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Friday, May 19, 2006

Reflections on the Day of Silence

(All right, I realize that this is very late. However, I’ve been working on school projects and finishing up the year, so if you could please just think of it as extra early for next year, I would appreciate it. : ) Also, if you have not yet heard about the Day of Silence in Sacramento high schools, please click here, or scroll down to read my first post on this subject.)

I believe that the reactions to the Day of Silence and following events were based on miscalculations and misunderstandings among all parties involved.

First, let me voice what I believe to be the miscalculations among the anti-gay students and community. They misjudged the reaction to their shirts. As Christians, they are called to love their enemies, but also explain sin when they see it, in order that it won’t happen again. If their intent is for others to change their opinion, and “sin no more”, it was not reached by having the word ‘gay’ with a circle and a line through it. Even though I don’t believe the students to be “gay-haters”, since as Christians they are against the sin, not the sinner, the shirts let people label this effort as such. Thus, every effort should have been made to differentiate between the sin and the sinner, so that people would be able to understand.

A better alternative would be through the Day of Truth. The Day of Truth is a day that presents an alternate, Christian viewpoint. In all fairness, I did see students at Mira Loma wearing Day of Truth shirts while protesting. However, because there can be nothing objectionable about these shirts, those who oppose the Day of Silence need to wear them in school, and attempt to clarify their opinions to those who presuppose and misinterpret them as intolerant.

Secondly, the San Juan School District has misunderstood student rights. These rights are already clearly spelled out under California Educational Code Section 48907. Why a school district would try to create a policy with differing regulations is a mystery to me. It is a direct set-up to a major lawsuit, either now or sometime in the future. It would benefit the school district and students to simply follow the rules that are already laid down. That way, there are no conflicting regulations, and the school district would be much less likely of losing in court.

Thirdly, the pro-gay section is very ignorant of Christianity, as evidenced by their handout (here). Anyone who thinks that the Bible might be possibly against inter-racial marriage or fun on a Saturday needs a refresher course. And, contrary to popular opinion, there is no such commandment as, “Thou shalt not judge”. Jesus’ comment (Judge not, that you may not be judged… Hypocrites, cast out first the beam out of thine eye, and then thou shall see clearly, that thou mayest pull out the straw from they brother's eye.) is clearly against hypocrites, not against thinking that actions are wrong or right (judging). In fact, the Bible frequently encourages speaking out against sin (or in liberal terms, being judgmental): “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them...” (Eph 5:11).

Fourthly, I think there is a major misunderstanding today in our society. People are simply unable to understand the difference between tolerance and acceptance. Tolerance means simply recognizing and respecting the beliefs and practices of others. Acceptance involves approval. We are not required to approve of everything, but we must tolerate other opinions in the public realm. Thus, one can tolerate gays, but can still say that homosexuality is wrong. Yet, in our society today, if someone disapproves, that person is automatically intolerant or hateful. Now, that is not to say that some people who disapprove are not hateful. However, in this incident, every single person that I interviewed was unable to list any times when they saw a instance of abuse against gays at school. They only spoke of a general disapproval, yet believed that it equaled “intolerance” or “hate”. Thus, strangely enough, because they wanted to exclude an disagreeing opinion that they mistakenly viewed as intolerant, they are actually being intolerant themselves (thus my t-shirt, mentioned in the previous Day of Silence post).

In my opinion, you learn more than math and science in high school, because it is the time period in which a child transitions into an adult. However, that learning cannot be taught- it comes only from experience. If we as a school community do not allow any disapproval or disagreement to be shown, we as students will be unable to deal with it when we do come across it later in life. I know, personally, that everyday that I spend in an environment where 99% of the people are outspokenly liberal, I learn much more about dealing with people than I normally would. Therefore, intellectual diversity is essential to a teenage learning environment.

So, in summary, the California Educational Code Section 48907 makes it very clear that a student has the right to express their opinion in their public high school. This provides an intellectual diversity that is essential to an environment where people learn to be adults.
However, these rights, like any, have certain conditions. In this case, no opinion may be stated that is “obscene, libelous, or slanderous... [or] incites students as to create a clear and present danger of the commission of unlawful acts on school premises or the violation of lawful school regulations, or the substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school.” Schools need to stick by this to the best of their ability, which will save them from most lawsuits. On the other hand, students need to be aware of these restrictions and do as much as is possible to clarify their intent and message to those who are inclined to misinterpret them. Lastly, our country as a whole needs to recognize there is a difference between acceptance and tolerance. Tolerance is allowing differing beliefs, but acceptance involves agreement. We are required to be tolerant, but we are not required to accept or agree. And, when we are required to agree, that is intolerance towards us by definition.

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