If you’ve ever doubted that conservatism breeds intolerance, this example from a private, Christian middle school in Kentucky just might be what solidifies your opinion. As reported by the Louisville Courier-Journal, a homework assignment given to students at the Christian Academy of Louisville asked students to convince a “same-gender” friend they’ve known since kindergarten who is “struggling” with “homosexuality” to … not be homosexual. Yes, really.
The class is an elective that focuses on the Bible, but still. There are plenty of religious LGBTQ+ people and allies and there is absolutely no justification for teaching queerphobia, even in a religious setting. That doesn’t make it okay, especially not when it comes to vulnerable young people.
In this case, the assignment asks students to figure out talking points to get an (imaginary or hypothetical) gay friend to realize that their identity will not “bring them satisfaction” and to help them accept God’s “design” instead. Per a statement from the school to the Courier-Journal, the point of the assignment was to teach students how to discuss homosexuality with a loved one from a “biblical perspective” of “compassion and love.” Because nothing spells “compassion and love” like trying to change someone’s sexual orientation, right?
The assignment asks for the letter to include at eight least sentences using the Bible, in addition to “reason” and your friendship, to make the point that while homosexuality will not bring “satisfaction,” the letter writer will love them even though they don’t approve of their lifestyle. Yes, it’s so transparent it even uses the word “lifestyle.” The assignment also, obviously, assumes the letter writer is not LGBTQ+ themselves, nor an ally or advocate, and in fact normalizes the idea that one should not accept a dear friend’s sexual orientation.
And conservatives accuse LGBTQ+ people of grooming …
For the curious, this story gained major attention after screenshots of the assignment made waves on Twitter. In an interview with the Courtier-Journal, J.P. Davis, who posted the screenshots, told the outlet that he shared them after a parent concerned with the assignment gave him the heads up.
“Her kid is in the class that was given the assignment,” Davis told the outlet. “And he and her are both uncomfortable with it.” Davis added that the parent doesn’t know how to handle the situation but that her son is ultimately “upset” about the homework. “She doesn’t know how to handle it.”
Here are those screenshots.
Research shows us, again and again, that LGBTQ+ youth report higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. We know trans youth are particularly likely to become homeless, leave high school without a diploma, and face physical and sexual violence. And all of this has been the case even before Republicans launched an onslaught of anti-queer legislation across the nation, targeting, in particular, sports, books, health care, and bathroom access.
The immediate response from some folks is going to be that kids simply shouldn’t go to this sort of school if they don’t like what they’re teaching. But remember that these are kids—they aren’t making the decisions about their education. Their parents or guardians are. And if their family isn’t supportive, what are young people supposed to do?
There’s also the reality that sometimes these private and/or religiously affiliated schools are the “best” in the area when it comes to college or athletic opportunities. And make no mistake, that’s not a coincidence, either, when we see how conservatives are trying hard to essentially dismantle public education.
At the end of the day, there is no excuse for teaching hate. It is cruel, pointless, and damaging for LGBTQ+ youth along with everyone else. If you can’t teach young people to treat others with real dignity, you shouldn’t have a career in education. Period.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.