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Why Not Ask Presidential Candidates to Say When Schoolchildren Should Be Exposed to Stories About Divorce?

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If anyone wants fresh evidence of just how far the religious right has warped political discourse in this country, consider the first question that Allison King of New England Cable News put to all three leading Democratic candidates for president last Wednesday night:

"Last year some parents of second-graders in Lexington, Massachusetts, were outraged to learn that their children's teacher had read a story about same-sex marriage, about a prince who marries another prince.
"Same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts but most of you oppose it. Would you be comfortable having this story read to your children as part of their school curriculum?"

I've got several things to say about this question.

First of all, it has no place in a debate among candidates for the presidency of the United States. Just in case anyone needs reminding, the Constitution puts STATES in charge of public education. Neither the president nor the Senate nor the Congress has any right to say what schoolchildren should learn or when they should learn it. Yes, I know very well that for years the federal government has used federal funds to get its own way with public school curricula (No Curriculum Left Untouched), but in my view that's an abuse of federal authority.

Secondly, the first and most important source of moral guidance for a child is his or her parent or guardian. If a parent or guardian has failed to provide that guidance, the school can't do it alone. And if a child has a question about ANYTHING new that he or she has learned at school -- in or out of the classroom -- that's a great opportunity for a conversation at home. Any child who can be morally uindermined by a story about two gay princes is not ready for school -- and probably never will be.

Thirdly, the right place for this question is at a meeting of parents and teachers in Lexington, Massachusetts.

But let's get to real reason for this question. Its none-too-subtle aim is to keep pushing ALL candidates for the presidency -- whether Democratic or Republican -- to the right. Its real aim is to ask each candidate, "How much of the gay agenda do you buy? How much of it should be shoved into the minds and hearts of little children? And will or will you not pledge, right here and now, to join the fight against gay marriage?"

Here's my answer to that question, or rather to all so-called "Christian" conservatives who denounce gay marriage. In the New Testament, Christ says not one word about gays, but he unequivocally condemns divorce. "What God has joined together," he said, "man must not try to separate. . . . Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against his former wife, and if a woman divorces her husband and marries another man, she is an adulteress" (Mark 2:91-12). So here's what I say to James Dobson and his sanctimonious pals: if you're really Christian conservatives fighting for family values, why aren't you calling for the criminalization of divorce -- and adultery too, while you're at it?

The answer is very simple. You know very well that you'll never succeed in criminalizing divorce because too many "normal" people want the freedom to get out of marriages they don't like, not to mention getting into the beds of people they do. So in order to pose as the heroic defenders of an institution that somehow co-exists -- miraculously! -- with widespread divorce, you demonize gay marriage as the ultimate threat to traditional marriage: a threat that must be stamped out by nothing less than a Constitutional Amendment.

Come now. Though thousands of children suffer every year from the breakup of their parents' marriages, has gay marriage ever hurt a single child, or wrecked a single heterosexual marriage? Have you ever overheard a woman saying to her husband, "Oh my God, Harry, two gay men are moving in next door! This is the end for us! Goodbye!"

That's the REAL fairy story. Right up there with the lovely old song, "Some day my amendment will come."

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