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Pastors protest
Iowa school's sponsorship of antibullying forum

Pastors protest
Iowa school's sponsorship of antibullying forum

A group of southeast Iowa pastors plan to launch an organized protest of a school-sponsored forum planned for Tuesday focusing on bullying and its effect on gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students. The Burlington School Board will help host and participate in the GLBT Youth in Iowa Schools Task Force meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at James Madison Middle School. The pastors said they are opposed to focusing the attention on school safety for that specific group of students. "We're just strongly against it," said the Reverend Steve Perkins of St. John AME Church, who attended a meeting of pastors Thursday to discuss strategy for opposing what some among them described as the gay agenda. Perkins and his fellow ministers do not want to see GLBT students singled out as a specially protected class of student. If that happens, the ministers fear that "proponents of the homosexual lifestyle" will gain access to the hearts and minds of Burlington youth. "We do want safety for all kids," Perkins said, "and for them to have an opportunity to learn on an even playing field." The pastors intend to fill the school board room at the administration building for a scheduled 8 p.m. school board work session Monday. A new harassment, bullying, and hazing policy adopted by the board in August prohibits acts of intolerance, harassment, bullying, or hazing based on race, color, creed, gender, religion, marital status, ethnic background, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, physical appearance, or socioeconomic background. The policy defines harassment, bullying, and hazing and outlines punishments for students or staff found to have engaged in any of those behaviors. The policy also calls on the district to educate students about cultural diversity and promote tolerance of individual differences. Board president Frosty Krummel, pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Burlington, would not elaborate on his own opinion about the other ministers' misgivings about the Burlington schools becoming involved in LGBT issues. He did point out, however, that there are other Burlington churches listed among the forum's sponsors and noted the existence of a "wide diversity of legitimate Christian opinion." Within his own faith, Krummel said one could speak with five ministers and get five different opinions on the subject of homosexuality. Krummel didn't seem to oppose the forum or the district's participation in it. "It's an educational forum," he said. "If you can't have an educational forum within the educational system, where can you have them?" (AP)

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