Goldman’s ’Real Sin’: Donating to GLSEN
With the economy having come close to a second great depression--and not expected to recover for years--and home foreclosures skyrocketing across the country, one anti-gay columnist has identifies the "real sin" of Goldman Sachs, an investment banking and securities company that operates on a transnational scope and received $10 billion in government money under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in 2008, a sum the company later repaid plus 23% interest. Goldman Sachs, and other Wall Street players, has given money to safe schools advocacy group the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
GLSEN tracks anti-gay school violence through periodic national surveys that have shown that the majority of GLBT youth face harassment, bullying, and even physical attack while at school. Many gay youths cut classes, or even drop out, due to concerns for their personal safety.
But the "real sin" of companies like Goldman Sachs lay in charitable donations to GLSEN, according to a column written by Linda Harvey for anti-gay religious site WorldNetDaily. Harvey’s column decried Senate hearings into the business practices that led to the economic meltdown, and wondered where the hearings were to look into the donations made by corporations supporting GLSEN, which Harvey termed "the child-corruption network birthed by Obama ’safe schools’ czar Kevin Jennings."
The column went on to reference discredited claims hurled at Jennings that during his time as a teacher in Massachusetts, Jennings learned about--and failed to report--a sexual relationship between a minor and an older man. The former student himself contradicted those claims, however, when he stepped forward to defend Jennings by pointing out that at the time he was of legal age--and by clarifying that no sexual contact between himself and the older man in question had ever actually transpired.
The smears against Jennings were conducted by blogs and news agencies across the rightward spectrum, but were started by reports at Fox News, noted Washington, D.C., GLBT publication Metro Weekly last Aug. 11.
The WorldNetDaily column also smeared GLSEN as a "group that promotes sexual deviance to children," with GLSEN "GLSEN tutor[ing] students in how to form and join school-based ’gay-straight alliances,’ clubs that encourage kids to express and celebrate homosexuality, bisexuality and cross-dressing and to consider objections to be ’homophobic’ and the cause of violence." The column made the claim that GLSEN targets Christianity with "special antagonism," and accused the group of "bigotry." The column went on to say that books recommended to GLBT youth at the GLSEN site promote a "false and hostile portrayal of traditional Christianity" and "indoctrinate" readers with "neatly packages heresie[s]."
"Anti-bullying campaigns by GLSEN proclaim the notion that only blanket approval of ’GLBT’ lifestyles will end student harassment," the column declared. "The truth is that such incidents are punished regularly without the intrusion of the thought police, and traditional values are not the cause of violence."
The column went on to challenge to notion that advocacy on behalf of GLTB youth is a matter concerned with civil rights and social justice, asserting that, "many heartbroken parents and exploited adolescents may not see all that much justice going on here."
The claims made in the column have been repeated for years by anti-gay groups. In 1999, the blogger behind anti-gay site Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, wrote about a GLSEN conference at which a lesbian teacher talked about an exchange she had with a kindergarten student. The teacher responded to questions from the class about whether she had a husband by explaining that her life partner was another woman. When asked whether she kissed the other woman, the teacher said that she did.
The teacher recounted this after her retirement, while on a GLSEN panel, but GLSEN itself played no part in the teacher’s disclosure. Nonetheless, AFTAH reprinted the 1999 article on Oct. 1, 2009, with the caption, "GLSEN Corrupts Children." The reprint appeared during the controversy over Jennings having been appointed as assistant deputy secretary for safe and drug-free schools in the U.S. Department of Education.
Fox News.com reported on Sept. 23, 2009, on the storm of criticism in a Sept. 23 article, noting that Jennings had been a teacher in Massachusetts when he created GLSEN--the "Gay Straight and Lesbian Education Network"--in 1990, in order to help end anti-gay harassment and homophobia in schools.
GLSEN has worked to educate lawmakers and the public about the problem of anti-gay bullying, performing surveys that document a shockingly high prevalence of anti-gay verbal and physical harassment in schools, some of it perpetrated by teachers and other school staff, with much of the student-on-student harassment left uncorrected by school staff members.
The Fox News.com article noted that GLSEN now has GSAs--Gay-Straight Alliances, which are student-led clubs dedicated to countering anti-gay bullying--in 40 schools throughout the country.
Anti-gay groups also sought to smear Jennings with events that have become known among right-wing fringe organizations as "Fistgate." In the annals of far-right lore, "Fistgate" refers to the 2000 "Teach Out" conference that was conducted at Tufts University by several Massachusetts state employees, under the auspices of the conference and of GLSEN, which was at the time headed by Kevin Jennings. The state employees took questions from the attendees, including questions about gay sex. Though neither Jennings nor anyone from GLSEN was present, Jennings was tarred by the right for the state employees’ responses.
Commenting on the issue, Jennings said, "GLSEN believes that children do have a right to accurate, safer sex education, but this needs to be delivered in an age-appropriate and sensitive manner."