Sutter students shun gay activist's speech on Bible
Three Sutter Union High School students were part of a group of about 100 Christian teenagers who walked out on a profanity-laced speech in Seattle by columnist and gay rights advocate Dan Savage.
"We can learn to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about gay people," Savage told the high school students. "The same way we have learned to ignore the bullshit in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about masturbation."
Savage's comments were made April 13 at the National High School Journalist Convention in Seattle. The semi-annual convention was sponsored by the National Scholastic Press Association and the Journalism Education Association.
Convention officials on Monday apologized for the speech, saying it was "not what our organizations expected."
"NSPA and JEA consider Mr. Savage's use of harsh language and profanity to be inappropriate and offensive to many in attendance," the groups said in a joint press release. "Ridicule of others' faith has no place in our programs, any more than ridicule of the LGBT community would."
The controversial author of "Savage Love" and founder of the "It Gets Better Project" was addressing anti-gay bullying to a crowd of about 2,800 high school students.
Savage went on to call the Bible "a radically pro-slavery document" and referred to the walkout as "pansy-assed."
Sutter High English and yearbook instructor Rick Tuttle took six yearbook students to the three-day conference and said three Yuba-Sutter teens joined the exodus, which has since received national media attention.
"We expected it to be about how student publications can promote anti-bullying programs on campus," Tuttle said. "So we were surprised when it suddenly became clear it was not about that, but just a hostile torrent of obscenities and foul language that was completely inappropriate for a high school student audience and highly unprofessional."
In his blog Sunday, Savage apologized for his "pansy" comment, but stood by his biblical commentary.
"I did not attack Christianity," Savage wrote. "I attacked hypocrisy. My remarks can only be read as an attack on all Christians if you believe all Christians are hypocrites. Which I don't believe."
Tuttle said he "fully supported" his students' right to walk out and said he believes the Sutter students that stayed would have walked out also, but may have been intimidated.
Video of the incident posted on YouTube shows the vast majority of the students supported and applauded Savage's remarks.
National reaction to Savage's comments has been a mix of condemnation from religious conservatives who say liberal attacks on Christianity are too common, to support from gay-rights advocates who say the Bible has been used to justify discrimination against homosexuals.
Fallout from the speech came just nine days before Utah teenager Jack Reese took his own life after reportedly being subjected to anti-gay bullying at school, according to national media reports.
Tuttle noted the irony of Savage speaking out against bullies while "singling out a particular group of people to attack."
The Sutter teacher said, "He was literally at the bully pulpit acting like a bully."
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