Stop the presses! After weeks of silence, the NEA on Wednesday admitted discriminating against the Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX). The nation’s largest organization of educators acknowledged that it excluded PFOX from exhibiting at the 2002 and 2003 NEA conventions.
In response to a Cybercast News Service inquiry, Angetta McQueen of the NEA stated, “The National Educational Association is a private organization. We reserve the right to select exhibitors at our events.” So when the NEA wrote to PFOX saying the exhibit hall was “sold out,” it was like W.C Fields saying, “go away kid, you bother me.”
Quick review: According to its website (www.pfox.org), PFOX is an organization that supports “the right of homosexuals and lesbians to choose change.” It also provide information and resources to individuals and family members dealing with homosexuality. Contrary to the official position of the NEA, PFOX does not view sexual orientation as an inborn, unchanging trait.
To present this alternative position to educators, PFOX applied for booth space at the 2002 and 2003 NEA conventions. Members reasoned that fairness would be served by having both broad views represented. The NEA denied the PFOX request saying in a letter that the exhibit spaces were “sold out.” However, PFOX learned that space was indeed available leading to the filing of a complaint with the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights. The human rights office will decide within the month if the complaint will go forward.
What is astounding is the NEA’s admission that it excluded PFOX on purpose. The irony is delicious. When the Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) could honor its mission and as a private organization exclude gay men, the NEA passed a resolution encouraging school boards to remove Scout troop meetings from school buildings. Wouldn’t the irony be complete if the NEA used the BSA decision as a legal basis for excluding PFOX from the NEA’s “private” convention?
If the NEA does stick with the “we’re a private organization” defense, it still will have a problem that the BSA did not have. The BSA policies were very clear about the organization’s historic stance concerning the incompatibility of homosexual behavior with the BSA mission. The NEA only behaves in an ex-homophobic manner; there is no such anti-ex-gay language in NEA’s mission statement. In fact, the NEA trumpets its nondiscrimination positions toward a host of diverse groups.
To be precise, the mission of the NEA is “to fulfill the promise of a democratic society, the National Education Association shall promote the cause of quality public education and advance the profession of education; expand the rights and further the interest of educational employees; and advocate human, civil, and economic rights for all.” Well, for all but ex-gays it appears.
I learned in school that there are no stupid questions. So here are two: How does keeping information away from educators and by extension, America’s school children, further the NEA mission? Is the NEA leadership afraid its members are unable to evaluate all sides of an issue without the information being screened?
Maybe its time to e-mail, write or call and ask the NEA (www.nea.org) for some answers.