Within days of sending out fliers, organizers of Oklahoma's first all-inclusive anti-bullying conference started receiving protest e-mails from Christian conservatives.
Inside two weeks, form letters started showing up in state schools Superintendent Sandy Garrett's inbox. The conference was organized by the Cimarron Alliance Foundation, a nonprofit group promoting equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Oklahoma. The one-day seminar offers training for professionals to identify and assist children at risk for bullying, physical violence or harassment due to race, religion or sexual orientation. And it's the sexual orientation element of the conference that has some parents and at least one Christian educator crying foul.
The oppositionDavid Williams, a middle school teacher at Tomlinson Middle School in Lawton, has helped prevent a gay student group from forming at the school where he teaches and where his son attends. He also is responsible for circulating "Stop Hate in Our Hallways” conference fliers to hundreds of churches around the state. The handouts include a letter, which describes the conference as an attempt to further the gay agenda in the Oklahoma public school system. Primarily, he, the Christian Educators Alliance, the Friends of Education and Tulsa Right Wing are against the conference because it does not educate teachers about "ex-gays,” those who have been changed through God, or the fact that children can change their behavior and not give in to same-sex urges. They also believe repeated exposure to gay people and issues can confuse children into being gay. "There are different theories on the origins of homosexuality. One is that you are born that way. Another equally valid theory is that situations and experiences make you that way,” Williams said.
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