When Family Research Council spokesman Peter Sprigg told MSNBC on Tuesday that LGBT people should be thrown in prison for their alleged private behavior, it escaped the attention of the news media that Sprigg is also a board member and spokesman for an FRC offshoot called Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays, which distributes antigay propaganda in public schools.
Sprigg is also one of the few local citizens to serve on a citizens’ advisory board for Montgomery County Public Schools in Washington, D.C.’s Maryland suburbs.
Just two days after Sprigg proudly declared that LGBT people of all ages should be imprisoned, the school district sent students home with PFOX brochures. The brochures tell students that if they are same-sex attracted, it is OK to be of two minds, to conceal one’s attractions from friends and family, to be dishonest, and proclaim one’s so-called heterosexuality. And while PFOX opposes any right to self-determination for persons who wish to be honest about their orientation, it doesn’t acknowledge this in the brochures; instead, PFOX portrays students who seek to be sexually honest and free from bullying as if they are oppressing those students wish to hide in shame and to bully or imprison others.
Neither the literature nor the school district tell students any of the following truths:
- Since its founding in 1996, PFOX has been little more than a branch of the Christian-Rightist FRC. FRC ousted PFOX founder Anthony Falzarano when the latter criticized the Christian Right’s political exploitation of the ex-gay movement
- PFOX support groups incite parents to turn in anger against spouses and family members who are tolerant and unprejudiced toward an LGBT family member
- PFOX support groups portray LGBT family members as diseased, sexually irresponsible, depressed, and drug-addicted as a result of their sexual orientation
- PFOX discourages parents from seeking the help of mainstream mental-health professionals. PFOX support group members insist that only Christian conservative “counselors” can be trusted to conform to orthodox Christian Right stereotypes. They further assert that LGBT family members should be made more unhappy and depressed in order to force them to change their orientation
- FRC and PFOX oppose anti-hate-crime laws unless they exclude LGBT people from protection.
- FRC and PFOX oppose school antibullying programs unless they exclude LGBT students from protection
- PFOX board member Estella Salvatierra is a federal “civil rights” attorney who uses her office to undermine the constitutional rights of sexual minorities
- Both FRC and PFOX support sodomy laws
- Longtime PFOX president Richard Cohen remains esteemed by PFOX, even though his International Healing Foundation has supported genocide in Uganda, and even though Cohen — disbarred from the American Counseling Association for misconduct toward patients — practices man-to-man cuddle therapy with patients and pressures them to blame parents for same-sex attraction
The Washington Post reported today on the flier distribution but neglected to report these facts.
While the school district was required in 2006 to begin distributing outside organizations’ propaganda on a quarterly basis, that order did not include the propaganda of hate groups. But the MCPS does not wish to confront the obvious truth that PFOX is a hate group. The Post quoted a school official:
“These fliers are probably counter to what is available in our health curriculum, but that curriculum focuses on respect, and we respect freedom of speech,” said Patricia O’Neill (Bethesda-Chevy Chase), president of the Montgomery County Board of Education.
A Montgomery County parents group, Teach the Facts, is alarmed that the school district is allowing its policies to be steered by a dangerous bigot like Sprigg. TTF also points out that, contrary to claims in PFOX literature, there are no ex-gays in the D.C. area.
Teach The Facts concludes:
The district is doing this as a consequence of a lawsuit, I understand, you have to abide by the court’s ruling. But at the same time somebody should be preparing to file some papers, drafting policy, gearing up for a political fight, speaking up. While the district is required to allow these flyers, our community leaders could be voicing their opposition loudly and clearly — they have freedom of speech, too. What we are looking for here is a leader with a capital L. Instead we have a bunch of shoulder shrugging.
It is incredible to see Superintendent Jerry Weast and the members of the Board of Education sitting on their hands, looking the other way, when the emotional damage they are doing is unimaginable. This is damaging both to gay adolescents who need understanding and accurate information at a time in their lives when they are most vulnerable, and to the others, who are forming attitudes and stereotypes, and are likely to believe this junk about gay people choosing not to be gay, especially since it is handed out by their teachers, at school.
Our school district is propagating a message that undermines the proud values of our community and the hard-won knowledge of researchers, scientists, and medical practitioners. It’s time for MCPS to stand up for what’s right.
Please support TTF in their efforts.
For obvious political reasons, PFOX closely guards the identities of its board of directors. In its tax filings for 2008, PFOX identified the following board members:
Paul Rondeau, president
Estella Salvatierra, vice president
Scott Strachan, secretary
Michelle Hoffman, treasurer
Peter Sprigg, senior fellow at the Family Research Council
Robert Knight, Coral Ridge Ministries and American (Anti) Civil Rights Union
Matt Barber, Liberty Counsel
Greg Quinlan, ex-gay activist