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The Fistgate Conference:

'Religious wrong' workshop at Fistgate conference demonizes people with traditional values, parents

Teaching kids that homosexual behavior is good, religion is bad

July 2000

The following article appeared in the July 2000 issue of Massachusetts News:

‘Religious Wrong’ Exposed at Fistgate
By Tom Duggan
Massachusetts News, July 2000

A workshop about "The Religious Wrong" was conducted by gay activist Leif Mitchell at "Fistgate," where state teachers taught graphic sex to teenagers and teachers from across Massachusetts.

Mitchell is the Community Educator/Trainer for Planned Parenthood of Connecticut and he is on the National board of GLSEN. He trains teachers and children about sex education in the classroom and how to integrate homosexuality into the curriculum of public schools.

Mitchell told the audience he follows the Religious Wrong "religiously" and has been infiltrating religious groups for many years.

The program guide stated: "This workshop will explore ways to counteract the messages used by the Wrong. Participants will learn exactly what the Wrong is saying about ‘us’ (and who that includes) as well as develop strategies to tackle opposition..."

After his brief introduction, Mitchell showed a video to the audience containing hate speech against Christians and other people of faith. "The video was very disturbing," one teacher told Massachusetts News. "They showed various images and quotes from Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson to give the impression that their views were shared by all religious adversaries. It was an attack on all people of faith. Anyone who disagreed with Mr. Mitchell was labeled a homophobe and compared to Robertson and Falwell. Mr. Mitchell concluded after the video ‘This is who we are fighting! This is the religious right!’"

The teacher said she thought the conference was supposed to be about safe schools and stopping discrimination. "To think that David Driscoll and the Department of Education would be preaching religious hatred to students and teachers under the pretense of safe schools was frightening. And they were using our tax dollars to endorse it. This was nothing more than a government- sponsored attack on religion and anyone who disagrees with the gay political agenda on the far left," she said.

At one point in the video they said ‘Studies show that lesbians are the best mothers in America. Are you interested in the truth Pat (Robertson)?’ The teacher says she was shocked. "I have been teaching for over 25 years and I’ve been studying these issues for over a decade. I have never seen a study that lesbians make better mothers. I was traumatized by what I was seeing. What was really appalling to me was that no teacher in the room seemed to be bothered by what Mitchell and the video was saying. They just took it all in and accepted it as fact."

Mitchell then asked the audience to break up into small discussion groups. The teacher recounts: "We were told to discuss our experiences and strategies on how to deal with religious opposition to gay activists in our communities. It didn’t sound like tolerance to me. This sounded more like hate speech. If I had spoken of any of the things that they directed at traditional religion, only said them about homosexuals instead, I would be called a hate monger and a homophobe. But when God-fearing people are labeled and attacked, it is not only tolerated, our government sanctions it."

Mitchell said he considered himself a "spiritual person but not religious" and labeled religious followers as "those people." A teacher in the audience asked Mr. Mitchell if he couldn’t make an argument for free speech on the other side, for the religious people who feel differently. Mitchell became very adamant and didn’t even let him finish his question. ‘There is no argument." Mitchell charged. "We are right and they are wrong." The teacher responded that he "didn’t think we were going to get very far with that kind of reasoning."

Mitchell then turned to the audience and explained the need to combat such questions by using safety and suicide prevention issues as their mantra. Several times during the discussions Mitchell told the participants when they get in trouble during such discussion with the public or the press to: "Just keep bringing it back to safety in the schools. That’s the message."

Comparing ‘The Religious Wrong’ to Hitler!

Mitchell then talked about a website www.wiredstrategies.com/Hitler which compares religious people to Hitler and the Nazis. The website contains headlines such as:

"Nazi Anti-Jewish Speech vs. Religious Right Anti-Gay Speech: Are They Similar?" The site shows a side-by-side comparison of Nazi propaganda against Jews during WWII with the "Christian anti-gay movement" of today saying:

"...are fundamentalist Christians using anti-gay arguments that echo back to the Nazi era?" This page compares quotes from The Eternal Jew with Christian conservatives’ modern-day quotes about gay Americans.

Mitchell spoke of religious people, hatred, homophobia, religion and the religious wrong as though each word were synonymous, interchanging religion and the Religious Wrong with Hitler, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and even the murder of Matthew Sheppard.

Strategies to "Combat the Religious Wrong"

Mitchell outlined his strategies on combating the Religious Wrong "in your community."

1) Focus on Violence Prevention. Always go back to the issues of safety to explain why Gay/Straight Alliances need to be formed. "Violence helps us!" he said.

He said violence in the schools helps because that means there is more of a need for safety education. One teacher said, "That means they get to have more of these seminars, more money from the government and more government sponsored political activism. Just imagine having a workshop to combat violence and then telling young children to be activists and concluding with, ‘Violence helps us.’"

2) Focus on Legal Perspectives, He used the 1996 lawsuit which was settled for $900,000. The suit was about Jamie Dboznia who was not protected from gay bashing by his school. "Focusing on legal perspectives also helps to bring the focus back to safe schools," he said.

3) Put a Face on Homophobia. "Matthew Sheppard is a good example," Mitchell said. "But he is not the most diverse person you can use. He only got all that the publicity because he was white."

4) Use Statistics Effectively. "Just the Facts was sent to all Superintendents in the country," Mitchell said. "Now the opposition has a response, ‘Just the Facts on Just the Facts,’ but they have no credible organizations or data to support them in this, unlike the original which came from the Center for Disease Control and the Youth Risk Survey."

5) Build Coalitions Proactively with Like-minded Groups. "Be prepared and come together," he said. "Use the Coalition for Democracy, use the NAACP, The Anti-Defamation League and Planned Parenthood." "Remember," Mitchell told the audience, "It is very important to tie the Religious Right to hatred."

Jennings Also Attacked Religion

The keynote speaker, Kevin Jennings, co-founder of GLSEN, also attacked religion and even used the Gospel to do so. He used the story of the widow’s mite to motivate children in the audience to give all they can give to the gay and lesbian community.

"This is ridiculous," exclaimed one teacher in utter disbelief. "I know that Bible passage and it is a direct reference to giving all you can to God. How ironic that GLSEN is preaching hatred towards religious people, attacking religion as ‘wrong’ and at the same time they are quoting Jesus and twisting the scripture. Why doesn’t David Driscoll know what he is promoting? If he really doesn’t know what is happening at these workshops maybe we need a Commissioner who will pay more attention to what’s going on."

A handout attacked religion and people of faith. It promoted a book by a lesbian activist who claimed to expose "The Right and THEIR Agenda; The Right’s overall goals, the targets of their organizing efforts, the strategies they employ, and who benefits from their agenda."

Another publication which was handed out included an article entitled: "Teaching Outside the Curriculum: Guerrilla Sex Education and the Public Schools" from the Radical Teacher, which listed its sponsor as "The Coalition for Positive Sexuality," which promotes the idea, "Just Say Yes." The article stated emphatically :

"We hope that students do get ideas from our booklet - ideas about how to talk about sex as well as how to do it, how to get pleasure with their bodies as well as how to take care of them."

The Minuteman Library Network, which is composed of 34 suburban towns from Cambridge and Brookline out to Holliston and Medway, recommends to students that the best Internet site to learn about sexuality is "The Coalition for Positive Sexuality" which tells them to, "Just Say Yes" to sexual intercourse.