Day of Silence

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Day of Silence is an annual grassroots[1] protest organized by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. Established in 1996 by students from the University of Virginia, it is held every April. The following year, over 100 colleges and universities participated. In 2000, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network integrated Day of Silence as an official project.

On this occasion, students take a vow of silence in order to represent LGBT students and their supporters being silenced. It is meant to discourage bullying and harassment from other students and faculty. The vow of silence may last the whole day or just a portion. Messages over the PA system, pins/cards/pamphlets being handed out are sometimes used as well.

Opposition[edit]

Of course, Day of Silence has not escaped the eyes of the Religious Right. Since 2005, the Orwellianly named "Day of Truth" has been working "to counter the promotion of the homosexual agenda and express an opposing viewpoint from a Christian perspective."[2] During this day, held the day after the Day of Silence, students are encouraged to spout homophobic hate speech without fear of repercussions.

The Day of Truth is inspired by the tale of Tyler Chase Harper, a high school student from California. As the legend goes, the day after the Day of Silence, 2004, Harper came into school wearing a t-shirt with masking tape on it. Written on the tape was "Homosexuality is shameful - Romans 1:27" and "Be ashamed, our school has embraced what God condemned." Harper was pulled from classes by the administration.

Harper, a devout Christian, took offense that the school was limiting his First Amendment right to free speech and tried to sue the school board. This garnered some local and national media attention. In the end, the California Ninth Circuit Court ruled in favor of the school 2-1.[3]

Harper has since moved on to college, still speaking out against homosexuality. Look out for more from this kid in the future![4] He might join the Westboro Baptist Church!

In 2005, the following year, Alliance Defending Freedom set up the Day of Truth. 1100 students in 350 schools are reported to have participated in the first year. Only two years later, the ADF claimed over 7000 students participated.[5]

Like Harper, the ADF loves to push the First Amendment. In 2006, they filed a lawsuit against a school who barred a student from participating in the Day of Truth. A settlement was reached where the student was allowed to participate.[6]

In 2008, a coalition of right-wing groups was created with the intent of urging parents to keep their children home, under the decree of "We want education, not indoctrination." The irony was, of course, lost on them.

In 2009, ADF, who was taking a lot of criticism for promoting the Day of Truth, passed control of the movement to Exodus International.

That same year, Judith Reisman compared the Day of Silence participants to the Hitler Youth.[7]

In April 2010, several students at Laingsburg High School in Laingsburg, Michigan protested the Day of Silence by wearing t-shirts that read "Straight Pride" on the front and sported a reference to Leviticus 20:13 on the back.[8]

On Day of Silence in 2012, Seth Groody, a student at Wolcott (CT) High School, was threatened with suspension or expulsion if he did not change out of his shirt which referred to the event as "Excessive Speech Day"[note 1] and depicted a rainbow with a slash through it. However, after Groody filed a lawsuit against the school, they reversed course and said his free speech rights would be protected in the future. Interestingly, the ACLU backed Groody up in the matter even though they found his views reprehensible, saying that didn't change his right to express them.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. Getting it completely backward, of course, since it's a Day of Silence.

References[edit]