Faith In America: History books should document harm caused by anti-gay religious figures

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Officials from Faith In America said today that if the Texas State Board of Education moves to include mention of Phyllis Schlafly and Jerry Falwell in school textbooks, they also should document how harmful their anti-gay actions have been to millions of gay and lesbian youth.

The national nonprofit organization Faith In America was founded 2005 to educate Americans about the harm caused when religious teaching is misused to justify prejudice, discrimination and violence against people based solely on their sexual orientation.

The Texas State Board of Education in a 10-5 party line vote approved some controversial alterations to what most students in the state and other areas of the country will be studying as history. After a public comment period, the board will vote on final recommendations in May.

According to an Associated Press story, it would mean not only increased favorable mentions of anti-gay activist Phyllis Schlafly but also more discussion about the anti-gay Moral Majority and Heritage Foundation.

"The bigotry, prejudice and violence that has been justified and promoted by these so-called conservative groups has inflicted a horrific toll on the lives of gay and lesbian individuals, especially youth," said Brent Childers, an evangelical Christian who serves as executive director Faith In America. "It’s unimaginable that millions of kids across this nation may now be taught that people who espouse and promote religion-based bigotry are to be looked upon as favorable.

"History, time and time again, has judged such religion-based bigotry as harmful and unacceptable, whether such bigotry and prejudice was perpetrated toward American Natives, women or African-Americans. Apologies have been issued by the church and others for their role in promoting religion-based bigotry toward a minority  group."

Childers said that he recalls how his own past bigotry and prejudice toward gay Americans was fostered and reinforced by Falwell and other anti-gay figures who for years used the religious and political arenas to promote the attitude that it’s OK to be prejudiced and hostile toward gay and lesbian individuals.

"Now, the Texas Board of Education is poised to use public school textbooks to give a stamp of approval to the religion-based bigotry and hostility that has been promoted by groups like the Moral Majority or Heritage Foundation.  To put a positive spin on those group’s prejudice and hostility toward gay Americans is no different than if someone proposed to rewriting history to portray segregation, racism or looking upon women as inferior in favorable terms."