The following is the text of an email sent by Mark Morrow, pastor of CrossWalk Community Church in Williamsburg to Dr. Gary Mathews, Superintendent of Public Schools in James City County regarding the Day of Silence in April 2009. We are providing this with Mark’s permission to give you as a pastor some ideas of actions you can take if schools in your area are participating in the Day of Silence this year.
Thank you for your sacrificial service to our community by serving as our esteemed superintendent. Your efforts are greatly appreciated by those of us who are citizens here. You have not heard from me before because I attempt to live a quiet, peaceful life, prayerfully supportive of you, the principals, and teachers in your system. My track record will prove as such.
But I do have a concern upon which I am requesting your action, or more specifically, a reversal of a previous action upon which you have some influence. As you know, the well-organized Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) is once again planning their annual Day of Silence (DOS) in our public schools for Friday, April 17. As a parent of a large family and several students in our school system, I am appalled at the growing and expanding nature that this invasive and disruptive initiative is having upon a day of instruction in the schools where my children attend. If it is not curbed now, then it will only continue to grow in momentum, pushing the envelope further and further in years to come.
I must say that I am very disappointed as a taxpayer and as a parent that a decision was actually made to APPROVE of such an event! I would have felt better if it had just been ignored. By taking a position on this issue, school administrators have overstepped their duties. When I have raised this concern before, it seems the standard line of defense is the students’ First Amendment rights and a fear of being sued for supposedly violating those rights. However, our attorneys have informed us that there are definite limits to the First Amendment. For instance, if one of my children yelled, “Somebody has a gun!” in the hallways, thus disrupting classes, then it would actually be illegal and punishable if it was a lie. A student’s freedom of expression is guaranteed only so long as it is not invasive and disruptive to instruction. In the same way, if these participating DOS students are creating an uproar in the schools, and causing discomfort for the remaining majority of students, highjacking class discussions with topics related to homosexuality, then it is incumbent upon the administration to disapprove. I expect the school administration to be just as vigilant as they would be in the first instance above. Even the attorneys for GLSEN agree with the counsel that we have received, according to their website. And both the ACLU and Lambda Legal have also published documents explaining that schools do, indeed, have a right to prohibit silence if it is going to interfere or interrupt instructional time for other students. Therefore, I expect school officials to take action by instructing their teachers to carry on normal class dynamics as usual, including group discussions and oral presentations, as it relates to their prescribed curriculum. Furthermore, since it is absolutely impossible to keep this usurpation out of the classrooms and only in the halls, then I expect our schools to DISAPPROVE of the initiative altogether. You know, and I know, that we really cannot keep the halls and classrooms separated when it comes to such a volatile project as this. It is a known fact that distraction in the hallways definitely spills over into the classrooms; so your present policy is very shallow and fools no one. You have a moral obligation to the rest of the students, including honorable citizens like my own children. So I am asking that you reverse the previous action to approve of this initiative and not permit this Day of Silence to occur in the WJCC school system.
Since 2002, it appears that the school administration has ignored this festering problem. So until I am satisfied that the administration and teachers are going to do all that is within their power to disallow the exploitation of the classroom, the following is what I am prepared to do:
As you can see, as our momentum grows, and more and more students and teachers are called out on the Day of Silence in years to come, it will cost WJCC schools due to their absences. So I appeal to your pocketbook, if nothing else, to reverse your previous decision to actually approve of such a diabolical action. A friend of mine, Pastor Ken Hutcherson in , successfully led a Walkout in his community, and over 600 students out of 1400 were called out of school on the Day of Silence last year. Just know that responses by churches across is growing. With examples like his and many others, we are energized. We must do all we can to protect the children. I am not threatening “war” on the WJCC schools, but I am promising to be a vigilant father of my own children and a conscientious citizen in our community. I urge you, do not encourage your teachers to look the other way and be passive about this offensive gesture. If Christians like my children are expected to keep their ideologies to themselves, and not impose their views upon others, then so should homosexuals, or any other special interest group for that matter. I am not denying free speech. I am simply expressing opposition to the exploitation of school time for non-academic agendas. I am not even anti-gay. I am simply against any outside group from using the classroom to force-feed their views upon unsuspecting adolescents like my children.
The organizers claim that they are merely creating a safe place for homosexuals. But their propaganda reveals much more than that. They are actually attempting to transform students’ views on the morality of homosexuality. If they want to get their message out, then there are suitable venues for that; just don’t use the classroom to discuss such values without parental authority present. They seemed to have errantly confused their agenda with the civil rights movement of the 60s. However, I am sure you agree that there is a significant difference between being forced to use separate water fountains and being forced to condone homosexual conduct that has been proven to have harmful consequences. I am sure that you also agree that the classroom is not the place to politicize an agenda for ideological purposes. Their protest is unwarranted because their rights are not being violated. Show me one example of a self-identified homosexual being harassed by a teacher, or even a student for that matter. Rather, this initiative is only a cover to force the acceptance of behavior that some people would not condone. It is one thing to be accepting of all people, but it is quite another to suggest that students have to accept the view that homosexual conduct is moral. Please exercise wisdom and distinguish between the two positions. This is not a matter of discrimination. Disapproving of harmful conduct is a far cry from racism. This is not prejudice. Holding to one’s traditional values privately is far from bigotry. As a Christian who would love to have more faith-based initiatives in the learning environment, I know my limits. So I expect other people groups to respect those limits as well and not highjack a day of instruction at our schools. My children are vulnerable and I expect the school system to protect my children from non-academic, socio-political schemes when they are under your charge at school.
I will anxiously anticipate your response. I am so sorry that you got thrown into the middle of these issues. I wish these special interest organizations were not so militant. But they seem to be running unopposed with an unquenchable lust for more power. So I pray that you have the grace and wisdom to navigate clearly. If there is anything that I can do to help in this matter, or any other matters, without violating conscience, I am certainly willing to do so. Please do not hesitate to ask. Again, thank you for your service to this community.