I'M BEGINNING TO feel like Dorothy when she and Toto landed in Oz. I don't think I'm in Alameda any more.
No, it feels more like Kansas"... or Texas, or any of the other states where the religious right tried to take over school boards in the 1990s. Then, they didn't want their children taught that Darwin was right. Substitute "homosexuality" for "evolution" and you understand their current obsession.
Two well-funded conservative political action groups — the Capitol Resource Institute and the Pacific Justice Institute — have decided to make Alameda the next beachhead in their culture war by bankrolling the recall and the lawsuit. Pacific Justice Institute has already extorted money from the Castro Valley schools by making them settle a bogus lawsuit to avoid an expensive and time-consuming legal defense.
Behind the smoke-screen of other arguments, the primary thrust of their agenda is clear: preventing the schools from portraying homosexuality as a normal human condition. Their position is based on an outmoded and broadly discredited religious belief that homosexuality is a choice and that behavior associated with it is sinful.
If homophobia is allowed to flourish under the protection of religious freedom, then any form of bigotry can be justified.
We've been here before. For centuries, religion has been used to justify racism, misogyny, ethnocentrism and the enslavement and murder of those who subscribe to a different doctrine. Enshrining bias in religious doctrine does not make it right.
As human knowledge has advanced, so-called biblical "truths" have been supplanted with more enlightened views. Although science was out of vogue the previous eight years, it clearly established that homosexuality is a naturally occurring biological difference akin to eye color, height or race.
Most mainstream religions have adjusted their thinking to reflect this new reality. Laws have been passed to protect homosexuals from discrimination. It has become the standard view through most of America.
School boards are elected to assure that curricula reflect community standard, and Tracy Jensen, Ron Mooney and Niel Tam did just that. Despite the claims from the right that they represent the majority, I know from the words and actions of my friends and colleagues on this Island that gay and lesbian people are fully accepted in our community. If there was any doubt, it was erased when the voters in this bastion of tolerance rejected Proposition 8 by a two-to-one margin.
The leader of the recall effort, Pastor Dion Evans, claimed initially that he opposed the anti-bullying curriculum because it did not address bullying of other protected groups. But now that the school board has wisely decided to expand the curriculum to do just that, he's not dropping his opposition. At least those behind the lawsuit are being honest: "I'm opposed to teaching my child that homosexuality is morally acceptable," said one of the parents bringing the suit.
We're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. We're in Alameda where the community standard is tolerance and where intolerance in any guise is anathema. If you've been on the sidelines in this dust-up, now is the time to stand up and be counted. Write letters to the editor, sign John Knox White's petition, come to events that will be organized to defend the courageous board members and district staff who are being hammered for doing the right thing.
Ignore those spouting homophobia from behind the curtain of religion. Click your heels twice and speak up for fairness. We'll all be back in Alameda again soon.
Allan Mann is a resident of Alameda.