Conservative women's group launches grassroots effort targeting schools that accept homosexuality

Published: Tuesday May 16, 2006

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The largest conservative Christian organization targeted at women has quietly introduced a grassroots "risk audit" program aimed at rolling back gay, lesbian and HIV programs in American schools, RAW STORY has found.

Concerned Women for America, a $20 million-a-year nonprofit and lobbying group, announced their "risk audit plan" in late April. The plan seeks to engage parents in a broad national effort to target schools which "promote" gay and lesbian activity by embracing non-discrimination policies and safe-sex curricula or harbor "objectionable" gay and lesbian novels aimed at children.

"Every school district in America has an absolute responsibility to protect children while they are at school," the group writes in their 24-page audit plan. "There is no legitimate rationale for giving or implying endorsement of homosexual, bisexual or gender-variant behaviors among children of any age."

"It is not a viewpoint," they write, "but a high-risk and often lethal behavior."

According to the document, homosexuality increases the risk of anal cancer, smoking, domestic violence, breast cancer and promiscuity.

Perhaps most striking about the audit plan is a detailed survey which allows parents to rate their children's school based on how tolerant it is to homosexual themes. The 100-point audit questionnaire singles out topics such as "anti-harassment or anti-bullying" policies, "objectionable books" in libraries, "diversity days" and curricula that include "tolerance programs" or "families headed by homosexuals." Schools are penalized most for including HIV/safe-sex curricula, "homosexual clubs," or required teacher sensitivity training.

"It's a good way to determine quickly if your school has knowingly or unknowingly let homosexual activists and materials in the door under the radar of 'diversity' or 'anti-bullying' or 'AIDS education,'" CWA's Virginia State Director Patricia Phillips said in a release.

Gay group says audit 'sad"

Gay groups are troubled by the audit. Jason Cianciotto, research director at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, says Concerned Women distorts existing research.

"From a research perspective it's just amazing to look at what they pass for justification," Cianciotto said. "They're actually advocating that students should not be protected from violence and harassment in school. And what they're using to justify that is research that's been proven to be false."

"It's a common tactic for these groups to take a social science research article that had a study sample of men of a certain age range who are HIV positive and attributing the behaviors of that study population to say all gay and lesbian people" exhibit health and mental issues.

"It almost seems that Concerned Women for America would rather that GLBT youth continue to get beaten up, continue to be at high risk for suicide and continue running away from home," said Human Rights Campaign spokeswoman Candace Gingrich. "It's really sad, because that's the statement they"re sending. They"d rather people remain silent and our children remain at risk."

Both the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the Human Rights campaign say that the CWA audit likely comes in response to polls showing that American youth are increasingly supportive of gay rights.

"Religious groups like CWA, Focus on the Family and in particular ex-gay programs have really been spending a lot more resources over the last couple of years in reaching out to young people," Cianciotto said. "Young people have been consistently shown in public opinion polls to be far more supportive of equality for lesbian/gay/bisexual and transgendered people than older generations."

Concerned Women for America's media affairs office took a message but did not return two calls for comment.

According to an audio clip posted on their website, the audit was created after the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution in 2005 urging churches to determine if the public schools in their area were promoting homosexuality.

A recent report by the Gay Lesbian and Straight Educators Network, endorsed by the American Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, suggests the group's audit breaks with current psychological thinking.

"Gay, lesbian and bisexual youth have few opportunities for observing positive role modeling by adults due to the general cultural bias that makes gay, lesbian and bisexual people largely invisible," asserts Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation & Youth. "It is this isolation and lack of support that accounts in part for the higher rates of emotional distress, suicide attempts and risky sexual behavior and substance use that gay, lesbian and bisexual students report compared to heterosexual students."

Concerned Women for America disagrees. They say schools are putting children at risk by exposing them to the "homosexual agenda." The audit, they assert, gives parents an opportunity to fight back.

"Most parents I would think would be concerned with what they're introducing to the kids directly," says CWA's Director of the Culture and Family Institute Robert Knight in a audio clip posted on the group's website. "And this gives them the tools to find out and do something about it."

"We really recommend that they use them, and also that they tell us what they've found," he adds.

Concerned Women for America's survey also includes 'suggested school districts" for targeted activism. Among them are Grossmont Union High School in La Mesa, California; Denver Public Schools in Colorado; and Lexington Public Schools in Massachusetts.

Concerned Women for America was founded in 1979 by the wife of fundamentalist Baptist minister and Moral Majority co-founder Tim LaHaye. The organization pioneered a "kitchen table activist" grassroots lobbying strategy, spreading the fight from Washington to a panoply of local chapters across the country. The group claims to be the largest women's organization in the country and has a subscription mailing base of 200,000.

In 2004, activist blogger Michael Rogers of blogACTIVE alleged that the group's chief financial officer Lee LaHaye was an ">openly gay man." The group did not rebut the charge.

The audit also includes a sample press release which chapters can send to local media.

Simply put, CWA seeks to eradicate teaching that suggests homosexuality is acceptable.

"The majority of students are being successfully indoctrinated with the belief that homosexual behavior is a right and is relatively harmless," the audit plan asserts. "The truth is otherwise."