrifices gays have made in creating a free country where equality is mandatory; until the Dominionists take over and America is a theocracy.