Thursday, 19 April 2012

Ballot Initiative Would Overturn California's Pro-gay Social Studies Curriculum

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A California group is attempting to overturn a law requiring state school social studies curriculums to include positive portrayals of homosexuals. Signed into law last year by Governor Jerry Brown (left), the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act (S.B. 48) requires that “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans are included and recognized for their important historical contributions to the economic, political, and social development of California, and … that discriminatory bias and negative stereotypes based on sexual orientation are prohibited in school activities and instruction, and instructional materials,” read a synopsis of the legislation by its chief sponsor, State Senator Mark Leno.

But a group led by the conservative Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) is attempting to gather the 500,000 signatures needed for a ballot initiative that would overturn the law, replacing it with what proponents call the Children Learning Accurate Social Science (CLASS) Act. Kevin Snider, chief counsel for PJI and one of the leaders of the initiative, said that the change is needed to bring clarity to what is taught in the state’s social studies classes.

“We think that all people have aspects of their life, both good and bad, and we do children a terrible disservice if we sugarcoat history,” Snider told Baptist Press News. “History needs to be told accurately.”

In addition to overturning S.B. 48, the CLASS Act would clarify what can and cannot be taught in social studies classes. Snider said the ballot initiative would serve to “bring back a sense of moderation and reason into the study of social science,” adding that a person would not be “excluded because he or she belongs to a protected class — including gays or lesbians — nor will that person be included because he or she belongs to a protected class.”

Snider told BP News that the ballot initiative could have nationwide impact. “There are about two or three states which drive the textbook industry based on their textbook population,” he explained. “California is the main one. Other states generally do not get textbooks custom-made for them. And so, as a practical matter, this is going to be something that states will have to face as far as what’s going to be offered in instructional materials.”

Snider told the Christian Post that one of the key problems with the present law is that it prohibits viewpoints in the curriculum that might reflect negatively upon a “gay” individual or group. “History is the accurate record of events,” he said. “Like all of us, those who make it into the pages of history generally do things both good and bad. Only showing the positive and censoring the negative is not history. That is propaganda.”

Jack Hibbs, a California pastor and one of the sponsors of the CLASS Act, said: “We all know that the issue of homosexuality is controversial,” but it is “unacceptable to require that our schools shine a spotlight on this lifestyle on the one hand and then demand that history books and teachers censor shortcomings on the other.”

Snider said his group’s proposed initiative “responds to the perception that some want to ignore the contributions of certain individuals. This initiative prohibits history book exclusion of anybody based on their membership in a protected class. But it requires an accurate, historical portrayal of any individual.”

This will be the second attempt by pro-family groups to overturn the pro-homosexual curriculum law. As reported by The New American, the first try came immediately after passage of S.B. 48, with opponents of the measure attempting to garner the 500,000 needed signatures in only two months. Snider noted that in addition to coming up a few thousand signatures short of the requirement, several thousand of the signatures they did collect would likely have been rejected. This time around, however, proponents have several months and expect to tally some 700,000 names, which would provide a comfortable cushion to get the measure on the November ballot. “Based upon [the extra time] we’re very confident that we will be able to be successful,” he told BP News.

Snider called the CLASS Act a “straightforward, common sense” alternative to the current measure, and predicted that it would find widespread appeal among Californians. “It does not reflect animus toward the LGBT community or anyone else,” he told the Christian Post, noting that some 64 percent of respondents to a Los AngelesTimes poll expressed their opposition to S.B. 48.

“Because the CLASS Act takes a moderate and rational view toward education, we predict that it will receive broad support in California, and probably among many in the LGBT community,” he said.

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