LGBT youth

Gay students forced to read Bible verses, which offers media chance to bash town in Oregon

Gay students forced to read Bible verses, which offers media chance to bash town in Oregon

The Oregon coast is one of the tourism wonders of our country with its misty capes, baying sea lions, dusky brown sand, pods of grey whales and majestic basalt rock formations a few dozen feet into the surf. About midway down its Pacific coastline is the town of Coos Bay, not far from the North Bend School District.

Who knew that this quiet, rural place hid a dark secret? On Wednesday, the New York Times ran a story that had been percolating for more than a week but which had surprisingly gotten no coverage from media in Portland.

It involves a public school, a lawsuit, the Bible and LGBTQ students.

In the hallways of a rural Oregon high school, gay and lesbian students were taunted with homophobic slurs. In the cafeteria, students pelted a transgender student with food. And when gay and lesbian students got into trouble, the school’s principal assigned a specific punishment just for them: readings from the Bible.

Students detailed those allegations in recent state investigative reports into the North Bend School District, a coastal area about 100 miles north of California. In the reports, gay and lesbian high school students described years of harassment and bigotry from school employees and other students, and a deeply religious culture that silenced their complaints.

The two reports, completed in March by an investigator in the Oregon Department of Education and made public this month, found that top officials in North Bend had for at least the past two school years fostered hostile conditions for gay and lesbian students, hesitated to intervene after reports of sexual harassment and retaliated against a school counselor who had cooperated with the state investigation.

Let's pause for a moment.

Having lived and reported out of Oregon -- for more than eight years at one point -- I know that this state is one of the most irreligious states in America. Gallup polls bear me out. So, there’s this “deeply religious culture” lurking just southwest of the ultra-liberal college town of Eugene?

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Young, gay Mormons and suicide: The Salt Lake Tribune tries to do the real numbers

Young, gay Mormons and suicide: The Salt Lake Tribune tries to do the real numbers

It was one of the odder headlines I’ve seen lately: "Suicide fears, if not actual suicides, rise in wake of Mormon same-sex policy."

Underneath is a narrative of how last fall’s announcement of a revised policy on membership requirements for gay Mormons may have vastly increased Utah suicides.

After seven paragraphs came the whopper: The premise behind the story has no basis in fact. But it sounded true. It may still be true. Lots of observers think it's true.

We've heard this before: Truthiness strikes again. We can debate the facts later.

It’s not the way I would have written such a piece, but it does draw you in. You almost have to read the entire overture up to the clincher paragraph to see how it is done. Here’s how it starts:

The fears were there right from the start -- that the LDS Church's new policy on same-sex couples would make gay Mormons feel more judged, more marginalized, more misunderstood and that more of them would take their own lives.
Since early November -- when the edict labeling gay LDS couples as "apostates" and denying their children baptism until age 18 took hold -- social media sites have been buzzing with tales of loss, depression and death. Therapists have seen an uptick in clients who reported suicidal thoughts. Activists have been bombarded with grief-stricken family members seeking comfort and counsel.
Wendy Williams Montgomery, an Arizona-based Mormon mom with a gay son, says she began receiving email or Facebook messages from bereaved families nearly daily, mourning a loved one's suicide.

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