The leader of a group that’s hosting the Governors Conference on LGBTQ Youth says concerns raised by a conservative group are “ludicrous.” Members of the FAMiLY LEADER were joined by 16 legislators today to reiterate concerns raised earlier in the week about tax dollars being spent on the conference. The legislators threatened to pull funding from Des Moines Area Community College which is hosting the event.
The group says sessions in the conference are bullying conservative media members and those who believe in the bible while the conference is supposed to be against bullying. Nate Monson is the executive director conference host Iowa Safe Schools.
“I think their news conference was frankly sad and very disheartening, that they would resort to bullying an event that is focused on supporting kids and providing a safe and supportive learning environment for all students no matter who they are,” Monson says. “The event has a lot of great workshops and sessions on bullying and prevention and how students can advocate against that, and resources for teachers — that’s the real heart and soul of the event.”
One of the sessions criticized by the FAMiLY LEADER is called “For the Bible Tells Me So.” Monson says it is based on an Oscar-nominated documentary.
“And it’s about you can be Christian and LGBT too — like you don’t have to pick one or the other — which is what their press conference is frankly all about, is that you have to choose. And you don’t you can be both. And so it goes through loving families and faith leaders, including Nobel Prize winner Desmond TuTu and Harvard theologians, and they talk about that you can be both and it is okay,” according to Monson.
“And so the message is for these kids who sometimes are rejected by their families their peers and their schools, you can still have faith and it’s okay,” Monson says. The FAMiLY LEADER group says the conference bullies conservative media members in a session that calls it propaganda.
Monson says speaking out against them is not bullying. “Actually the definition of bullying is it always involves this idea of a power imbalance, anyone who works with bullying work 365 days a year knows that there has to be that power imbalance that happens,” Monson says.
“And frankly their press conference with legislators and an organization as big as the FAMiLY LEADER attacking our event and attacking an organization our size which is a much smaller group of people who plan this event every year — that’s the definition of bullying right there — going after us just to have a conversation about their language.”
The executive director of Interfaith Alliance of Iowa, Connie Ryan Terrell, also spoke out today in response to the FAMiLY LEADER’s news conference. Terrell says the language used by the group was inappropriate. “Words such as evil and other demeaning and derogatory words, there’s just no place for it. And certainly as an adult, we need to be role models on how we treat each other,” Terrell says.
“And using such language as that to describe an entire group of people is really beyond the pale and I don’t understand why leaders would ever use that kind of language.” Terrell takes issue with the threats legislator’s made against conference host D-MACC and the governor.
“That if the governor doesn’t remove his name and if the community college doesn’t remove their name from the conference run by the Iowa Safe Schools that they will in essence go after them and the money that the community colleges get from the state, that just is simply inappropriate,”Terrell says. Terrell says the argument that the conference is bullying Christians by targeting them is a false one.
“We know that conservative religious traditions have long since demonized people who are gay and lesbian. That is part of the reason of the conference is because it has been done so much in history and also currently. So to turn that argument around and to say that as a Christian that they are being bullied is simply inaccurate,” Terrel says.
Terrell is a past board member and treasurer of the Iowa Safe Schools Task Force for LGBT Youth, and the Interfaith Alliance will receive the “Advocate of the Year” award at this year’s conference.
The governor is not commenting on the conference or any gay issues because of a lawsuit that claims he discriminated against the openly gay workers’ compensation commissioner.
Radio Iowa first reported Monday that the D-MACC Young Americans for Freedom Chapter was speaking out against the conference as bullying those who didn’t support the LGBTQ views. The group’s president, Jake Dagel, said they were trying to get the university officials to withdraw the tax dollar support of the conference.
Dagel says university security officers have since stop students from handing out flyers on the issue.
You can see the lineup for the conference here: iowasafeschools.org/content/view/190/118