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July 29, 2014, 2:39 am

‘Day of Dialogue,’ tackles homosexuality, gender identity

In September 2011, Dakota Ary, an honors student attending Western Hills High School in Fort Worth, Texas, was participating in a class discussion about religions in Germany. When he privately commented to a friend in the class, ‘I’m a Christian. I think being a homosexual is wrong,” his teacher overheard the comment, yelled at him, and immediately sent Ary to the principal’s office. The result? Ary was suspended.

Because of cases like this, a national initiative, “Day of Dialogue — April 19, 2012,” was created to spark healthy student discussions in schools about homosexuality and gender identity, without fear of being bullied or punished for expressing one’s Christian faith or worldview.

According to Candi Cushman, focus on the family educational analyst and director of the DayofDialogue.com website, “Our attention was brought to this (topic) last year, when we were made aware of the need for a sponsor. We decided to become the new sponsor of the event, based on feedback we received from students and parents.” Cushman believes that students in public schools (and colleges) are encountering confusing discussions about topics pertaining to homosexuality and gender identity.

Regarding a ground-swell of feedback on this issue, “… We were hearing from students of faith who want(ed) to express compassion for those being bullied, but also want to have the freedom to be open about the fact that they turn to the Bible and their relationship with God for specific guidance on navigating relationships and sexuality,” explained Cushman.

Ideally, the Day of Dialogue is designed to create a safe space for students to express a faith-based worldview in a loving and respectful manner. Day of Dialogue stands against politically or socially motivated bullying that victimizes or punishes Christians (and others) for their beliefs. This national initiative truly respects school policy and doesn’t impede scholarly instruction in the classroom. According to Cushman, “Thousands of students from 42 states participated in the first-ever (Day of Dialogue) event.”

Cushman and her team are urging clergy and parents to get involved in motivating student participation in the Day of Dialogue. Cushman believes that, “It’s so important for students of faith to feel that they too have a place at the table in addressing some of the most sensitive cultural issues of the day. Day of Dialogue participants take a grace-filled, Biblically-based approach to these issues.”

For Gary Schneeberger, vice president, Communications, Focus on the Family, Day of Dialogue has real political and spiritual ramifications, “Another reason this event is so important is that it emphasizes the First Amendment principles of free speech and open dialogue, which has made this country so great. The event provides a critical opportunity for thousands of thoughtful teenagers, as well as college students, to be able to discuss more than one perspective on important social issues in our nation’s public schools.”

Schneeberger strongly believes that one the event’s primary principles is that all students should be protected from harm, and that bullying is wrong. “… Every person, including those who identify as gay and lesbian, is created in the image of God and has innate dignity and worth. That’s why we treat all people, even those with whom we might disagree, with kindness and compassion. We hope that, through this event, Christian students might actually take the lead in modeling to us adults what civil and loving discourse looks like,” says Schneeberger.

For registration, activity suggestions, promotional materials and detailed information about Day of Dialogue, go to: www.dayofdialogue.com.