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Nashville bill could place homosexuals in classrooms with 3-year-old children

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A sexual preference bill to protect Nashville’s homosexuals in hiring practices would impact the city’s public school system, possibly placing homosexuals in classrooms with children as young as 3 years of age.

More than 70,000 students attend the city’s 129 public schools, and the metro council — the city’s legislative body — is considering a bill that would require those same schools to hire qualified homosexual applicants. The proposal would cover all grades — including kindergarten — as well as the city’s pre-kindergarten and preschool programs, which includes nearly 1,000 students ages 3 and 4.

The bill, encased in government-like language, places “sexual orientation” alongside other protected classes such as race, sex and religion. Specifically, the bill prohibits employment discrimination based on “sexual orientation” within the metro government.

That includes the school system.

“Metro ought to set an example as a number of larger employers in the city have done,” the bill’s co-sponsor, councilman Chris Ferrell, told Baptist Press.

But the bill’s impact on the city’s students is what most worries some in the Nashville community.

“My greatest concern is our children, because our children are our most vital resource,” said councilwoman Carolyn Baldwin Tucker, who is against any bill that includes protection based on sexual preference. “We need to do all we can to make sure they have every opportunity to grow up in a healthy environment.”

The bill’s biggest problem is that it gives preferential treatment to those who have chosen an unhealthy lifestyle, Tucker said.

“It still has a major problem in that it codifies a lifestyle,” she said. “Our metro government does not need to be in the business of giving sanction to a lifestyle. Obviously, being a homosexual is a choice.”

Schools “would have to hire persons” who exhibit behavior “totally confusing” to children, Tucker said. Those who practice homosexuality “should not have influence over young children,” she added.

But Ferrell disagreed.

“I think it’s an issue of fairness,” he said. “Clearly, there are standards of behavior that apply to anyone in the classroom. … I’m absolutely certain that we have gay and lesbian teachers in the metro classrooms right now. What this guarantees is that they cannot be fired because of their sexual orientation.”

But a local homosexual-rights coordinator said the bill would underscore that Nashville already is a “fair place” to live.

“I have seen this city progress on a number of different levels and I think its true heart is in this type of ordinance,” Nancy Reece, state political coordinator for the Human Rights Campaign, told the Nashville City Paper. “It’s a fair place to live, it’s a fair place to work and this [ordinance] underlines that.”

Ferrell disagreed with Tucker’s characterization of homosexuality. He said there is a distinction between “behavior” and “orientation” and that there are “lifelong monogamous relationships” among both heterosexuals and homosexuals. “This is not about behavior,” he told Baptist Press. “This is about orientation. There are things heterosexuals do that are unhealthy. There are things homosexuals do that are unhealthy.”

The bill would create a predicament for conservative Christian parents, Two Rivers Baptist Church pastor Jerry Sutton believes. At home, Christian children would be taught homosexuality is a sin, but at school they could be learning under a homosexual teacher who has different values, he said.

“It’s going to create more than a dilemma,” the Nashville pastor said. “It’s going to create a firestorm. The question is this: Why go down that road? … They’re basically executing an agenda.”

The homosexual community’s objective is simple, Sutton said. “Their goal is to normalize homosexuality in the community” and then alienate and ostracize “anyone who opposes them.”

Actions by homosexual teachers could prove divisive, a national expert on the homosexual political strategy said.

“Homosexuals will be able to talk about their lifestyle in the classroom,” said Peter LaBarbera, senior policy analyst with the Culture and Family Institute in Washington. “… If a gay activist is in the classroom, and he wants to put a picture of his homosexual lover on the desk … gays are going to say it’s non-discrimination.”

Council member J.R. Loring said he has received more than 300 calls and e-mails on the issue and that more than 90 percent are against the bill. He also believes the bill would be protecting “a chosen lifestyle.”

“It’s not a bill that should be on the books,” he said. “I think we’d be setting a [bad] precedent.”

But Tucker and Loring may not be in the majority. Councilman Tony Derryberry — who is opposed to the bill — told Baptist Press that the vote could be tight. He said at least 15 of the 40 council members support the bill and that there are only a handful of swing votes. But he added that political pressure — elections are in August — could change a few minds.

“Some of these people have to come back and get re-elected,” he said.

The heat of the political season was seen when four council members believed to support the proposal did not return Baptist Press’ phone calls. Parents of public school students must make their voice heard, an attorney for the Southern Baptist Convention said.

“Every Davidson County parent should realize that the new amendment would prohibit screening out homosexual and bisexual elementary school teachers, summer child program employees and preschool workers,” said D. August Boto, vice president for convention policy with the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Parents should not have to worry about their children having an inappropriate lifestyle model as a teacher. And isn’t that really the issue at stake here?”

The bill’s supporters sometimes equate discrimination against homosexuals with discrimination against minorities. But Tucker, an African American, said she is offended by such comparisons.

“To me, it demoralizes the efforts of the civil rights movement when you try to equate sexual orientation with race,” she said. “They are not in any way related.”

Nashville residents must make their voice heard, Sutton said.

“You make sure they know what your convictions are,” he said. “That’s why it’s so incredibly important for Christians to stand up and be counted.”

Pastors must address the issue from the pulpit, he added.

“If the pastors just stand up … it will be a done deal,” he said.

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  • Michael Foust