Op Ed

Focus on the Family: Moralizing from the Bully Pulpit

It’s national Bullying Awareness week, a topic we will be covering extensively.  In the course of my research for an upcoming article, I stumbled upon a website on bullying created by Focus on the Family, a group not known for its acceptance or tolerance of anyone who does not believe the same way as Focus on the Family.   I’ll defend anyone’s right to worship how, when and Whom they choose, but my defense stops when someone – anyone – uses their religion as a weapon.  

Focus on the Family is the Gawker network of Evangelicals.  In my research I found no less than a dozen separate websites devoted to everything from media reviews to child rearing to education to marriage.  In an attempt at fairness, I tried to read at least one or more articles on each site I found.  I’ll admit I went into the project with my bias fully engaged and loaded for bear, but I tried to turn down my outrage knob enough to be as objective as I could.   Several of the sites, including the media review site, did surprise me.  FotF seems to employ a handful of writers who offer more earnestness than judgment, and a smattering of pieces I read seemed to come from the best parts of what I remember of the Christian faith.   I don’t choose to worship as a Christian at this time, but I was raised in a fundamentalist church and I remember a lot of lessons from sermons and the Bible.   Amongst the few gems written from a perspective of being kind and good to one another, however, is plenty of the hateful, judgmental rhetoric of religious extremism.  Focus on the Family’s site on bullying, True Tolerance, is an example of the latter.

The site is maintained by one Candi Cushman, FotF’s educational analyst.  From her bio on yet another FotF site, Citizen Link, we learn that Ms. Cushman has worked for FotF in various capacities and that she graduated from Baylor University. Here’s her bio, verbatim:

Candi Cushman is a leading national expert on education issues affecting public and private education, including school choice and home school initiatives, the promotion of homosexuality in public schools, censorship of Christian students and the evolution debate.

Cushman’s passion for helping parents reclaim their rights and ability to protect their children from adult agendas taking over the curriculum was the spark that led her to create True Tolerance, an online tool available to parents at This resource instructs parents on education law and policy and equips them so they can engage their local school officials.

Cushman has been a guest on several national radio shows, including Janet Parshall’s America, The Janet Mefferd Show and the Focus on the Family broadcast. She’s also appeared on CNN’s Anderson Cooper and on MSNBC, where she represented Focus’ position on anti-bullying policies.

Cushman has a background in investigative journalism, serving for more than four years as an editor for Focus on the Family’s Citizen magazine. Prior to joining Focus, she was an investigative reporter for WORLD, a weekly national news magazine. Cushman also served six years at Focus on the Family’s associated state organization in Texas as the media liaison and program director for the 700-member physicians’ grassroots coalition.

Cushman graduated cum laude from Baylor University. She currently lives in Colorado Springs, Colo.

FotF’s family of websites all encourage distribution of all the materials on their sites with credit, so we’re going to take advantage of their generosity as we examine what they have to say in opposition to bullying initiatives aimed to protect GLBT kids and teenagers, as well as those students who are part of GLBT families.  In addition to our posts (which will be in four parts, from today until Friday) I’d like to point you towards another site which has done a fine job of exposing FotF as the bullying bigots they are.  The New Civil Rights Movement ran two articles, Bullying is so Gay and Did Focus On The Family’s Pro-Bullying Site Play Role In Gay Youth Suicides?, that I strongly encourage you to read.

Let’s start with the video on the front page of True Tolerance.

Here, Ms. Cushman explains the mission of True Tolerance.  Preventing The Homosexuals from teaching your children Homosexual Lessons and then winning the culture war.  The language here is deliberate.  The lessons and teacher tools provided by various anti-bullying advocacy groups are not, as Ms. Cushman would lead you to believe, lessons on how to be gay, nor are they running a Big Gay Recruitment Drive at the local elementary schools.  We’ll be looking at the actual lessons later on in the week, but this video does a great job of setting the tone for the rest of the content on the site.   Which brings us to one of the articles linked in the Bullying Resources drop-down box mentioned in the video.

In The Problem with Politicized Bullying Policies Ms. Cushman claims anti-bullying measured designed to assist and protect GLBT kids and teens, as well as those who live with GLBT families have the following “agenda.”  (If Cushman can overuse scare quotes, so can I….)

What They Really Want
So what’s the real reason so many homosexual advocacy groups are pushing so hard for these pro-gay bullying
policies (listing special protections for “sexual orientation” and “gender identity”)? In public, they claim it’s all
about protecting kids. But behind the scenes, they are using these policies to accomplish three things:
1. Get the leverage they need to get what they want into public schools–such as mandatory diversity
trainings, homosexual-themed curricula all the way down to the elementary level and school wide
assemblies and/or celebrations on homosexual and transgender issues.
2. A tool that lets them evade parental rights.
3. A way to circumvent traditional, marriage laws.

If I may pause for a meme moment, LOL WHUT?  Jesus Christ himself can’t convince FotF to be good to others, or teach their children that people come in more than straight, white, Christian packages.  Mandatory diversity training is needed until we convince an entire generation that it’s wrong to be an asshole to another person for no other reason than being different than the asshole in question.  Additionally, what about the rights of GLBT parents who would like to know their children won’t be targeted for bullying or worse?   I don’t even know what traditional comma marriage laws means, so I can’t speak directly to #3.  Moving on.

What does FotF recommend parents do to prevent schools from teaching students not to be cruel to GLBT kids and teens and kids from GLBT families?

So how can you protect your schools?
1) Be Proactive. Act now. Don’t wait until inappropriate material gets into classrooms, or your child’s hands, to
do something about it–because once bad policies and curricula get in, it’s very hard to get them out. It’s not
impossible, but it is very difficult.
So the most effective thing you can do right now is proactively educate school officials and elected officials in
your area about these issues. One way to do that is to use time-saving Internet tools like
Focus on the Family has created this Web site especially for concerned parents and citizens to allow them to
quickly communicate with their school officials using some of the best data available. Here are some tools the
site offers:
· Examples from concerning classroom activities that groups like GLSEN and Planned Parenthood use
to promote homosexuality to kids. You can print these out and give them to your school officials or use
the site’s “Take Action” section to email a direct link to your school officials.

· An 11-page legal memorandum for school officials. This memorandum has been compiled especially
for school officials and educators by the Alliance Defense Fund, one of the nation’s largest First
Amendment legal groups defending parents and students. The memorandum offers school officials
clarification on the legal issues and explains how parental rights and religious freedoms are in danger of
being violated when homosexual activism is promoted in schools. The memorandum comes with a cover
letter that also offers school officials free assistance if they have questions. (You can use the “Take
portion of the Web site to send your school officials a direct link to this important legal
· A model anti-bullying policy developed by the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF). The policy was
carefully researched and crafted by ADF attorneys and can be used at the state and/or local level. It is
comprehensive in prohibiting all forms of bullying without advancing a sexual agenda.
· Point-by-point responses to the most common arguments used by homosexual advocacy groups to
pressure school officials. (See “Fact-based Responses to Unsubstantiated Claims Made by Homosexual
Advocacy Groups” in the Take Action portion of the Web site.)
2) Promote the Right Solution. We need to recognize that bullying and peer abuse is wrong and should be
stopped and prevented. But this can and should be done without politicizing the classrooms and introducing
controversial, sexual topics to children.
The emphasis should be on the wrong actions of the bullies, not on their perceived thoughts or perceived
motivations. We don’t want bad government policies to turn our schools officials into politicized, thoughtcrimes
police. Therefore, the appropriate response is to implement strong and objective policies that prohibit
bullying for any reason against any child–and that are applied fairly and equally across the board.
3) Avoid Creating Special Categories for Protection. Policies that single out certain characteristics for special
protections are counterproductive. Again, they put the focus on the wrong place–on the characteristics of the
victim–rather than where the focus should be, on the wrong actions of the bullies. Plus, listing certain
categories creates a system ripe for reverse discrimination, sending the message that certain characteristics are
more worthy of protection than others. Instead of bringing more peace and unity, this can politicize the school
environment and introduce divisiveness among different groups of students and parents.

Also, the more categories that are listed, the more schools increase their vulnerability to expensive lawsuits.
Why not emphasize instead the things we have in common as Americans? For example, we can unite around the
teachings of our Founding Fathers–in particular, the principle that all men are created equal and that they are
endowed with unalienable rights. And therefore, all people, no matter what their particular beliefs or sexual
identities are, are entitled to the same basic rights as other citizens, including the right to life and pursuit of
4) Use the Statistics to Make Your Case. As explained at the beginning of this report, statistics clearly show
that bullying is widespread among children for a wide variety of reasons. Thus, children are best served by a
policy that gives equal protection to everyone and does not single out certain characteristics of being more
worthy than protection than others. See “Fast Facts About Bullying”

5) Counteract Deception with Facts. Use documented facts to expose deceptive tactics. This paper–and–give concrete examples of how homosexual advocacy groups use so-called tolerance
teaching to indoctrinate young children without their parents’ permission. Use these factual examples to expose
the hidden agenda, by providing documentation to your school officials and concerned citizens in your

This segment leaves me nearly speechless.  I read it thusly: I taught my kid that the worst possible thing he/she could do with his/her life is to be gay, and I’ll be damned if anyone will tell me I can’t let my kid hate, belittle, hurt or criticize anyone who doesn’t believe in the exact same set of moral principles I do.  According to FotF, the right of their children to be bigots trumps the right of GLBT kids and teens and members of GLBT families to not be made miserable.

Coming tomorrow: An analysis of the anti-bullying policy created by lawyers which FotF endorses.

By [E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

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