By Daniel Rubin-Marx, SIECUS Program Research Intern
Anti-bullying and gay rights activist Dan Savage has recently come under fire for comments he made at a Seattle high school during a convention of the National Scholastic Press Association.1 NSPA represents secondary school publications such as student newspapers, whose viewpoints matter for school-based sexuality education. Savage, known for his blunt, bordering-on-aggressive statements regarding right-wing policies and conservative beliefs, told the assembly that people should "ignore the bulls**t in the Bible" regarding sexual orientation, since many of them already ignore Biblical rules surrounding shellfish consumption or wearing different types of fabric simultaneously. Immediately following his remarks, many students walked out of the auditorium in a huff.2
This incident is not the first encounter Savage has had with controversy and opposition. The Parents Television Council (PTC), which evaluates television programs to determine their effect on children and teens, has criticized Savage's own Savage U television series for its content. The show follows a question-and-answer format, and includes visits to college campuses where Savage talks graphically with students about many sexuality topics – causing the PTC to condemn the show as a "campaign to promote promiscuity on college campuses."3
The Seattle incident did not end with the statement and a simple walk-out. As students exited the room, Savage continued to escalate tensions by observing, "It's funny, as someone who's on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible, how pansy-a**ed some people react when you push back." This antagonized many more in the audience; conservative attorney and columnist Matt Barber did not hesitate in giving his opinion on the outcry. "Never again will this guy be taken seriously as an anti-bullying crusader...Savage launched into an unhinged anti-Christian diatribe [at the convention].4
Although he later apologized for his bluntness at the assembly, Savage maintained that he stands by his message: that he was criticizing not Christianity, but the hypocrisy of those who use the Bible as as evidence for certain beliefs and not others.
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1 Web site, National Scholastic Press Association: <http://www.studentpress.org/nspa/>.
2Sheila Marikar, "Dan Savage Accused of Bullying, Promoting Promiscuity," ABC News, 1 May 2012, accessed 19 June 2012, <http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/entertainment/2012/05/dan-savage-accused-of-bullying-promoting-promiscuity/>.
3Kim LaCapria, "Dan Savage's 'Anti-Christian' Comments Draw Ire of Censorship Groups, Is Accused of Bullying," FortyTwoTimes, 30 April 2012, accessed 19 June 2012, <http://www.fortytwotimes.com/2935/dan-savages-anti-christian-comments-draw-ire-of-censorship-groups-is-accused-of-bullying/>.
4Mark Kernes, "Wingers Target the Only REAL Sex Education Series on TV," AVN, 15 June 2012, accessed 19 June 2012, <http://news.avn.com/articles/Wingers-Target-the-Only-REAL-Sex-Education-Series-on-TV-478639.html>.