UPDATE: After receiving NCAC’s letter, pastor and school board member Shaun Fink has struck back against NCAC. Contrary to his earlier public statements, Fink now claims that he never called for the exclusion of materials on LGBT content or STD, HIV, and pregnancy prevention. At December 2’s health curriculum subcommittee meeting, he also characterized NCAC’s letter as a form of intimidation for the Indian River School District, saying that the letter’s signatories are, ironically, trying to ‘censor’ people of faith. The health curriculum subcommittee has yet to make its final recommendations regarding the health curriculum, but it hopes to solidify its recommendations on December 18. After that, the subcommittee will forward its recommendations over to the school board, who will then finalize decisions on what students are taught. What do you think?
Is it wrong to teach kids that homosexuality is normal? Officials in Indian River School District, DE found themselves asking this very question after a school board member and pastor, Shaun Fink, called for the removal of health materials that suggested homosexuality is “normal”. He also called for the elimination of clauses on HIV, STD, and pregnancy prevention from the health curriculum in question. Today, NCAC was joined by the ACLU of Delaware, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, ABFFE, ALA-OIF, PEN America, CBLDF, and SCBWI in writing a letter to the subcommittee for the health curriculum advising them against complying with Fink’s demands.
The controversies began early in the school year when discussions about a new health curriculum, to be adopted beginning in fall of 2015, came under the review of a health curriculum subcommittee. Fink, along with a few other members of the community, publicly called for the exclusion of any materials that contradicted his own religious beliefs. The use of the word “normal”, to complainants, introduced an inherent “bias” to health texts that they found objectionable.
As NCAC has advised before, censoring health curricula can have disastrous, even life-threatening, effects upon students. This may be doubly true for Delaware’s LGBT youth, who have proven to be at high risk for suicide. Fink’s requests elicited impassioned rage from numerous quarters of the community, who vocally took offense to his desires to censor. This included Al Snyder, a gay parent who was the plaintiff in the famous Snyder v. Phelps case of 2011.
“No matter how controversial or unacceptable homosexuality may be to certain religious dogma or creed, there is no similar controversy in mental health science, where homosexuality is considered “normal” rather than pathological,” the letter illuminates. “The mission of any educational curriculum, including a health curriculum, is to provide instruction that reflects and incorporates the best available knowledge.”
The letter itself points out that the “normalcy” of LGBT attraction is an undisputed truth in mental health science, and, as such, the new health curriculum shouldn’t judge what’s normal based on the religious or moral objections of some community members. Indeed, as the letter cautions, “the mission of any educational curriculum, including a health curriculum, is to provide instruction that reflects and incorporates the best available knowledge.”
The signatories point out the numerous constitutional problems with acceding to Fink’s demands, including their violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, which prevents the preference one specific religious viewpoint over other conflicting views. As such, the signatories call for the subcommittee to make recommendations along scientifically- and educationally-sound grounds, rather than in response to complaints reflecting particular moral or religious beliefs.