'Ex-Gay' Group Charges NEA With Discrimination

July 7, 2008 - 8:04 PM

(CNSNews.com) - A group representing people who have renounced homosexuality has filed a complaint with the District of Columbia Office of Human Rights for alleged discrimination by the National Education Association.

The Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, or PFOX, said the NEA discriminated against the group at the association's annual conventions when it refused to allow PFOX to set up booths in the exhibit halls.

"They most definitely are discriminating," said Regina Griggs, executive director of PFOX. "They will not allow another voice. They literally have silenced ex-gay schoolteachers and members of their own unions, as well as our organization."

PFOX leaders asked for space at the 2002 NEA convention in Dallas and the 2003 NEA convention in New Orleans.

PFOX sought to get across a message of tolerance for people who renounced homosexuality and provide services to young people who may be questioning their sexuality. At its conventions, the NEA allows groups that support homosexuality to distribute literature and videos, PFOX officials said.

Initially, the NEA told PFOX the exhibit space was completely sold out. This came two months after the NEA's exhibit vendor cashed the PFOX application check for $550, PFOX officials said. Moreover, other organizations were accepted after PFOX was denied, they said.

Applying for this year's convention in New Orleans, PFOX leaders were simply told their application would not be accepted, and their initial application check was refunded, officials said.

Angetta McQueen, a spokeswoman for the NEA, responded to a CNSNews.com inquiry.

"The National Education Association is a private organization. We reserve the right to select exhibitors at our events," McQueen said in an e-mail.

PFOX filed a complaint over a year ago with the Office of Human Rights, and a PFOX board member met with the Human Rights Commission and legal counsel for the NEA, Griggs said.

A ruling in the case could come at any time. Calls to the Human Rights Commission were not returned at press time.

Dr. Warren Throckmorton, a PFOX supporter and an associate professor of psychology at Grove City College in western Pennsylvania, said the issue essentially was one of fairness.

"If the schools and the NEA are going to talk about sexual orientation and sexuality, then the schools should be fair and allow all points of view to be discussed and to allow educators to hear all points of view.

"And the PFOX message is that people can change their sexuality, that they can come out of homosexuality if that is their value and that's what they chose to do," he said.

Students don't have to identify themselves as homosexual just because they may have same-sex feelings, Throckmorton said.

PFOX insists it is not religiously based and therefore cannot be discriminated against on religious grounds.

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