Delaware Pastor Proposes Excluding LGBT Definitions From Textbooks

Delaware’s Indian River School District (IRSD) is prepared to vote on new health textbooks this month. And if board member Shaun Fink gets his way, the books will exclude any mention of LGBT individuals. He’s also proposed excluding lessons on HIV/AIDS and contraception in favor of promoting an abstinence-only approach to sex education.

Fink, who pastors the Millsboro Bible Church, hasn’t bothered to present a secular argument for his campaign. “I live a life where every day my attempt is to honor God,” he told DelmarvaNow, a local news website.  “Part of honoring God is maintaining his precepts and scripture, and I cannot justify teaching our children we should accept, condone or consider normal, things that God says are not normal, things that God says are an abomination.”

Public schools, of course, cannot teach children what Shaun Fink thinks God says. In a letter submitted to the school board, the National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) reminded officials they’re required to uphold the Constitution.

“To deny students such information because of anyone’s religious or other personal belief-based objections would raise serious First Amendment concerns and, in turn, compromise our public education system and potentially expose students to unnecessary and significant health risks,” NCAC wrote.

Fink didn’t take it well. “I think it’s a little bit ironic that the National Coalition Against Censorship is choosing to censor me,” he said, and accused the NCAC of “censoring anybody who has a faith-based perspective and a Christian worldview.”

The good reverend should perhaps look up the definition of “ironic.” Censorship is exactly what he’s attempting to promote via his elected office. It is not “ironic” for the NCAC to remind that that office also carries specific legal responsibilities that [Fink] has chosen to abdicate in the name of dogma.

The NCAC’s letter, which Americans United also signed on to, notes there’s mainstream scientific consensus that LGBT orientations are not abnormal or unhealthy. There’s also consensus that ignorance about LGBT people leads directly to bullying – a key factor behind the community’s high suicide rates. The CDC reports that lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide; another study of transgender youth found that a full quarter had also tried to end their lives.

But Fink isn’t moved by those stats. “It's not my fault there is a high suicide rate amongst young gay people,” he said.

The facts spell trouble for the rest of his agenda, too. There’s plenty of evidence, for example, that abstinence-only sex education actually correlates to higher rates of teen pregnancy. It’s obvious that leaving teenagers ignorant on the subject of human sexuality creates, rather than resolves, public health crises.

He face opposition in the community as well. Students and local residents slammed Fink’s proposals at a recent public hearing. Al Snyder, who is gay, lost his U.S. Marine son in Iraq – only to watch Westboro Baptist Church picket the funeral with anti-gay messages.

“I've come across people like you in my life," he told Fink. “It's got to stop. My son died for this country, my partner and I raised him and he died for you and this country. It's an insult to hear your words.”

Others noted that Fink’s exclusions could violate the First Amendment. Don Peterson, who represented the Unitarian Universalists of Southern Delaware, said, “Public education must not be designed to support a particular religious belief.”

“LGBT students are here in your schools now. To omit any references to them from the curriculum deliberately diminishes and disrespects them as human beings. Surely that is not an acceptable role of public education,” he added.

Peterson is correct. If IRSD officials vote to approve Fink’s proposals, they’d find themselves on untenable legal footing. Legal precedent is clear: Public schools are religiously neutral zones. Fink is attempting to violate that principle, and he shouldn’t be allowed to succeed. 

P.S. Americans United has had problems with this school district before. Be assured that we’ll be keeping a close watch on things.

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