A right-wing religious group has organized an event in response to a campaign that is meant to raise awareness of anti-LGBT bullying.
Focus on the Family, a noted anti-LGBT group, held the Day of Dialogue Thursday in order to give voice to what it perceives as a bullied group: Christians.
Candi Cushman, a representative of Focus on the Family, told the Christian Post that the day is meant "to encourage open dialogue" and "ensure Christian students have a place at the table and an equal opportunity to share their perspective in a loving and respectful manner."
"Whether it's the Day of Silence — or another of the many, and increasing, efforts to endorse a form of sexual activism in classrooms — too often, these issues are promoted in a one-sided manner that leaves Christian students feeling like their deeply held beliefs are being marginalized," Cushman said.
According to a statement from its organizer, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, the Day of Silence, held Friday, is a "quiet but powerful, student-led action raises awareness about the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and discrimination." Students at more than 8,000 middle schools, high schools, and universities at all 50 U.S. states and more than 70 countries will annually seal their lips for a day to shine a spotlight on these issues.
In addition to Focus on the Family, other anti-LGBT groups, including the Illinois Family Institute, are encouraging students to have a walkout on the Day of Silence. Laurie Higgins, a representative of the Illinois group, alleged that the GLSEN event is "homosexuality-affirming dogma" whose ultimate aim is to "foment hatred."
"GLSEN is exploiting legitimate anti-bullying sentiment and captive audiences in public schools to advance leftist assumptions about the nature of homosexuality and the morality of volitional homoerotic activity," Higgins said. "The ultimate goal of GLSEN is to use public education to eradicate conservative ontological and moral beliefs or make it socially and politically impossible to express them."
GLSEN reports that 56 percent of LGBT students felt unsafe at school due to their their sexual orientation. In addition, 38 percent felt unsafe because of their gender expression.
In an op-ed published Friday in The Advocate, GLSEN's youth engagement associate Camille Beredjick highlighted these numbers and stressed the enduring need for awareness campaigns like the Day of Silence.
"Their message is simple: Even as the marriage equality movement gains traction and LGBT characters make appearances on mainstream television shows, schools remain unsafe places for LGBT students," she wrote. "And in a time when the majority of states do not have antibullying, antiharassment, and nondiscrimination protections in place for LGBT youth, the Day of Silence is as relevant as ever."