Witherspoon Institute: Anti-Bullying Advocates Are The Real Bullies
August 12, 2013 3:48 pm ET by Luke Brinker
Anthony Esolen, a member of the National Organization for Marriage's (NOM) "Ruth Institute Circle of Experts," claimed that the campaign against the bullying of LGBT students "is itself a form of bullying." Esolen's assertion represents yet another right-wing attempt to portray opponents of LGBT rights as the real victims, ignoring the legacy of bigotry and discrimination confronted by LGBT people.
In an August 12 column for the pseudo-intellectual Witherspoon Institute, Esolen expressed his outrage that a teacher objected to a student declaring, "I don't accept gays" on a day devoted to raising awareness of bullying. Esolen could barely contain his anger at the fact that such statements - reflective of the bigotry that informs anti-LGBT bullying - would encounter resistance from a teacher. He contrasted this with the reaction elicited by a student wearing a belt buckle featuring the Confederate flag, an innocent symbol of "pride or affection for the American South":
Daniel [Glowacki, the student at the center of the case] entered [teacher Jay] McDowell's classroom for the sixth period that day. McDowell noticed that one of the girls in class was wearing a belt buckle with the Confederate flag. He ordered her to take it off, because it offended him. Daniel then asked the obvious question. Why should it be all right for so many students and teachers to wear the purple T-shirts, but not all right for the girl to wear the belt buckle?
Consider the great difference here in boldness and specificity and intention. The belt buckle expresses a feeling of pride or affection for the American South. It is small. It does not demand to be noticed and read. It does not say anything. It is not a part of a school-wide campaign. It is not as if the student, together with others throughout the school, wore it on her shirt, with the words, "The South shall rise again." It is also a private thing; she is just one student.
McDowell then, predictably, told Glowacki that the Confederate flag was a symbol of hateful things, like "the slashing and hanging of [African Americans]." It was discriminatory against blacks. Glowacki responded that the purple T-shirts were discriminatory against Catholics. This prompted a heated exchange. The young man is no theologian, and the teacher no moral philosopher. McDowell says that he told Glowacki that it was all right if his religion said that homosexual behavior was wrong, but that Glowacki could not say that in class. He also says, missing the illogic and the aggressiveness of his statement, that he told Glowacki that to say "I don't accept gays" is like saying "I don't accept blacks." When Glowacki replied, "I don't accept gays," McDowell threw him out and began disciplinary action against him.
How dare McDowell point out that expressing animus toward LGBT students is no different from targeting black students?
Esolen's column is best understood as part of a larger Orwellian effort to depict supporters of LGBT equality as bigoted bullies. As the LGBT rights movement has made progress on issues like marriage equality and exposing workplace discrimination, social conservatives have reacted with a concerted misinformation campaign holding that they're victims in a larger cultural battle. The Witherspoon Institute, for instance, has declared that marriage equality will lead to an "intolerant, secular state." Other social conservatives have baselessly argued that marriage equality is a threat to religious liberty. Meanwhile, efforts to ban discrimination against LGBT people have been dubbed "bigotry" and "discriminatory."
For all their posturing, these opponents of LGBT rights remain as bigoted as ever. Look no further than Esolen himself. He may wring his hands at the alleged persecution of anti-gay students, but he's written that he'd be more than happy to return to the days when closeted gay boys learned to "weather the storms" and live the lie Esolen thinks they should live.