Listening to the Voice of God
email Penny
  Date: Sun, 1 Feb 1998 18:57:43 -0500 
To: policy@Bridges-Across.Org 
From: (Penny Culliton) 
Subject: *BA-POLICY* Introduction

A week or so ago Maggie invited those of us on the "schools" list to join Bridges Across for the dialogue regarding same-gender attracted youth and schools. So, I am taking her up on the invitation. 

Since 1983, I have been teaching English in public high schools here in New Hampshire. I currently teach grades 11-12. I grew up here in NH as well. A couple of years ago I was fired (later the firing was turned into a 1-yr suspension because I fought it) for using novels with positive portrayals of gay and lesbian lives. I still teach at that same school. 

As a "straight ally," I have been concerned for many, many years that the way we treat sexual minorities in this country goes against what the country stands for, in terms of the ideals on which the republic was founded.

I hope everyone reading this can go to We Are Family's website, , where my views on religion, schooling, and l/g/b/t issues are pretty well expressed in a sermon posted there. I am not a Unitarian, though I was invited to give this sermon at a Unitarian church. I am a Congregationalist and currently a member of an Open and Affirming United Church of Christ congregation, the United Church of Jaffrey (NH). 

If you cannot access the sermon, please e-mail me and I'd be glad to send you a copy. 

All that being said, let me also say that while I would not interfere with anyone's decision to deny or ignore his/her feelings of love or attraction towards another person, in my role as teacher of literature most of what I teach -- and most of what has been written throughout time -- points to the prudence of NOT ignoring or denying or trying to change our own true natures, but rather towards the prudence of accepting ourselves. Of course, 
that must be prefaced by a great deal of introspection, leading to self-knowledge. Facilitating this journey to self-knowledge also a reason why we read literature. 

So if a person decides that one sexual orientation or another is not compatible with his/her true nature -- say, a woman who long believed herself to be a lesbian goes through a more extensive self-examination than she ever has before, and comes to admit to herself that, indeed, her deepest connections and affections are really to or for men -- then I would not have any sort of problem accepting that. 

But if we're talking about people living a certain way in order to be compatible with one translation of one book, instead of according to their own natures, I do indeed have a problem with that, and with any young person being exposed *only* to this sort of thinking. If we're talking about young Americans not being allowed to be taught anything other than that human nature is essentially bad and needs to be enthralled by "religious" precepts (as opposed to spirituality, which is entirely different in my mind), then I have a problem with that. 

I realize that much of the discussion here will center on "safe" schools for l/g/b/t youth. But it strikes me that "safe" isn't what education is all about. (And, yes, I do believe schools are all about education, or should be!) My bottom line: Schools MUST be free marketplaces of ideas. And all Americans must be free to take part in this marketplace when they are young, or the ideals of equity and freedom on which the republic was 
founded will never come to fruition. Indeed, the republic will cease to exist as we know it. And that won't be "safe" for anyone. 

Again, please read what is posted at We Are Family's site.


Penny J. Culliton

from Penny's Sermon:

"Therefore, I implore all of us to listen to the voice of God which exists inside every human and do what is right, what does the     most good for our fellow humans. And remember that indeed there is strength in numbers; exclusionary policies will fail only when we are unwilling in large numbers to carry them out. I implore my fellow educators and everyone else to ask God to give you the strength that every one of you may also stand up and say: "NO." No, we won't discriminate. No, we won't exclude anyone from having positive role models that could save their lives. No, we won't lend ourselves to the carrying out of policies and demands which we know to be in violation of everyone's rights to freedom of speech and to equal protection. No, we won't do something that the voice of God which exists inside every human being tells us is wrong .


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