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Issue of youth & homosexuality prompts debate on both coasts

BRANDON, Fla. (BP)–Several radio stations and a major advertising firm in Tampa, Fla., have turned down ads for a Focus on the Family conference for public school administrators, parents and youth workers concerning youth and homosexuality.

In California, meanwhile, a federal judge has issued a preliminary injunction ordering the Orange Unified School District to allow a “Gay-Straight Alliance Club” to meet on the campus of El Modena High School.

A Tampa-area Southern Baptist church, Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, is hosting the Feb. 26 Focus on the Family “Love Won Out” conference.

Among the radio stations canceling promotional spots for the conference was an FM station at which the disc jockey apologized to listeners after one of the 10-second spots aired on her show, The Tampa Tribune reported. The newspaper also noted that Eller Media Co. turned down poster ads for bus shelters in the Tampa Bay area.

The ads triggered vigorous condemnation from homosexual rights advocates, The Tribune reported.

John Paulk, a former homosexual and now Focus on the Family’s homosexuality and gender analyst, said in a statement, “While they reportedly advocate tolerance and respect, we have learned firsthand that there is no tolerance and respect extended to those whose opinions differ from theirs on homosexuality.”

Focus on the Family has hosted five previous youth and homosexuality conferences, in Columbus, Ohio; Seattle; Memphis, Tenn.; Wheaton, Ill.; and Sacramento, Calif.

“Hundreds of thousands of young people, wrestling with their sexuality, are being encouraged to ‘come out’ as a cure for their problems,” said Paulk, who also is board chairman of Exodus International, a Seattle-based ministry to homosexuals. “Teens deserve all of the facts and they need responsible guidance from adults. It is reckless to steer adolescents struggling with their sexuality into a potentially dangerous and lonely lifestyle. Through God’s love and healing power, thousands of us have found a better way.”

The Tampa Tribune has carried a weekly ad for the upcoming conference, with the first on Jan. 28 asking, “Tired of being Gay?” and the subsequent ad stating, “Homosexuality is Preventable.”
Tribune publisher Reid Ashe explained, “We have a mission here, and that’s to provide a forum of advocacy for all sides. I understand these [homosexual activists] have an emotional investment in the issue. But the people who don’t share their same viewpoint have the right to express their views, too.” Ashe also noted the newspaper reviews proposed ads for acceptability and whether they are misleading.

Shawn Ulrich, Eller Media’s director of public relations, however, said the company turned down the conference’s poster ads because, “We felt it was more of a political statement, and we don’t accept political commentary for bus shelters.”

The Tribune article also gave voice to a leader of a statewide organization focusing on discrimination issues, Nadine Smith of Equality Florida, who claimed that one of the dangers of the Focus on the Family conference is that it relies on “rejected or outdated” medical theories for contending that homosexuality is a chosen orientation.

What Smith meant by “rejected or outdated” was not explored. Her statement flies in the face of the last go-round of media articles about homosexuality as a choice, when a team of Canadian researchers reported last April in the journal Science that they could not detect a link between male homosexuality and a specific maternally inherited genetic pattern foundational to earlier highly publicized studies claiming evidence of the world’s first “gay gene.”

“Research Casts Doubt on ‘Gay Gene’ Theory,” The Washington Post headline said, with an akin headline in The New York Times, “Study Questions Gene Influence on Male Homosexuality.” Both stories were published on April 23.

Smith also was quoted as claiming that the “relentless homophobia” reflected in the Focus on the Family conference likely will push teens “to suicide, drugs or alcohol.”

“There are no statistics to back that up,” Paulk said in an interview with Baptist Press Feb. 14. “We believe that teens are thrown into despondency because they are offered no hope or alternative to homosexuality.”

In California, the federal judge’s intervention, on Feb. 4, followed a unanimous school board decision Dec. 7 not to permit a “Gay-Straight Alliance Club” to meet on the Orange Unified School District campus of El Modena High School.

The controversy began in September when two students, a 16-year-old girl and 15-year-old boy, proposed the club partly as a response to the widely publicized beating death of homosexual college student Matthew Shepard in Wyoming.

Attorneys for the school district said the club was disallowed because it covers academic issues taught in the sex education curriculum and thus is not protected by federal law that allows non-curricular groups to meet on campus, Conservative News Service reported, and the school district would reconsider its stance if the club changed its name and refrained from discussing human sexuality topics.

U.S. District Judge David Carter said he had issued his preliminary injunction ordering the district to allow the club to meet on campus until a final ruling is issued in the case.