Supporters of conversion therapy like to present their programs to schools as a kind of antibullying measure. PFOX President Greg Quinlan says that his group’s flyers urge “tolerance for all”—especially ex-gays. He also says that “PFOX has distributed informative flyers in some of the largest school districts in the country.”
Last February, a high school in Montgomery County, Md., became the target of a PFOX leafleting campaign. PFOX took advantage of the district’s policy allowing nonprofit groups to send flyers home with students. Many students and parents were outraged by flyers saying, among other things, that people can choose to be heterosexual. “If only one part of you has gay feelings, should your whole life be gay identified?” the flyer asked.
School administrators might be tempted to ban distribution of these types of flyers, but such efforts can often backfire by giving ex-gay groups and conversion therapists an excuse to claim that their free speech rights have been violated. That’s why the Southern Poverty Law Center urges educators, parents and community members to counter the false propaganda with the most powerful tool at their disposal: facts.
In the Montgomery County schools case, Superintendent Joshua Starr wasted no time in calling the flyers “reprehensible and deplorable.” Local groups partnered with Teaching Tolerance to put out a flyer explaining the disturbing truth about conversion therapy and offering resources to educators looking to offer an inclusive environment for all students—straight and LGBT alike.