Laurie Higgins
Laurie Higgins – Image vintage unknown

It should come as no surprise that the rabidly bigoted Laurie Higgins of Illinois Family Institute wants people to fear LGBT teachers. Posts like “Who Is Teaching Our Children?” provide just one reason that IFI is designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. According to Ms. Higgins:

There are myriad reasons why young people are abandoning conservative principles, one of which is that our publicly funded schools are run by and our children are taught by fools who revile truth. Neil Rigler, an English teacher at Deerfield High School in Deerfield, Illinois, is one such teacher.

Last week, Rigler posted a link to an article from the far Left website PinkNews that criticized President Trump’s appearance at the Values Voter Summit, which is sponsored by the Family Research Council. Rigler added this comment:

Why isn’t this the lead story on national news? [Trump] endorses this hate group and supports legalized discrimination. Horrific. (Yet again).

So let’s see. Trump was the first sitting president to address the Values Voter Summit. That is a fact. Family Research Council is in point of fact, designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. It is also factual to say that both FRC and Trump support legalized discrimination against LGBT people. Well, we don’t really know what Trump supports, other than Trump of course. Claiming that Mr. Rigler is untruthful is the untruth.

Evidently Rigler is a disciple of the ethically impoverished, anti-Christian hate group known euphemistically as the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has deemed the Family Research Council (and IFI) “hate groups.”

Bigotry is immoral. A bigot challenging the ethics of SPLC is rather spurious. Hate groups criticize SPLC because they are designated as hate groups. Perhaps they should cease the behavior that cause them to be listed in the first place.

But why such a designation for organizations that actually denounce hatred?

The SPLC and Rigler hurl the epithet “hate group” at organizations that hold theologically orthodox views on the moral status of volitional homosexual activity and biological-sex rejection. The SPLC and Rigler evidently believe that moral positions with which they disagree constitute hatred of persons.

Indeed, Ms. Higgins is demonstrating just how opposed she is to hatred with this personal attack of a gay teacher. IFI was inititially listed as a hate group for propagandizing the thoroughly discredited “research” of Paul Cameron. Since Higgins seems confused I will provide part of a 2012 letter to an Illinois school board. It might refresh her porous memory:

By bowing to the pressure of the Illinois Family
Institute (IFI), the School Board allows itself to be guided by a group that has a long history of
spewing bigotry and hate against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community.
For example, in 2009, the IFI’s director of school advocacy compared homosexuality to Nazism.
The IFI’s argument that your policy does not address the needs of gender variant individuals
is simply not true. By painting your important work as “a decision to accommodate, not the
needs of gender-confused teens, but their disordered desires and the desires of gender/sexuality
anarchists who exploit public education for their perverse ends,” the IFI makes clear its
ignorance as to the importance of inclusive policies in protecting the learning environment, and
the lives, of all students. The School Board should not allow the IFI’s vitriol to impact its legal
and moral duty to ensure that all students have a learning environment free from harassment
and abuse. The spread of hate must end at the schoolhouse doors.

So this has nothing to do with “volitional homosexual activity” — whatever that is supposed to mean. The statement “bilogical-sex rejection” demonstrates a refusal to accept the concept of gender which is contrary to medical science and, thus, more bigotry. Higgins is obviously distressed that her organization is deemed a hate group. I would suggest that she cease doing what got her there in the first place.

But there is more:

Of course, it’s unlikely they [SPLC] apply their underlying principle consistently. It’s unlikely they believe that all moral disapproval of volitional acts constitutes hatred of persons. It’s unlikely they would hurl the epithet “hater” at someone who believes homoerotic love between two consenting brothers is immoral or at someone who opposes the legal recognition of poly-marriages.

The insistence that IFI’s status is due to their moral disapproval is belied by the facts. Insistence becomes obstinance or just propaganda. Since the first sentence of the paragraph is based on a false premise, the second sentence becomes irrelevant.

Government employee Rigler posted his feckless, pernicious comment on his Facebook page where anyone with a Facebook account can see it, including former, current, and future students. Presumably some of them are theologically orthodox young people.

And Rigler fancies himself “inclusive.”

Given that Mr. Rigler stated verifiable truth, Higgins has no argument. It is not feckless (generally meaning irresponsible) and it is certainly not pernicious. It is merely a statement that Higgins doesn’t like and she is not much of an arbiter of propriety. Then she implies that Mr. Rigler is being discriminatory for expressing disapproval of people who discriminate. Now that is feckless — and hackneyed. Christian conservatives have been making that preposterous argument, in various forms, for decades. It has not improved with age.

Unfortunately, Rigler is not alone among our taxpayer-subsidized propagandists who identify as educators and who accuse those who hold values and beliefs with which they disagree of being hateful. Rigler’s comment is emblematic of the openly contemptuous attitude many of our public school teachers have toward those who hold conservative beliefs and values.

A salary is not a subsidy whether paid by a government agency or private industry. Propaganda is generally characterized as such for being misleading. Higgins has yet to demonstrate any deception on Mr. Rigler’s part. Again, she simply doesn’t like the hate group identifier. Higgins, on the other hand, has made a number of demonstrably false statements. Shrinks call what she is doing “projection.” I prefer the term “bullshit.”

Speaking of salaries, Ms. Higgins receives one for being IFI’s primary “propagandist.” We do not know what that amounts to because she is neither an officer, key employee or highly compensated employee of IFI. Yet is seems to be sufficient for her to have stuck around for a decade or more.

There’s Jason Spoor-Harvey, former Fremd High School social studies teacher and current history department chair at Oak Park and River Forest High School. Spoor-Harvey is “married” to a man and has posted pictures on his Facebook page of his faux-marriage as well as his hearty support for Planned Parenthood. When he was a teacher at Fremd, he posted pictures of Che Guevara and Karl Marx on his official school web page along with this image titled “Evolutionary Theory”:

In quotes or not, Mr. Spoor-Harvey is married. Ms. Higgins and the Church’s approval were not sought, desired or required. The only thing that counts is the legal recognition of the marriage. I find nothing improper about posting pictures of his marriage on Facebook. High school kids know that marriage equality is the law of the land — at least by now they should. There is also nothing wrong with supporting Planned Parenthood. A small percentage of their work involves abortions — something else that Higgins disapproves of. Nevertheless, Roe v. Wade constitutes the law of the land too. Without knowing the context I have no idea whether or not photos of Guevara or Marx are improper.

Apparently he also posted an image that is satirically critical of George W. Bush. That is possibly inappropriate. Not that I have great fondness for Bush (although his stock increased considerably last week). Nevertheless, the school administration could have taken it down and it is really no big deal. I am guessing that this occurred ten years ago and Higgins is still talking about it as if it were an end-of-world event.

Rigler and Spoor-Harvey have every right to express their foolish beliefs and values on their Facebook pages, and parents have every right to say these men are poor role models for their children and refuse to place their children under the their tutelage. The mere fact that Spoor-Harvey is legally “married”—though not in reality married—to a man teaches young people a harmful, untruthful lesson and renders him an unfit role model.

And there you have it. The next time Higgins bitches about the hate group designation, you will remember that, according to her, a married gay man is not fit to teach. Moreover, you will please recall that Higgins has deemed a legal truth a falsehood. That is not grounded in reality. Gay couples can marry! That was established by the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges two years and four months ago. No one’s traditional marriage has been harmed.

What Higgins is really saying is that a gay man can influence a teen to be gay. That is the product of believing the teachings of the Church and the writings in ancient texts that also claim that the sun orbits Earth. Being gay is not a choice. While the Church insists that gay men should be celibate (perhaps they can become neurotic priests) that is not grounded in reality. Superstition should not turn healthy males into eunuchs to satisfy the pontifications of other voluntary eunuchs.

But Rigler and Spoor-Harvey don’t restrict expressions of their political and moral views to their Facebook pages. They express their views in the classroom both through their comments and the materials they choose, like homosexual writer Tony Kushner’s essay titled “American Things,” which Rigler has taught. In this essay, Kushner compares the homosexuality-affirming revolution to the Civil Rights Movement and calls moral disapproval of homosexuality a “social evil.”

I went to a very conservative boarding school. I recall a Christian teacher reading Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poem “Christ came down from his bare tree this year” to my English class. We certainly learned about Marx and Guevara in a very balanced way. Good teaching is, after all, often defined by its ability to inspire intellectual curiosity.

A very right wing teacher gave me an “A” on a paper I wrote about Michael Wilson, a blacklisted scriptwriter who wrote Bridge on the River Kwai under a pseudonym and Lawrence of Arabia under his real name. Had I written a poorly researched piece on Barry Goldwater I would have received an “F” Gays didn’t have any rights back then but intellectual honesty was easier to come by. None of the political conservatives of that era were religious conservatives.

The point is that I became a very curious person. I have had a lifelong need to find how how things work. My career successes are directly attributable, in part, to curiosity coupled with discipline. Reading Tony Kushner hasn’t turned a kid gay yet. It might teach something about composition (Kushner won a Pulitzer Prize for Angels in America). I did not agree with Kushner regarding Israel but I have come to the conclusion that his opinions have been often misrepresented. I find agreement with his persistent criticism of religious extremism.

I doubt that Kushner has ever opined about the moral disapproval of homosexuality. For what it is worth, I do not care, providing that religious conservatives are not trying to impose their sanctimony on public policy by debasing gay people. That is a social evil. Given that about two-thirds of our citizenry support marriage equality it is safe to say that most Christians do not share Ms. Higgins’ biases.

Just last month, Public School District 150 in Peoria, Illinois invited the Central Illinois Pride Health Center (CIPHC) to teach eighth-graders a lesson on “Sexual Orientation and Gender Stereotypes.”

The executive director and founder of the CIPHC is Len Meyer (on the left below), a lesbian who masquerades as a man and is “married” to a woman.

Len Meyer is genderqueer and doesn’t “masquerade” as anything. The terms of their marriage are up to them and their spouse. They are none of Higgins’ business. More importantly, Meyer is the ideal person to teach students about sexual stereotypes. Neither gender nor sexual orientation are binary constructs. Kids are all over the place on both. As a teen I was in a fiercely heterosexual environment and I turned out gay (something that I had to hide until late in my career). Sexual orientation cannot be influenced by external factors or other people. Higgins is too incurious to ever figure that out for herself.

The troubling and very hard-to-find “Sexual Orientation and Gender Stereotypes” lesson on the PSD 150 website lists a handout titled the “Genderbread Person,” as a “needed” material for this class. This infamous handout teaches children to sever the connection between one’s sex and gender, or in the words of the Genderbread Person, to break through the “binary.” The lesson outline includes teaching students the meaning of “key terms” like “cisgender,” “queer,” and “intersex,” which is defined as “actually quite common!”

That is misleading. Although I have not seen the handout (Higgins does not provide a link) I would wager that “sever the connection …” is Higgins’ BS. A fact known to medical science — for quite some time — is that sex and gender can be incongruent. Moreover, gender is not binary. There is nothing wrong with teaching kids the correct terminology and some degree of sexual ambiguity is far more common than most people realize. Higgins doesn’t approve of the underlying facts.

What is never discussed in the lesson is whether the beliefs of the “LGBTQ” community are objectively true or good. No dissenting views are included.

Christian parents should not allow their children to be trained up by men and women who view Scripture as hate-filled, ignorant bigotry.

Contrary religious dogma does not make a truth untrue just as it doesn’t make a legally recognized marriage a faux-marriage. There simply is no responsible and legitimate dissenting view. Believing that gay people are objectively disordered is no more legitimate than Holocaust denial. Most Christians do not see scripture as hate-filled bigotry because most Christians accept the premise that scripture reflects the times in which it was written. And that is not limited to scripture which is traditionally defined as sacred Christian texts. Most religion-based homophobia (in my opinion) stems from the Old Testament rather than scripture. Of course the OT also commands people to murder insolent children which even Higgins probably does not subscribe to.

Christians are free to send their children to Christian schools if they are intent on keeping them ignorant. Better educated people tend to be more progressive in their attitudes. Our schools are administered by better educated people.

Christians should not allow their children to be trained up by men and women who do not recognize the intrinsic value of all human lives—and all means all—including those yet in their mothers’ wombs.

Higgins does not recognize the intrinsic value of all human lives. Higgins confuses opposing reproductive choice with opposing abortion. I have neither the time nor inclination to get into that subject.

Christian parents should not allow their children to be trained up by adults who don’t recognize and respect the immutability and profound meaning of sexual differentiation.

Higgins is unable and unwilling to understand gender.

Christian parents should not allow their children to be trained up by adults who believe that inclusivity and compassion demand the affirmation of sexual perversion or confusion or the relinquishment of physical privacy.

Obviously she is wed to the notion that her approval is important. What happens when a Christian has a gay child? Should that kid (or any child for that matter) be taught that their sexual orientation makes them a pervert? Yeah, I know, that 12-year-old needs to know that he or she is expected to be celibate for life. At the same time, while their straight friends are dating people of the opposite sex, they are not permitted to date. Great outlook to give a kid in order to conform to religious doctrine based on superstitions.

Christians parents should not allow their children to be trained up by those who cannot see that marriage has a nature central to which is sexual complementarity and without which a union is not in reality a marriage.

Sure. Pretend that marriage equality is not the law of the land and it will go away. What happens when these kids go to college or enter the workforce? What happens when they have a married gay boss? Married gay coworkers? Yes, I understand. Religious conservatives believe that the only true marriage is one that is recognized by the Church. However, that is not how society views marriage. Kids can be taught, at home, the difference between legal marriage and religiously approved marriage. They can handle the disparity.

Churches must begin today to create affordable schools for their church families. For diverse reasons, many families are unable to homeschool and unable to afford Christian private schools. Churches should view the education of children in their flocks as a mission field, with mission funds going toward making disciples of them. No matter how nice they are, people like Neil Rigler, Jason Spoor-Harvey, and Len Meyer cannot properly educate children.

Higgins overlooks the fact that not all churches accept her views as theirs. Even among Catholic schools that is not true. In New York the Catholic schools are quite progressive. Also, most Catholic colleges and universities were offering partner benefits long before Obergefell. The president of Notre Dame, Father John Jenkins, has gone out of his way to be welcoming to gay students and staff. Most liturgical Christians fully accept gay people as equal. Their schools are not dedicated to bigotry.

In the final analysis Higgins has the audacity to suggest that gay teachers turn kids gay. It is not just bigotry. That is ignorance and stupidity. I suppose that those are the foundations of most bigotry.

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By David Cary Hart

Retired CEO. Formerly a W.E. Deming-trained quality-management consultant. Now just a cranky Jewish queer. Gay cis. He/Him/His.