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California's Teaching of Tolerance of Homosexuality in Schools is Violating Freedom of Religion


Below are excerpts from Alan Keyes' new show "Alan Keyes is Making Sense" on MSNBC, Monday through Thursday, 10 p.m., ET.

ALAN KEYES IS MAKING SENSE
JANUARY 31, 2002

California Student Safety and Violence Prevention Act of 2000

[This Act] put into place an understanding, with the aim, as the law says, of fostering an appreciation of the diversity of California's population and discouraging the development of discriminatory attitudes and practices. It was also intended to acknowledge the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender historical figures of related events, concepts and issues in the revisions of context standards and curriculum frameworks when appropriate. The idea being to try to introduce into the curriculum in California's schools things that were going to teach children a more accepting and tolerant attitude toward homosexuality, toward gender differences and transgender orientations and so forth.

Now, this law has given rise, as one might expect, to a lot of controversy. For despite the laudable goal of trying to reduce violence in the schools, there are others, of course, who say that introducing this element into the curriculum actually does violence to the rights of other students in the schools, violence that constitutes a direct assault on their moral welfare and well being. They make this point in pursuance of what they regard as their First Amendment rights, since the First Amendment to the Constitution says clearly that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment or religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

That sense that the freedom of religion, the free exercise, the right to practice your religion is a fundamental right, and that it includes, for instance, raising your children according to your faith. That is something that has been taken for granted throughout American history since its beginnings. It is now running afoul of what may be these well intentioned legislative efforts, as parents see the state not only requiring the results of law-biding, non-violent people who will respect one another, but trying to dictate the path of conscience by which that result is to be achieved.

Now, this has happened in California. It has given rise to a lot of consequences and reactions. Here to tell us a little bit about that story, before we get into our discussion with folks just like, is Nanette Asimov. She is an education reporter for the "San Francisco Chronicle," and it has, of course, been her business to follow the developments in this particular area as they arise -- Nanette, welcome to the show and thanks for joining us tonight.

NANETTE ASIMOV, "SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE": Thank you, Alan.

KEYES: In terms of the legislation itself, it lays down a statement of what appeared to be in a way aspirations and goals. . . . there were recommendations, right, that talked about the need to emphasize the role of gay and lesbian figures in history and things of this kind, right?

ASIMOV: These were recommendations.

KEYES: Yes.

ASIMOV: And that's right. In fact, that was recommendation 8, where when appropriate, you are to acknowledge the sexual orientation of a historic figure. And I think that the way that the California legislature saw it was that just as you would not think of having a library without books by and about African-Americans or other ethnic groups, so you should have a library that is at least where books are available by and about gay and lesbian people.

KEYES: So what are we saying? That in a sense, this was based on an understanding that equated sexual orientation with things like race.

ASIMOV: I don't know that they would go that far, because they are two different things. But I think that in the legislature they would say there is a group of people who have a culture and history and future and a right to be free of taunts. And that that applies to all people, including these groups, and among them are gay people. Or, in fact, this law is interesting, because it has nothing to do with whether the victims are gay, but whether people who are -- kids who are doing the taunting and the bullying perceive them to be.

KEYES: So then the schools are, though, following up on this in ways that emphasize things like historical role, putting books in the libraries . . . that present homosexuality in positive ways and things of this kind?

ASIMOV: To varying degrees they are. In fact, on the state's recommended book list are no books mentioning homosexuality or lesbian for anyone below the ninth grade, but from ninth to twelfth grade, there are a few. And I am looking at one right here called "Am I Blue? Coming out from the Silence," and this is on the state's recommended book list; "Short stories by Various Well Known Authors Explore how Homosexuality Affects Young People's Lives;" "Your Personal Identity: Parent or Teacher Orientation, Friends and Other Connections."

KEYES: . . . it does seem that what they're aiming to do, though, is shape an attitude, right? I mean try to get into the mind and deal with the attitude that gives rise to the violence rather than just deal with the violence as a result. Isn't that part of what they are trying to do?

ASIMOV: Well said. I think you are right. But which districts will choose to do this? Most likely, and as we have seen in California, they tend to be the districts, where they have found that violence is a problem. And then they will come back and they'll say, gee, we really need to educate our students that these are, you know, folks like any other folks . . .

KEYES: Thank you so much for being with me tonight.

ASIMOV: My pleasure.

KEYES: . . . We've been talking about whether it is in fact necessary, in order to help reduce violence in our schools, and particularly violence against groups like homosexuals, whether it's necessary to teach tolerance or acceptance of homosexuality or whether that in fact constitutes a persecution of religious conscience with respect to those who believe that such behavior is immoral.

It's a hot topic in California. It may even give rise to a referendum at some point against the law that has been put in place mandating this kind of a curriculum approach.

Well, tonight we're joined by civil rights attorney Gloria Allred. Ms. Allred has litigated many cases on behalf of gay and lesbian individuals. She is well known as a capable, intelligent and dynamic advocate of civil rights in this country.

Thank you for joining us tonight, Gloria. Really appreciate it.

GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY: Thank you, Alan, and congratulations on your new show.

KEYES: Thank you.

Let me just put the ball in your court. I would assume that you think that the law that they have put in place is necessary and justified. Could you tell us a little bit why you think that is true?

ALLRED: Well, absolutely, Alan, and the reason is that all students, whether they are gay, lesbian, not gay or lesbian, are entitled to equal access to education in California.

But that equal access to education is substantially interfered with if they don't have a safe learning environment. And we all know there have been many studies done, and we just know anecdotally, that a lot students who are gay or lesbian are subjected to an unsafe environment in schools.

They are discriminated against. They are harassed. They are the victims of violence. They are the subject of homophobic jokes and slurs and graffiti and sometimes actual physical assaults. No student can learn in that kind of environment. That's why we need education, so that we can have a safer environment. Everyone will have the kind of respect for each other that they have a right to enjoy.

KEYES: I haven't heard a word in what you've said that as an objective I wouldn't agree with.

I guess the question, though, that is running through my mind is why can't we, based on several premises that have been universally true, I think, since the country began -- respect for the laws, respect for the constitution, respect for the principles . . .of the dignity of all human beings, inculcate in our students not the need to respect somebody because you approve or disapprove, agree with or respect their lifestyle or anything else, but just because that's a requirement of our citizenship, a requirement of our humanity? Isn't that kind of universal approach possible?

ALLRED: Well, we could do it -- I was a teacher for many years in public schools. In fact, I was a credentialed high school principal. It's a constant challenge to do it.

But the challenge is that people, that children, students who are gay or lesbian face really extraordinary challenges, and they are being victimized, many of them, on a daily basis. And as a result, they are often at higher risk. They are at higher risk in fact of suicide, of substance abuse, and of emotional problems. And the reason is because they are often under attack by students who are not gay and lesbian who will say things that are ignorant simply because nobody has tried to educate them to understand what it is to be a gay person, what it is to be a lesbian person, and how to treat them with respect.

So that's why we need to do a better job of educating them. And also, students who are gay and lesbian are often at higher risk of suicide because they feel isolated, because if they do come out, and they often do come out to their peers, then they are the target of attacks. So they're in a no-win situation. We have to do better for these students.

KEYES: One of the problems, though, that I have as I listen to you is that in order to avoid possible physical harm and other harm to this group of students, you are willing to inflict what, from the point of view of my faith and conscience, and that of many people in the country, is actual moral harm on students in the classroom, because according to the religious beliefs that I have been brought up with and inculcated with, the harm one does to the moral well being, to the soul, is actually greater than the harm and of greater significance than the harm that is done to the body.

Christ says that, and Christians are enjoined to believe it. So in order to avoid possible physical harm, one inflicts actual moral damage on students in the classroom and claims that this is not an infringement of religious belief and conscience. How can this be so?

ALLRED: You know, Alan, we often talk about the students who are the victims, that is, people who are gay and lesbian, but I want to also say that students who are not gay and lesbian who do the hating and who do the targeting of gay and lesbian persons and victimizing of them, are also being harmed, are also being damaged by the hatred that they inflict every day. And so I think we even have a duty to students who are bigoted, who are prejudiced, who have not been educated, to educate them, because they are being harmed by the hatred that they take to school every day.

KEYES: But the sad thing is in this particular case, that if someone is brought up in the moral belief that a certain form of sexual behavior is immoral and wrong, and disapproves of that behavior, acting in accordance with that belief, you have characterized it as bigotry, hatred and all, and it's nothing of the kind. It's simply morality. It's sexual morality and sexual responsibility according to their conscience.

What right does the government, through the school, in a government funded environment, with the backing and coercive authority of the state, have to dictate the path of conscience by which individuals achieve the result of becoming law-abiding people? That we must abide by the laws is true, but that we must accept as moral what religious conscience says to be immoral, in order to achieve that result, is a destruction of the free exercise of religion. How can an advocate of civil liberties advocate that destruction?

ALLRED: Because what I'm talking about is equal protection for all of our students. We could argue all day long what is moral and you do so very eloquently, although I may disagree with you. But what we're talking about is behavior, and however a person feels about another person, they are not entitled to hurt them in the workplace. And for students, their workplace is the school ground.

Those students are entitled to a safe learning environment. And students who are gay and lesbian are more likely to drop out if they are treated in this way in school. And we want them to continue to get an education, and the way we do that is to educate everybody, how to treat each other, and not to inflict harm on each other because of their sexual orientation or because of their race or because of their gender.

I'm proud of the California legislature. I'm proud of our school districts, that we are doing the job of education and not turning our back on students who are gay and lesbian.

KEYES: The great problem with what you said, and I heard it during the panel discussion as well, is that we start by saying we've got to each people to respect others, to respect everyone, and we end by saying we must inculcate in them acceptance for this group or that group. These two premises are not necessarily to be joined. One does not lead to the other. It is possible to teach people to respect each other out of respect for God, out of respect for the constitution, out of respect for the law, out of the respect for the principle of human dignity, which we all share to some degree, without getting into the question of whether you must accept their particular lifestyle, their particular sexual behavior, and approve of that and accept it as somehow morally equal to other things.

To get into that area, which goes beyond the requirement of universal respect and gets into the requirement of particular acceptance, then requires that we shock religious conscience, that we undermine the education that parents are trying to give to their children, that we interfere in the free exercise of religion in a way that in fact, in a fundamental sense, destroys the meaning of the First Amendment.

How, I say again, can a civil liberties advocate believe we should destroy the First Amendment in this way?

ALLRED: Well, I say, Alan, with all due respect, how can a person who talks about morality think it's OK for a student in a public school to have to go to school every day and be subjected to insults because he is gay or lesbian or perceived to be gay and lesbian even if he's not, be subjected to that?

What if an African-American went to school every day and was called racist names? How could they possibly study, keep their mind on the class and what their teacher is saying and do their homework, when they know they have to go back to school the next day and be harassed at their school in that way? It's enough to drive people to substance abuse. It's enough to drive people to suicide. To depression. And it's just very unfair. Our students deserve a supportive learning environment, and they're going to get it under this that law.

KEYES: The reason that I guess I feel kind of sad about what you're saying is that you seem to believe that it's necessary to destroy a fundamental liberty, religious freedom and the free exercise of religion, in order to achieve a goal that can in fact be achieved by other means that do not require this destruction.

The respect that we need to inculcate is not respect for people because they're homosexual or because they're black or because they're anything. We need to inculcate respect for people because they are human beings and because our principle requires, out of respect for law, that we not persecute other human beings, period. We don't have to go any further than that. And when the state does so, it is destroying the constitution and destroying the constitutional rights that conscience ought to enjoy in our country.

Gloria, thank you.

ALLRED: Thank you.

KEYES: Really appreciate the fact that you've joined us today and contributed, I think, to a lively discussion, helping to demonstrate that we can in fact have clear discussions where we talk and listen to each other, even on these sensitive topics.

I appreciate your coming. Thank you very much.

KEYES: We are talking about homosexuality. Tolerance or persecution? In California, as we have set the stage, they have passed a law that aims at trying to deal with the problem of violence against homosexuals by, as I put it, getting into the minds of the students to teach them more accepting attitudes of homosexuality, more respectful attitudes toward homosexuality.

The question, though, that I want to put on the table, front and center, and which I raised in the introduction, I think has been on the minds of folks reacting to this situation in California. It's very simple. Is it really the case that in order to assure that we don't have violence against individuals in the schools, we are going to have to let the state dictate the moral attitudes that children take or inculcate more attitudes that children will take toward the important topic of sexuality.

Here to help us look at that question in this segment, where we get together with "Folks Just Like You," is Chris Kelsey, a legal secretary from New Orleans, Kevin Christy, a government consultant, and Aaron Clemens, a law student at Georgetown University.

Let's start first with Kevin. Kevin, we are looking at this question. The stated purpose is to try to deal with violence. Now, the first question I have isn't really a question that has anything to do with homosexuality. It has a question to do with this. Is this the only way to deal with violence? I mean, we obviously have had the challenge of teaching our children not to go out beating people up and doing nasty things to people and so forth and so on over the course of many years in American history. Is the method, whereby we achieve this, a method that requires that they must be respectful and accepting of those people from where they are restraining themselves from violence? Is that a requirement?

KEVIN CHRISTY, GOVERNMENT CONSULTANT: I think it's most definitely a requirement that people restrain themselves from violence at any time.

KEYES: Yes, of course. That's not the question. The question was: In order to get them to restrain themselves from violence, must we each them to respect and appreciate the people that they are not doing violence to? Is that required?

CHRISTY: I think it is. I think you need to teach tolerance, and "you" is a very general term. Society needs to teach tolerance. And a lot of times, society's way of teaching tolerance has been in the home, and a lot of times nowadays it's not being done in the home. And a lot of schools are surrogate parents a lot of times, and so there is a moral obligation to teach moral values in school or at least...

(CROSSTALK)

KEYES: Let me try the question again. I'll try the question again with Aaron, because we're not quite there in terms of answering the question. Now, we can't get t the teaching of tolerance yet, because that's something that says, well, we must teach tolerance in order to prevent violence. And the question I am asking is a question about that premises. OK? Is it required that I respect somebody, and that I accept and approve of somebody in order for me to restrain myself from violence with respect to them? Is that a requirement? Is that necessary?

AARON CLEMENS, GEORGETOWN UNIV. LAW STUDENT: I think it is necessary, and I'll go back to how you said the government inoculcating students by trying to teach them that -- I don't think that's the best characterization of this. I think we are talking about being truthful with students about some ancient figures in history or some recent modern figures who are or were homosexual. And that truth is that they were homosexual, and they are figures that are very respected. And I think...

KEYES: But we're still evading the question. We want to get right into a discussion of homosexuality and so forth, and yet the law is not premised on that. The law is premised on a goal that says we want to reduce violence. We want to keep people from practicing violence, and it's based on the assumption that to do that, you must teach them to respect and accept these individuals.

(CROSSTALK)

KEYES: Wait, wait, let me get to Chris before we go. Is that a necessary premise, Chris?

CHRIS KELSEY, LEGAL SECRETARY: I don't think that's necessary. I think that when you are dealing with human beings, there are certain objective truths about dealing with each other that apply to everyone across the board, whether you are a homosexual or whether you are anti-abortion or whether you are a Christian or whether you are Islamic, and we need the universal approach, you know, a universal of human dignity and justice for all. And it's not a matter of inculcating someone's values. Or if your values are personally this way or personally that way, I don't see anyone giving fair time to, you know, pointing out Christian leaders of history or pointing out heterosexual leaders of history.

(CROSSTALK)

KEYES: Let me ask one question though, because I don't want to move on this until I am clear that we have understood it, because I have a question to ask. Drug dealers. I doubt that here are too many people in our society who think these people are good people. As a matter of fact, I think a lot of people have deep prejudices and animosities toward drug dealers who are selling poisons to people, destroying lives, undermining communities, introducing all kinds of nastiness and violence into the communities. I teach my children to disapprove of drug dealing, to disapprove of drug dealers, to shun the company of drug dealers, and not in any way to approve of or tolerate their behavior. But I also have successfully taught my children that it is not their right to do violence against drug dealers.

So the question I ask if with drug dealers and other folks too. As a matter of fact, there used to be a tradition in America, right, the wonderful old movies, where there were people convicted of murder and a lynch mob would be filled with passion to go out and string them up to the nearest tree, and the sheriff would stand there and talk them by reminding them of what? That we respect the law, and therefore even when we know somebody is guilty and they have committed a heinous crime, we don't do violence against them. It appears to be the case that you can actually restrain yourself from violence against people you don't like and don't approve of. So why is it necessary to teach tolerance?

CHRISTY: Well, I think that you have used two different terms in your -- two specific words that I have caught attention to in your question so far. You have put together respect and accept, and those are two very, very separate things. You should teach respect to your children that they should respect all people for the human dignity that everybody has. Whether or not you teach your children to accept people's choices in life, that's a very, very different thing, and by incorporating both terms into the question, you are definitely trying to weigh one way or the other, because you are...

KEYES: Oh, no, no, because...

CHRISTY: I think that you saying that California is teaching acceptance.

KEYES: ... I don't teach my children

CHRISTY: And it's not...

KEYES: I frankly don't teach my children to respect drug dealers. I don't teach my children...

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTY: ... of them being a person?

KEYES: ... to respect folks who consciously engage in immoral behavior. That's different. We are talking about drug dealers now. OK? My children are taught to respect all human beings.

CHRISTY: There you go, yes.

KEYES: Yes, but...

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTY: ... drug dealers.

KEYES: ... if that's will work, then why don't we use that in the schools? Why do we have to say that it's homosexuals or it's women or it's black people or it's this group or it's that group? You are telling me that the real basis is this universal sense of respect for the basic dignity of all human beings...

CHRISTY: Yes.

KEYES: ... why isn't that sufficient? Why do we need to go any further than
that?

CLEMENS: Well, you want to take the example of a lynch mob, I mean, the movie "Rosewood" covers some incidents in Florida, and I think you might be aware of this, where there were groups of whites who really hated blacks. They didn't see them as humans. They didn't see them in any positive sense. They thought they were merely, you know, still slaves, and that they -- any sort of rights that they had, they didn't have any rights. And so in order to get that mindset out of, I think, white America what has happened is there has been a lot of talk about and a lot of promotion of all of the great things that the African-Americans have done. Roger Wilkins talked about how African-Americans...

(CROSSTALK)

KEYES: Go ahead, Christy.

KELSEY: One thing that I find curious about singling gays out for protection against hate crimes or singling out blacks for affirmative action and things like that or ensuring diversity in a company is that you're constantly pigeonholing them as different. You're constantly pigeonholing them is different, whether you are enlightening people to their way of life and asking them to accept it, or whether you are counting how many blacks, how many women, how many, you know, in your company, that's diversity. There is something backwards there.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTY: But one thing that I think is interesting is that, again, I don't mean to pick on you, Alan. You are the host.

KEYES: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to be picked on.

CHRISTY: You can kick me on at any time. But I do think that even in your example, and I think where it shows that -- I had to push for you to say that you teach your children human dignity for all. I had to -- because you were singling out drug dealers that you don't have respect for.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTY: And I said that isn't there a respect for human dignity.

KEYES: Yes.

CHRISTY: And you said, "Yes."

KEYES: Yes, of course.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTY: ... human dignity for all. The same thing for homosexuals.

KEYES: But what that -- no, that's not true.

CHRISTY: You have to single out the fact.

KEYES: No, you don't.

(CROSSTALK)

KEYES: You didn't single anybody out. What you did was focus on the truth that according our principles, all human beings, even those who are guilty of crimes in prison, have a kernel of dignity that must be respected by everyone else, and that none of us have the right to take the law into our own hands and violence against others, even when we feel strongly disapproving of them. That's what you said. But the one thing...

CLEMENS: But people haven't got the message. People are still doing violence against homosexuals.

KEYES: Yes, OK. So because people haven't gotten the message of respect for law, we will now go forward in order to push against religious conscience and force them to accept as moral what their religious conscience says is immoral. What gives the state that right?

CLEMENS: Not religious conscience. We are talking about -- because no one's religious conscience -- don't tell me that you, as a Christian, think that religious conscience demands that you need to go out and beat homosexuals or degrade homosexuals.

KEYES: That's different.

CLEMENS: You have (UNINTELLIGIBLE) do you?

KEYES: I do have my religious conscience though does require that I disapprove of homosexuality...

CLEMENS: Yes.

KEYES: ... that I teach my children to disapprove of it, that I teach my children to shun the behavior and those who would seduce them into the behavior -- that all of those things are a necessary element of their conscience and of their adherence to their religious faith. So of course, I must teach my children those things. And that's precisely what this curriculum goes against.

CLEMENS: This curriculum doesn't prevent you from teaching your children that. You are still totally free to teach your children that you disapprove of homosexuality. But you're not free to teach your children that homosexuals are to be beaten and -- or to be...

KEYES: No, that is what they are doing. Go ahead, Chris.

KELSEY: Well, I think that this curriculum does a weird rationalization as objective truth, and I think that there are definite -- and I, you know, I live in New Orleans. I have a lot of homosexual friends. And there are some decide differences in homosexual sex vs. heterosexual sex. Now, we are perfectly accepting of each other. We love each other very much. But my homosexual friends will be the first to tell you that there are definite differences, objective truth-wise, and it's unfair for the school curriculum to come in and rationalize those truths away and denigrate marriage to make it even with de facto relationships.

KEYES: But the one point that I think, though, that we are in danger of missing here is that the state has the right to expect a result that we shall be law abiding and nonviolent and not do harm to other people. Our Constitution actually forbids the dictation of the path of conscience that produces that result. And if a school district or a state comes forward and says you must not do violence to this group, homosexuals, and in order to achieve that result, you must accept, you must accept our path of conscience for achieving that result, which is a path that says these are respectable, historical figures, these are behaviors that are just a different lifestyle and so forth. And they have books in the library that portray that. That is actually assaulting -- assaulting the moral beliefs of certain people and say in order to achieve the result of nonviolence, we must assault your religious faith, and we must subject your children to the persecution, which results from destroying their moral conscience in the light of their faith.

What right does the state have to persecute children in order to produce a result that can be produced without the persecution?

CHRISTY: Alan, when did the California schools become religious institutions? Because the last I checked, Pope John Paul wasn't teaching geography.

KEYES: They became religious institutions when they decided that they would teach an understanding of something like homosexuality that's contrary to the religious faith of folks who are being subject...

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTY: Religious faith has got nothing to do with secular education.

KEYES: I'm sorry, but religious faith has much to do with sexuality. It has never been denied in the course of history...

CHRISTY: Yes.

KEYES: ... that religions have the right to shape conscience with respect to sexual behavior. And if that is the case, and the state comes in and says what is directly contrary to what is being taught and inculcated to children in their religious faith, that is making war on faith, isn't it?

(CROSSTALK)

CLEMENS: Do you believe evolution also shouldn't be taught in schools, because that's contrary to your faith?

KELSEY: No, the evolution...

(CROSSTALK)

KEYES: The evolution issue is a different issue. No one has ever said that scientific truth is subject to religious dictation. But people have been clear that sexual ethics are subject to religious content. Chris?

KELSEY: Well, I think evolution and scientific truth will say that there is some decided differences between homosexuality and heterosexuality as far as survival of the fittest are concerned, because, you know, absent some artificial reproduction, absent some artificial reality sanctioned by the state, you can't even those two out. And that's why, yes, we have a...

CLEMENS: But they are not trying to pass a value judgment on a sexual behavior.

KELSEY: Well, they are passing their values...

KEYES: Hold it.

CLEMENS: No, the only...

KELSEY: They are.

CLEMENS: ... value judgment they are trying to pass is they are trying to let people know...

KELSEY: No they have passed a value judgment.

(CROSSTALK)

KEYES: I beg to differ.

CLEMENS: ... degrade

KELSEY: No.

KEYES: I beg to differ. When you say that you want to put in a curriculum of positive role models, respect for people in history who have been homosexuals...

CLEMENS: But the truth is there are homosexuals who have done great things.

KELSEY: But it's not...

(CROSSTALK)

KEYES: ... books in the library, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) are coming out in a positive way, No. They are teaching positive attitudes toward homosexuality in order to encourage nonviolence, and that means that they have decided that it's necessary to undo the religious education.

Thank you very much. That was lively. I knew it would be as it has been every night on this program in this segment. I am so pleased with all that the folks have brought who are not professional pundits and who just bring their heart and beliefs to our table here, and I want to thank you, Chris, Kevin, Aaron, for joining with me tonight.

KELSEY: Pleasure.

KEYES: And I hope you all had as an enlightening experience as I did. I appreciate it very much.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEYES: We've been talking tonight about whether or not, in order to avoid violence against gay and lesbians in the schools, we need to teach tolerance that might go against the religious conscience of many of the folks who are raising children sent to those same schools.

Now to see what's on your mind.

Let's go to Skip in Maryland. Welcome to MAKING SENSE.

SKIP: How you doing?

KEYES: Pretty good. What's on your mind?

SKIP: Well, I will tell you that first of all I'm a Christian, and second of all, I'm gay. And I have dealt with, all my life, throughout my school career, being harassed and beat on and thrown in lockers and thrown in the shower at gym, because I am gay.

They didn't know I was, but they assumed that I was.

I believe that public schools are for all the students, including the gay students, and I think that for someone to sit there and say that because I'm a Christian, I am morally against someone being gay, I think that's just wrong.

And I believe that...

(CROSSTALK)

KEYES: Skip -- I think that one of the problems is, regardless of what you and I may agree or disagree on about interpreting scriptures and what constitutes Christianity, in our society you don't have the right to dictate my conscience and I don't have the right to dictate yours. And if you use the money and coercive power of the state to dictate the conscience of my children to accept behavior that I believe, according to my religious authority, is immoral, then you are in fact breaking and destroying my free exercise of religion.

So I don't have the right, and I teach my children -- they shouldn't persecute you, but neither should you use the schools to persecute their conscience and their morality.

Let's go to Kenneth in Tennessee. Kenneth?

KENNETH: Hi, Alan. Good show.

KEYES: Hi. Thank you.

KENNETH: Well, I'm a homosexual student, and I believe homosexuals have been stigmatized, and I'd like to hear homosexual lifestyles discussed in respectful terms in classrooms across the U.S.

KEYES: Well, see, what you would like is not compatible with what the constitution in fact requires, because if, according to my religious conscience, what you have suggested is that people must be inculcated in immoral behavior, according to my faith and conscience, then to use the power of the state to impose your religious view as opposed to mine, in the schools, is a violation of fundamental rights, fundamental free exercise of religion, and that's what's going on here. And they say it's necessary to stop violence. No, it's not. I teach my children not to do violence against anyone. Anyone, because according to our principles in the Declaration of Independence, everybody has a dignity that comes from God.

It is not necessary to violate their moral conscience in order to produce that non-violent result.

Let's go Selwyn (ph) in New York. Welcome to MAKING SENSE.

SELWYN (ph): Hello. Good evening, ambassador.

KEYES: Hi.

SELWYN: Hi. I want to say that this modern version of tolerance will only lead to more violence. I think everyone is missing the point because you see, it's a philosophy that negates itself, because in their effort to make kids tolerant, they inculcate them with the idea that all values are equal. And if kids come to believe that, then they'll have to conclude logically, well, if all values are equal, what could possibly be wrong with persecuting people and beating them up?

KEYES: I think that in a way, what you say is a perfect illustration of what I have been trying to say about the way I bring up my own children. They are taught to respect God, and God requires, one, that they respect all human beings, that they don't persecute or do violence to or engage in meanness to, but in fact act out of a heart of love toward all. And it also requires that they shun immoral behavior with respect to sexual things. Because they accept the disciplining authority of faith, they are free from violence. But if you free them from that disciplining authority, violence could run rampant.

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