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Turn the Tide of Hate

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The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network launches its 12th annual Day of Silence

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Trying times, these. This month on April 25, as the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network launches its nationwide 12th Day of Silence calling attention to bullying and harassment against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students, evangelical leaders are encouraging Christian parents to keep their children home from school.

“Social activism does not belong in the classroom,” Peter LaBarbera of the group Americans for Truth said in a press statement. “Students would be far better served by reading a good book at home — perhaps even the Bible — rather than being subjected to pro-‘gay’ indoctrination.”

Last month, after calling “the homosexual agenda” a bigger threat to the United States than terrorism, Oklahoma state representative Sally Kern, rather than apologizing to her GLBT constituents, released the following statement: “To put this simply, as a Christian I believe homosexuality is not moral. Obviously, you have the right as an American to choose that lifestyle, but I also have the right to express my views and my fellow Oklahomans have the right to debate these issues….”

Mere weeks before Kern’s antigay address at a meeting of Oklahoma Republicans, 15-year-old Lawrence King was murdered in California on February 12, shot in the back of the head by a fellow student whom Lawrence had asked to be his Valentine. On February 22, a 17-year-old transgender man named Simmie Williams Jr. was murdered in Fort Lauderdale, only days after the antigay verbal assault and beating of a gay man outside a 24-hour diner in that Florida city.

These not-so-isolated incidents, along with hundreds of others that are unreported or ignored by media, indicate that Judy Shepard has much, much work to do. As a cornerstone of their quest to not let hate go unchecked, Judy and her husband Dennis Shepard founded MatthewsPlace.com, a companion website to matthewshepard.org. It’s the Internet home of their Matthew Shepard Foundation, of which Judy is executive director. MatthewsPlace.com is more, though, than a memorial to their son; it is a clearinghouse and a referral resource for all things anti-hate.

It was 10 years ago this year that Matthew Shepard was left hanging on a Wyoming fencepost to die because he was gay.

“In the past 10 years since my son’s death, I have spoken to over one million people who are searching for a way to help us in our mission to erase hate,” Judy Shepard says. “We developed this campaign with that goal in mind and are eager to provide individuals with the tools and resources needed to amplify their voice and begin to turn the tide on hate in America.”

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