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Two Christian churches say event promotes homosexuality

Posted: Tuesday, September 24, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- Two Christian churches are asking school district administrators to make some changes in a high school event aimed at increasing tolerance of homosexuals.

The Juneau churches, Chapel By the Lake and Auke Bay Bible Church, have sent a letter requesting the Day of Silence event be broadened to a Day of Respect that would take the focus off gay students.

But student organizers at Juneau-Douglas High School say that would defeat the event's purpose.

''The Day of Silence is a national day and we don't want the purpose diluted,'' said Coryjean Whittemore, 16, who organized the event last year and spoke at the high school site council meeting Thursday.

Principal Deb Morse said she wanted input from the Juneau School Board before making a decision. The board's next meeting is Oct. 1.

Last April, at least 140 high school students participated in the first Juneau Day of Silence by taking a daylong oath of silence to demonstrate the silence gays and lesbians must practice to avoid discrimination.

Though most students supported the event, a few pulled down event posters, and others passed out ''straight pride'' flyers, organizers said.

The Day of Silence is a 6-year-old national event sponsored by the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network. According to the national Day of Silence Web site, www.dayofsilence.org, 100,000 students participated last year.

Chapel by the Lake, an evangelical Presbyterian church, and Auke Bay Bible Church, a nondenominational born-again Christian church, last year also asked in a letter that the event be changed. The churches proposed that students could wear ribbons and put up posters for their own ethnic, religious, or environmental causes. Several dozen church members signed the letters.

Pastor Tim Frega of Auke Bay Bible Church, which has about 300 members, thinks the Day of Silence focuses on a lifestyle choice that is immoral. He said that people who call his church homophobic are being biased against Christian views.

''We've got people being intolerant of our intolerance. Where will it end?'' he asked.

Steve Olmstead, pastor of the 400-person congregation at Chapel By The Lake, said the church's governing body had not been unanimous about sending the letter, which was forwarded to it by members of Auke Bay Bible Church.

Openly gay pastors may be ordained in the Presbyterian Church, but they may not practice homosexuality by engaging in a relationship, Olmstead said. There also are openly homosexual members of the church's congregation.



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