Exodus International’s Day of Truth is a campaign to oppose students and faculty — especially in public schools — who oppose anti-gay bullying.

For 13 years, the Day of Silence has encouraged students and faculty to end the silent tolerance of antigay violence. This year, Days of Silence are planned on or around April 17. Several thousand schools across the United States have established anti-bullying programs to stop the harassment of minority students, including gay youth.

Exodus has yet to endorse a single antibullying program. Not one.

The Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network, which coordinates Day of Silence vigils, explains why antiviolence programs are necessary:

GLSEN’ 2007 National School Climate Survey found that 9 out of 10 LGBT students report verbal, sexual or physical harassment at school and more than 30% report missing at least a day of school in the past month out of fear for their personal safety. The Day of Silence helps bring us closer to making anti-LGBT bullying, harassment and name-calling unacceptable in America’ schools.

GLSEN encourages participating students not to be unnecessarily disruptive:

GLSEN advises all students to secure school permission for the event. We believe that such support is critical for many reasons. We encourage students in those schools where support is unlikely to build campaigns to try and secure that support or work with their administration on compromises of activities the school will allow. We also encourage students to identify events and ways to participate outside of the school.

If your administration does not support an official Day of Silence event there are alternative activities that you can engage in. Please refer to: “Tips for the Last Minute Organizer or Those Whose Administration Has Said No” [PDF].

Exodus, unfortunately, refuses to acknowledge that antigay violence is a serious problem for U.S. schools.

Instead, Exodus grossly mischaracterizes those who oppose antigay violence in schools. According to Exodus Youth:

The Day of Silence is a national program of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which asks students to remain silent for an entire day to express their support for the promotion of the homosexual agenda in the public schools.

In Exodus’ view, it seems, anyone who stands firmly and unconditionally against antigay violence and harassment is guilty of “promotion of the homosexual agenda.”

Exodus — and its ally in the project, the fundamentalist legal-attack group Alliance Defense Fund — assert that organized, explicit, and unconditional opposition to violence is un-Christian. What is Christian, in their view? Sadly, they appear to consider it a Christian mandate to verbally harass gay youth and the friends of gay youth at the same time that these youths are opposing school inaction against violence. They also affirm conservative evangelical conversion of gay youth in public schools, even when the youths are already Christian or when they and their families are members of minority faiths. Finally, they encourage hostile faculty to coerce gay youths to seek help from discredited and disreputable ex-gay counselors — again, regardless of the wishes of the youths’ families. And if schools seek to limit antigay harassment in order to ensure that gay youths can learn like everyone else, then Exodus and its ADF lawyers recommend:

If a principal, teacher or someone else in authority asks you to stop, ask them graciously to check with a supervisor first. If this does not resolve the issue or the school official persists in confronting you, stop immediately and call 1-800-TELL-ADF so that we can resolve the situation quickly.

The Day of Truth is, in short, has nothing to do with clearing up misinformation in schools regarding homosexuality — misinformation that is deliberately created by religious-rightist bigots in the first place. Nor does the Day of Truth foster understanding or support for so-called “ex-gays.”

The DOT is a lobbying day for religious-right trial lawyers who proclaim a supposed right of conservative Christians to harass gay youths, their family members, and youths from minority religious backgrounds — throughout school hours, on school property. It also encourages conservative Christians to ignore the physical violence that occurs around them; to make any reduction in violence conditional upon unilateral acceptance of antigay and anti-minority bigotry; and to misuse religion to incite violence and ostracism against members of minority social and religious demographics, including Christians who affirm or tolerate same-gender attraction.

Of Exodus’ Day of Truth, GLSEN observes:

Those who do not support the Day of Silence often protest, but rarely contribute positively to finding ways to end anti-LGBT harassment. Some individuals and groups organize events in response to the Day of Silence. These events grossly mischaracterize or simply misunderstand the basic purpose of the Day of Silence. Bringing attention to these events only adds a false credibility to their misinformation about the Day of Silence, GLSEN and the thousands of American students taking action on April 17th. If you face hostile students or organizations in your school on the Day of Silence remember to remain calm. We encourage you to not get into a debate, make gestures, and certainly not to get into a physical altercation. If you continue to be harassed, we encourage you to contact your GSA advisor or other ally school staff person.

Until Exodus and its religious-right allies unconditionally oppose antigay violence — until they renounce their implicit support for harassment and bullying in the United States and their public support for antigay vigilantism, imprisonment, and murder from Jamaica to Nigeria to Russia to Uganda — there remains a compelling need for Days of Silence to stand vigil over those who equate violence with “Truth.”

Days of Silence seek to restore schools as a safe learning place for all students, regardless of orientation or choice of religion.

Exodus’ Day of Truth seeks to turn schools into centers of harassment and relentless fundamentalist ex-gay proselytization.