Guest editorial: In Welcoming Schools debate, consider the organization behind the program
Movements (and the organizations they spawn) choose to display a public face to a target audience that renders them the best advantage. Like the ancient Roman two-faced god Janus, those movements often have another face that is kept hidden. Whatever your perspective, as you make any evaluation, it is always appropriate to understand which face is presented and which remains hidden.
The people of Park City face such a Janus in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program, a program currently the focus of significant debate. This is a program being sold to the public as simply an “anti-bullying” program — and that is undeniably one focus of that program. However, for a complete understanding of this program, one must be informed about the organizations and the movement behind it.
The first step is to research what organizations say about themselves. To do that, one should look to the website of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the progenitor of the HRC Foundation. In their own words, the “HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools is the nation’s premier professional development program providing training and resources to elementary school educators to embrace family diversity, create LGBTQ and gender inclusive schools, prevent bias-based bullying, and support transgender and non-binary students.”
The use of the terms “embrace,” “create” and “support” by the HRC has specific meaning. Of the four stated objectives of the program, only one is focused on the prevention of bullying. Measured by their own words, one can deduce that the general effort to stop bullying is a minority of their focus.
Founded in 1980, the HRC in its earliest days focused chiefly on contributing money to LGBTQ-friendly politicians. Today, it is the largest and most influential LGBTQ lobbying organization in the U.S. Spending $28 million last year, HRC is a lobbying organization with close ties to the Democratic Party, supporting political candidates (endorsing Bill Clinton and Barack Obama) and legislation to advance the LGBTQ agenda. Over the years, the HRC has received financial support from philanthropies such as the Ford Foundation, George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, and the Tides Foundation — all of which have championed radical changes in American society.
As part of their lobbying efforts, the HRC has historically opposed both traditional marriage and religion in schools. In 2015, the HRC requested that the Department of Education list publicly the names of every U.S. religious college that had been granted a waiver from Title IX due to religious opposition. When the list was published, the HRC derisively and deceptively characterized it as “a list of educational institutions who have received an exemption from federal civil rights law in order to discriminate against LGBT students.”
In 1995, the HRC created an “educational arm,” the HRC Foundation, a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization for the stated purpose of improving “the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people by working to increase understanding and encourage the adoption of LGBTQ-inclusive policies and practices.” There is no question that organizations have the right to organize and advocate for their position; however, one can legitimately question whether a lobbying organization can produce training and support programs separate and distinct from their agenda.
People of good will can oppose programs like “Welcoming Schools” without hating the targets of those programs. The questions facing our community are whether people of good will can civilly disagree about a program many see as advocacy without being accused of violating “Park City values” and whether their message is appropriate when directed at a captive audience of tender age children in a public school setting.
With Erin’s leadership, we find comfort knowing more families like ours will have the privilege to give their own kids a solid foundation of lifelong learning for generations to come.
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