Controversy over the Gay-Straight Alliance at Franklin County High School in Winchester, Tenn., continues to attract national attention, including that of a hate-group leader who has condemned the club as “vile” and promoting “sexual weirdness.”
MassResistance and Liberty Counsel, both classified as anti-LGBT hate groups by the progressive Southern Poverty Law Center, have inserted themselves into the fight. Liberty Counsel has reportedly offered legal assistance to the GSA’s opponents, while MassResistance founder Brian Camenker came in from Massachusetts to attend Monday night’s school board meeting.
At the meeting, the board considered new policies on school clubs, including a requirement that students have parental permission to join, but ended up deferring action until next month. Some parents have been speaking out against the club and others defending it since it was formed in December; in a February meeting, school board members said it could continue to meet.
Camenker offered some choice rhetoric in an interview with Nashville TV station WZTV prior to the meeting. “It’s vile ... all of this sexual weirdness targeted to this community,” he said, adding that GSAs “lead to homosexual pornography” and “hand out anti-Christianity pamphlets.” Further, he said, if such clubs make young people feel good about being gay, “it’s the worst thing that could happen to them.”
Camenker’s claims are “bizarre,” Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project told the station. The GSA “is not any kind of sex class or recruitment,” he said. “It’s for kids to talk about bullying, struggles coming out, and being themselves. For someone from Massachusetts to come and say it’s somehow connected to porn is bizarre. ... It shows where his mind is at.”
Camenker also contended that much of the support for the GSA is coming from the University of the South, a well-regarded private liberal arts school in the Franklin County town of Sewanee, of which he is an alumnus. Sanders responded that if the university’s students and staff are in favor of the GSA, that contradicts Camenker’s argument that the GSA is anti-Christian, as the school is affiliated with the Episcopal Church — a Christian denomination that embraces LGBT equality.
Both supporters and opponents of the GSA rallied before the Franklin County School Board meeting (see video below, via Franklin County Buzz). A gay student speaking at the rally decried MassResistance’s tactics. “We’re not like MassResistance,” she said. “And we’re not going to use intimidation to try to change anyone’s mind. We’re just going to try to use love and kindness to change hearts.”
An adult supporter spoke to the allegation that the GSA is a “sex club,” saying, “There’s a thing called projection.”
Nearby, an opponent sported a shirt reading “Gay Sex Leads to Hell” on the front and “LGBT: Letting Go of Biblical Truth” on the back. He denounced the GSA as being “about sex” and “out of the realm of education,” and called homosexuality “a stench in the nostrils of God.” He also said same-sex relationships are “not the natural order of things,” as they go against the biblical order to “be fruitful and multiply.” “Homos cannot multiply,” he said. “They have to steal somebody else’s children.”
And a woman identified by WZTV as Christine Weick stood with a sign saying “God Draws a Line on Gay Marriage … Woe to Those Who Cross It!” “I love the homosexuals,” she told the station. “I want them in heaven with me, and the Bible is clear that with that choice of lifestyle, they’re not going to go there.” Weick, by the way, “is a national Christian activist and author who’s best known for her theory that Monster energy drinks are the work of Satan,” notes The New Civil Rights Movement.
The school board will discuss the new club policies further and vote on them in April, a spokeswoman said. Supporters of the GSA object to the idea of requiring parental consent to join, as this may keep out students who need the club most because they’re not supported at home, and at least one board member opposes it.
Below, watch the Franklin County Buzz video and a WZTV report.