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Teaching about homosexuality in North American public schools

Suggested topics 1 to 3

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bulletThe Church... is called to be faithful to Godís Word in all things. For this reason the Assemblies of God opposes homosexuality and the gay lifestyle recognizing such as sin. But we encourage all members to reach out in love to homosexuals extending to them the grace that leads us all to Christís forgiveness.  Homosexuality is both a sin against God and mankind. It runs contrary to the divine plan, purpose, and will of God who created us in His image (Genesis 1:27) and redeemed us so that this image, marred because of sin, might be renewed (Colossians 3:10). Most fundamentally, homosexuality is sin because it perverts the created order of human sexuality, the heterosexual fulfillment of both man and woman

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Topics 1 to 3:

We recommend that a comprehensive course in homosexuality at the high school level involve seven main topics. Topics 1 to 3 are: teaching students on the following topics:

bulletDefinitions of terms and how they differ among groups.
bulletReligiously based beliefs about homosexuality. We have found six popular viewpoints  which differ in their criteria for truth, their understanding of the nature of homosexuality and their expectations of homosexuals. They range from the Abomination position to the Liberation position.
bulletStatements by various faith groups, including the conservative, mainline and liberal wings of Christianity, Judaism, Islam and other religions.

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This essay is currently being expanded

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Definitions of homosexual terms:

Different secular and religious groups and individuals sometimes assign conflicting definitions and meanings to some homosexual terms. This makes dialogue very difficult. It also makes it hard for people in one group to understand talks and articles prepared by individuals from other groups. Students need to be aware of these differences in terminology in order to be able to understand material from various sources.

Generally speaking:

bulletSocial conservatives, conservative religious groups and members, and Evangelical Christian para-church organizations, such as the Christian Coalition, the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, Promise Keepers, Traditional Values Coalition, etc. may use one definition.
bulletGays, lesbians, bisexuals, human sexuality researchers,  professional mental health organizations, religious liberals, secularists, etc often use a different definition. We list these below under "others."
bulletHowever there is a lot of cross-over usage where one group will use the definitions of another.

Common conservative religious usage

Common usage by others


Homosexuality is defined as: A sexual preference A sexual orientation Preference implies choice; orientation implies a fixed state.
Homosexuality itself is... A lifestyle A sexual orientation Again, lifestyle implies a choice; orientation implies a fixed state.
Nature of homosexuality A behavior; what one does An orientation, based on one's feelings, sexual fantasies and self-identification. This is an important distinction because it defines who is gay and who is "ex-gay"
Sexual orientation Some define it very broadly to include: bestiality, homosexuality, necrophilia, abusive pedophilia, etc. Comes in one of three types: homosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality By including criminal activity within the definition of homosexuality, it would totally change hate-crime legislation.
Role of sex-ed classes which discuss homosexuality May involve the promotion of homosexuality Involves education about homosexuality This involves whether education about something implies promotion of it.
Bisexuality Often ignored Considered one of three sexual orientations Again, this can define who is gay and who is "ex-gay."
Legislation guaranteeing human rights. Homosexuals seek special privileges Homosexuals and bisexuals seek equal privileges This involves whether homosexuality is an innate trait or a chosen lifestyle.
Cause A chosen lifestyle; an act of rebellion against God and nature. Determined by genetics and perhaps triggered by  environmental factors  


bulletBy defining homosexuality as a preference or a lifestyle, one implies that it is a choice. By using the term "sexual orientation" one implies that it is a fixed and unchosen trait.
bulletBy defining homosexuality in terms of behavior, then a person with a homosexual orientation who decides to be celibate is considered no longer a homosexual. They are an "ex-gay" and are cured of their homosexual behavior; they have left the homosexual lifestyle. So too for a bisexual who decides to restrict her/his sexual activity to members of the opposite sex. By defining homosexuality in terms of sexual attraction to, and fantasies of, persons of the same sex, then a person with a homosexual orientation who decides to be celibate is still a homosexual; they are a celibate homosexual. A bisexual who decides to restrict his/her behavior to members of the opposite sex is still a bisexual.
bulletBy defining homosexuality to include criminal acts totally changes the meaning of human rights and hate-crime legislation. This definition is only used by a minority of religious conservatives at this time, and has not been recognized by legislatures, courts, dictionaries, etc.

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Religiously based beliefs about homosexuality:

Throughout most of the essays in the homosexual and bisexual section of this web site, we have stressed the two extreme positions which are commonly shown in the media.

bulletThe position taken by many social and religious conservatives: They define homosexuality in terms of behavior. They consider homosexuality to be an abomination -- a serious, immoral, chosen, changeable, abnormal, unnatural addiction that is hated by God and is destructive to the individuals who decide to follow that lifestyle.
bulletThe position taken by most therapists (with the exception of those therapists affiliated with the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality  [NARTH] ), social workers, human sexuality researchers, human rights organizations, liberal students, liberal parents, gays, bisexuals, and lesbians about homosexuality: They define homosexuality in terms of sexual orientation -- one's feelings of sexual attraction, fantasies, and self-identification. They view homosexuality to be one of three unchosen, fixed, and morally neutral sexual orientations, which is natural and normal for a minority of adults.

While these two positions do reflect the beliefs of the most vocal activists, there appears to be at least four other well defined viewpoints about homosexuality. Author L.R. Holben describe these in his book: "What Christians think about homosexuality."1 The four intermediate viewpoints appear much less frequently in newspapers, periodicals, during church sermons and on TV. But some of them are held by substantial numbers of Americans and Canadians.

From the most conservative to the most liberal, these are:

bulletAbomination: Homosexuality is a profoundly immoral behavior whether it is in the form of casual sex or within a committed relationship. It is to be condemned and perhaps criminalized. Homosexuals are driven by lust and are intrinsically unable to enter into meaningful, long-term, faithful relationships.
bulletChange is expected: Homosexuality is a broken, disordered condition. Gays and lesbians can be easily healed by being converted to heterosexuality through prayer and/or reparative therapy.
bulletCelibacy is expected: Homosexuality is a fixed condition for all, or almost all, gays and lesbians. God expects them to remain celibate throughout their lives.
bulletMarginally acceptable: For those gays and lesbians who are unable to become heterosexuals and cannot remain celibate, the least awful option is for them to enter into a committed same-sex relationship.
bulletEquality: Homosexuality and bisexuality are fixed normal, natural sexual orientations for a minority of adults. Both same-sex and opposite-sex behavior can be moral or immoral, depending upon the safety of the act and the nature of the relationship. Persons of all sexual orientation should share the same rights and protections. They should all be allowed to marry the person that they love and to whom they are committed.
bulletLiberation: The morality of all sexual behavior -- same sex or opposite sex -- is to be primarily based on its ability to generate joy, love and emotional growth. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and their supporters have a special role to liberate society and the church sexually. The Bible's six "clobber passages" as they are traditionally translated into English and interpreted by conservative theologians, do not reflect the will of God.

More information on the diversity of viewpoints.

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Statements by various faith groups:

Christians outnumber the membership of each of the smaller organized religious groups in North America by a factor of about 50. Thus, the relationship between homosexuality and religion in the U.S. and Canada is almost entirely the relationship between homosexuality and Christianity.

According to the ARIS study of 2001, about 75% of American adults identify themselves as Christian. The next largest organized religions are Judaism at 1.3% and Islam at 0.5%.

Within each major religion, there are conservative, mainline and liberal faith groups. For example, within Christianity:

bulletReligiously liberal groups, like the United Church of Christ, and the United Church of Canada have resolved the "homosexual issue."  The denominations promote equal rights for gays and lesbians; they welcome homosexuals as members and ordain them as clergy.
bulletMainline denominations, like the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United Methodist Church are experiencing major internal conflicts over the issue. Disagreements are deep and appear irresolvable, at least in the short term. There is a great deal of impassioned debate and little true dialog. Fault lines within the denominations may appear on many levels:
bulletYoung people may take a more liberal view; older members are often more conservative. 
bulletThere are often geographical divisions, with north eastern groups being liberal and southern groups being conservative. 
bulletA liberal/conservative split is seen between urban and rural areas.
bulletThere is a major division between those who look upon homosexuals as a group, and those who personally know a gay or lesbian as a close friend. The latter are far more accepting of sexual minorities.
bulletReligiously conservative groups, like the Southern Baptist Convention, the Assemblies of God, and other Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christian denominations, have also resolved the issue. Some commit significant effort to defeat hate-crimes legislation that would protect gays and lesbians in accommodation and employment, and promoting legislation that will prevent same-sex couples to enter into marriage or civil union. Some denominations regard homosexuality as a special type of sin. Some teach, on the basis of 1 Corinthians 6:9, that gays are prohibited from inheriting the Kingdom of God (heaven). They refuse membership and ordination to sexually active gays and lesbians. They have no expectation of changing their policy in the future.

Many gays and lesbians remain partially or completely in the "closet". They often view the church as the last place that they would want to "come out", because they would  expect to experience rejection and homophobia. This is a Catch 22 situation, because the most effective way of changing a heterosexual's beliefs about homosexuality is for them to befriend a homosexual. 

More information on the beliefs of individual Christian denominations, Jewish traditions, and other religions.

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Site navigation: Home > Conflict > Homosexuality > Religious impact > Teaching > here

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still valid today.

  1. L.R. Holben, "What Christians think about homosexuality: Six representative viewpoints," Bibal Press, (1999). Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.

  2. There is no consensus on the total number of Muslims in the U.S. Estimates range from 0.5% to over 2%.

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Copyright © 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2005-MAY-8
Latest update: 2005-MAY-11
Author: B.A. Robinson

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