The American Family Association (AFA) emailed members urging them to keep their children out of school during an anti-bullying event organized by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
According to The New York Times, the evangelical group's director of issues analysis, conservative radio host Bryan Fischer accused the Oct. 30 event, "Mix It Up For Lunch Day," of fitting in line with legislation the group already opposes.
"Anti-bullying legislation is exactly the same," Fischer said. "It's just another thinly veiled attempt to promote the homosexual agenda. No one is in favor of anyone getting bullied for any reason, but these anti-bullying policies become a mechanism for punishing Christian students who believe that homosexual behavior is not something that should be normalized."
The Times reported that about 200 of the 2,500 schools taking part in the program have opted out since the AFA's email earlier this month.
The SPLC said the program encourages students to eat lunch with people outside their usual social groups. It is not aimed specifically at LGBT students, but the center has advocated equality for the LGBT community.
"I was surprised that they completely lied about what Mix It Up Day is," said Maureen Costello, who lead's the SPLC's Teaching Tolerance project, which organizes the program. "It was a cynical, fear-mongering tactic."
The center designated the AFA as a hate group in 2010, a charge Fischer and his group have denied.
"We are a truth group," Fischer said. "We tell the truth about homosexual behavior."
But Avon Grove Charter School head Kevin Brady suggested the opposite; parents at his school in West Grove, Pennsylvania complained, he said, but the AFA's email missive described a program that had "absolutely no resemblance to what we do."
Brady said that once he informed the parents of how the program actually works, including how it helps the school's special-needs students, the complaints subsided.
"I think they feel they have been taken for a bit of a ride," he said.