Walkout to support hate speech targeting young gay people

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Journal & Courier received the following comment after a walkout organized by the West Lafayette Jr./Sr. The High School’s Gay-Straight Alliance protested what they call “political attacks on young gay men”. Some students carried signs directed to Faith Church. A few days after the walkout, the referenced photos were no longer part of an online gallery.

Recently, I was asked to speak to our students at Faith Christian High School about hate speech. The occasion was a student-approved outing at West Lafayette High School that included several people carrying signs that read “F___ Faith.”

The photos were highlighted, without faces or shadowed letters, in the online edition of our local newspaper. A petition campaign featuring the same vulgar words was also announced at that public school event, followed by Instagram posts with “F___ Faith” as the hashtag.

Targeted hate speech has no place in our community. Yes, people should be free to express their opinions on social concerns with enthusiasm and passion. However, when he crosses the line to this level of vitriol and incivility, something seriously went wrong.

This wave of animosity began earlier this year when some West Lafayette City Council members proposed Order 31-21 threatening to fine denominational counselors $1,000 a day for showing the scriptures to minors who are voluntarily come seeking the help of the Word of God.

West Lafayette Jr./Sr.  High school students organize a walkout in favor of young homosexuals, on April 8, 2022, in West Lafayette.

Faith has never practiced conversion therapy, but these political leaders have chosen to align themselves with national activists who have broadened the definition of this term to penalize and silence people who have a view of human sexuality different from theirs. Are board members satisfied with what these young people had to say? The reason small leopards have spots is because large leopards have spots.

Imagine if Christian students had staged a protest carrying signs with similar vulgar slurs targeting other groups of people. Individuals would seek the revocation of our state accreditation and seek to ban us from participating in IHSAA athletics. Yet that’s exactly what happened during the instructional day at one of our state’s leading taxpayer-funded public high schools.

What is even more amazing is that a school board officer, two members of the West Lafayette City Council and paid school staff were also present at this event. Although communication and action took place after the event, it seems that no one had the wisdom or courage to step in at the time and take a stand against the targeted hate speech and remove the signs that clearly violated school policy. At the very time when a principled adult was desperately needed, not one could be found.

The reason I was asked to speak to our student body was because the kids were asking why the people at such an institution hated us so fiercely that they made and carried signs of this nature.

Is it simply because of our faith in God and His Word? We have no desire to impose our views on them – why would they stage a march to try to impose their views on us? And why would school board members, city council members, and school staff join in their efforts?

Fortunately, the scriptures present a holistic view of the world and life that guides students through episodes of abuse and mistreatment. Primarily, such occurrences provide an opportunity to choose to love those who hate you. Jesus explained this in the Sermon on the Mount when he asked women and men to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).

I am happy that we have the freedom to discuss such biblical truth openly with questioning hearts. This and many other principles of the same Bible that the West Lafayette City Council has sought to criminalize shall be the sole authority of our students for faith and practice.

After our school assembly, I was asked to facilitate a voluntary question and answer session which many of our students chose to attend. Their poignant questions were heartbreaking as they struggled to figure out how to respond to what was happening.

A student-athlete wanted to know how he and his family should react if this type of treatment occurs during our athletic competitions with the WLHS or the other public schools we play at. Another young woman asked if we were going to make our school safer because of this heightened level of animosity towards us.

Perhaps the most tender moment came when a student asked, with tears in his eyes, if we should take greater action to protect our primary school students, as shooters often target the most vulnerable. I guess she was asking out of concern for her younger siblings.

What kind of toxic culture has been created in West Lafayette, Ind., that young students in any school should have to worry about these issues as a regular part of their school day?

It is high time that adults seek to foster an environment where a variety of perspectives on diverse cultural concerns can be accommodated in our diverse community. That would be a much better role model for young leopards to follow.

Lawyer? Yes. Hate? No. Not now, and never.

Steve Viars is senior pastor at Faith Church in Lafayette, Ind.

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