Students Hear Anti-Gay Talk

Pastor Valerie Pinnex
Seven students attended an after-school club meeting at Danbury High School on Thursday afternoon to hear an anti-gay preacher who was allowed to speak only after the school was threatened with a lawsuit.
The controversy started when High School Principal Catherine Richard initially objected to a student’s request on Tuesday for the speaker, North Carolina pastor Valerie Pinnex, because Pinnex planned to proselytize about the need for gays to change what she considers sinful behavior. Richard felt that message was the wrong one to give students.
But when Danbury High junior Rosemary Shakro heard that Pinnex could not speak at the school, she and her parents contacted the national conservative group, the Alliance Defense Fund, to complain.
“We didn’t mean to hurt anyone. The Day of Truth is to show love and compassion and another point of view if they are willing to change,” Shakro said.
Shakro is a member of the Youth Alive Club, which is a Danbury High School Bible study group, which invited Pinnex to speak for the national Day of Truth event at the school. The Alliance Defense Fund created the day to “ensure the free speech rights of Christian students to present an alternative viewpoint to those organizations that promote homosexual behaviors.”
It stands in contrast to the 10-year-old national Day of Silence, celebrated Wednesday, which promotes a safe and welcoming environment for students who may be gay or lesbian or struggling with their sexual identity.
The alliance e-mailed Danbury High School on Wednesday and threatened that if the school did not allow Pinnex to speak at the Youth Alive Club meeting, they would take legal action.
Superintendent Salvatore Pascarella said Thursday that the schools’ attorney advised him that the student’s First Amendment rights would be curtailed if the high school did not allow Pinnex to speak.
So the event went on as planned.
But Richard had a problem with the talk.
“We promote respecting each other, taking pride in each other, and having an environment where every student, of every sexual preference, every race and creed, can feel valued and wanted and that they will be listened to,” Richard said.
“I have an issue with putting down one group of students. We are a public school. I want us working together, and I don’t want talk that’s going to promote intolerance or lack of respect for another group.”
Pastor Valerie, as Pinnex is called, told the students she was gay in high school and became a successful police officer with security detail for presidents Bush and Clinton before finding Jesus and learning she was on the wrong path.
Wearing a Day of Truth T-shirt, she acknowledged the dispute that led up to her visit.
Gay“We had a tremendous victory for Jesus. They wanted to ban us, but Jesus was going to be heard,” said Pinnex, 53, who is a born-again Christian.
“You’re looking at a lady who used to live a homosexual lifestyle. I didn’t know the truth,” she said. “What changed me? I got to know Jesus.”
With the students at the session was Debbie Stence, a Danbury High teacher and Youth Alive adviser, who said there was no intent to create turmoil.
But teacher Cindy NeJame, who helped organize the Day of Silence as part of Peace Week, a weeklong event to encourage kindness and acceptance, was also at the talk and was outraged by the message.
“I’m working as an educator. The Day of Silence represents support for anyone who is different. I work at one of the most diverse high schools in the state and it is my job to represent all students,” she said.
“Peace Week was to allow for everyone. So we have this speaker come in representing a group that specifically targets gay members of our society,” NeJame continued.
“These are Christians? Maybe I don’t understand what that is supposed to represent. I wanted Peace Week to represent all children.”
The Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, or GLSEN, didn’t have a problem with Day of Truth except with its message that gays can and must change their sexual orientation.
“‘The Day of Silence and Day of Truth are very different. They are apples and oranges,” said Eliza Byard, deputy executive director of GLSEN.
The Day of Silence supports a safe school environment, and is against anti-lesbian and anti-gay bullying and harassment that stands in the way of a child getting an education. That’s something people of all faiths should be able to come together around, she said.
“The other (Day of Truth) is talking about a specific Christian belief (opposition to homosexuality), and talking about an intervention that all medical experts have said is unnecessary and potentially harmful to young people,” Byard said.
“No one contends that students should be prohibited from taking part in the Day of Truth, but they must be respectful of other students’ rights and must draw the line at the ex-gay message.”
Danbury High School senior David Garcia, 17, belonged to Youth Alive for a short time last year. It has between five and 15 student members now. Garcia said the intention of the club was that everyone was welcome, but he felt the Day of Truth contradicts that message.
“This program is not accepting of homosexual behavior,” Garcia said, “and I feel it targets a group in a public setting and that’s not appropriate.”
from The News Times


Garibaldi Gay

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