Minnesota Family Council pushes back in Anoka-Hennepin anti-gay bullying controversy


The Minnesota Family Council (MFC) is pushing back against efforts to improve the climate for LGBT students in the Anoka-Hennepin School District, where community members are mourning suicides by four LGBT students in the last year. The real issue is “homosexual indoctrination,” not anti-gay bullying, says MFC’s Tom Prichard, who says the students are dead because they adopted an “unhealthy lifestyle.” MFC’s campaign against anti-bullying education comes as national religious right groups mount a similar campaign in the aftermath of nearly half a dozen suicides by LGBT students around the country in the last month. 

Prichard asserts that the suicide death of 15-year-old Justin Aaberg was not due to anti-LGBT bullying. Aaberg took his life in July, and his mother and friends say anti-LGBT bullying played a factor Prichard claims that “homosexual activists” are “manipulating” his death to get homosexual indoctrination programs into the school district.

“Whatever the exact reason for Justin’s suicide it’s an enormous tragedy that shouldn’t be manipulated for ideological purposes which is what’s being done now,” he wrote on Thursday. “I’ll of course be accused of being unloving, hateful, etc. But is the loving thing to encourage and promote unhealthy and harmful behaviors and practices?”

He continued:

I would agree that youth who embrace homosexuality are at greater risk, because they’ve embraced an unhealthy sexual identity and lifestyle. These alternative sexual identifications or lifestyles deny the reality that we are created male and female. To live or try to live in conflict with how we are made will invariably cause problems, e.g. emotional, psychological and social. Notwithstanding gay activist assertions to the contrary, people aren’t gay, lesbian, transgender, etc. by God’s design or nature. We are male and female with sexual expression designed for a lifelong union between a man and a woman. Denying or fighting against this reality is the reason alternative forms of sexual expression, whether homosexual or heterosexual, will put people at greater risk. To assert otherwise is to deny reality and involves “kicking against the goad” to use a biblical analogy.

Prichard echoed a similar sentiment in the Star Tribune.

“I don’t think parents want their kids indoctrinated in homosexuality,” he said, adding that Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs), often the only safe space for LGBT students on campus, should be removed from schools. “It’s sad and harmful for kids to celebrate homosexuality when in fact it’s not a healthy lifestyle,” he said.

The Minnesota Family Council is also connected to the Parents Action League, a group that has been lobbying the school board not to adopt any LGBT-specific anti-bullying programming. MFC’s Prichard told the Minnesota Independent that he hasn’t been involved in PAL personally, but Barb Anderson, the organization’s staffer focusing on education issues, represents PAL.

PAL wants GSAs removed from district campuses, advocates for “ex-gay” therapy and opposes any efforts to include a positive portrayal of LGBT issues in the school district.

While MFC and PAL are working against changes to the school district, the issue has taken on a national significance. Over the last month, there has been a rash of suicides by teenagers who were gay or were perceived to be gay by their tormentors thought they were gay.

Openly gay 19-year-old Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi jumped to his death last week after two fellow students secretly videotaped him and his boyfriend in an intimate moment and broadcast it online.

Thirteen-year-old Houston student Asher Brown shot himself in the head after being “bullied to death” (in his family’s words) over his religion and because his fellow students thought he was gay.

In California, 13-year old Seth Walsh hung himself in his parents back yard after enduring anti-gay taunts from his peers. Following Walsh’s death, those children tearfully confessed their taunting to the police.

On Sept. 9, 15-year-old Indiana student Billy Lucas took his own life after what friends say was anti-gay bullying.

These instances, plus the four suicides by LGBT students that advocates say have occurred in the Anoka-Hennepin area, have prompted calls for school reform around bullying.

Like the Parents Action League’s efforts in Minnesota, the national Focus on the Family has launched TrueTolerance.org, a website that teaches that LGBT bullying prevention efforts “become a gateway for homosexuality promotion in school.”

“Once schools are forced to include special categories for things like sexual orientation or gender identity in their policies, that has been used as leverage to get in homosexual-themed curriculum for kids as young as kindergarten [and to introduce] so-called ‘diversity training’ for high school students and teachers,” said Candi Cushman, education analyst with Focus on the Family. “So this just becomes a gateway for homosexuality promotion in the school.”