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April 30, 2012 Print

GOProud: Sex Columnist Dan Savage Owes Students an Apology

by Karla Dial

Editor’s Note: The following story and video link reference a speech containing ed extremely offensive language. We’ve edited out the foul words in the text, while giving the reader a sense of what was said, but the video is not ours to edit.

The leaders of a national gay-activist group on Saturday called for syndicated sex-advice columnist Dan Savage to apologize to students he offended during an obscenity-laced tirade on the Bible at a high school journalism conference earlier this month.

Approximately 100 students walked out on Savage’s speech at the National Scholastic Press Association/Journalism Education Association conference after he digressed from the speech he was supposed to be giving about bullying, and instead began telling attendees how they should “learn to ignore all the (expletive) in the Bible.”

Toward the end of his three-and-a-half minute rant, Savage advises the remaining students that they can “tell the Bible guys in the hall they can come back now because I’m done beating up the Bible. It’s funny, as someone who’s on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible, how pansy-(expletive) some people react when you push back.”

After CitizenLink covered the story on April 18, Fox News blogger Todd Starnes picked it up, and the video began going viral. That prompted GOProud, a political gay-activist group, to condemn Savage’s comments.

“The language, the tone and the manner in which he chose to address the issue was out of line and disrespectful,” Executive Director Jimmy LaSalvia told CitizenLink today. “The disdain that he showed by using the language he did toward the Bible showed a fundamental disrespect for that document. While he may have different interpretations of things, he should be able to civilly and thoughtfully discuss that. Frankly, I don’t think the issue he was discussing — bullying in schools — has anything to do with the Bible to begin with.”

LaSalvia pointed out that in the two weeks since the incident took place, GOProud is the only gay-activist organization to call Savage out on his behavior.

“Everyone should take this as a lesson: Whatever your issue is, dealing with people in a civil and thoughtful way is the most productive way,” he said. “I happen to think bullying in schools is a problem, and especially anti-gay bullying is a problem. I happen to think we should be talking more about school choice and homeschooling options for parents who live in areas where their kids are not safe in schools. But (Savage’s) approach has taken all those discussions off the table, and now we’re talking about his cussing and his name-calling.”

In response, Savage — whose “It Gets Better” campaign is supported by the Obama administration — released a tepid apology on his blog Sunday, asking for grace for his choice of words, but not his sentiments. “I did not attack Christianity,” Savage wrote. “I attacked hypocrisy.”

The National Scholastic Press Association was more abject in an apology posted on its website today.

“NSPA and JEA consider Mr. Savage’s use of harsh language and profanity to be inappropriate and offensive to many in attendance. This is not what our organizations expected. In his attempt to denounce bullying, Mr. Savage belittled the faith of others—an action that we do not support. Ridicule of others’ faith has no place in our programs, any more than ridicule of the LGBT community would,” administrators wrote.

“Student journalism, like professional journalism, is built on the foundation of free speech. It should not shy away from controversial topics and viewpoints. But it should promote and engage in civil discourse. Mr. Savage’s speech fell short of that standard, and for this our organizations apologize.”

Watch the video of Dan Savage’s speech at the NSPA/JEA annual high school convention, in which the faces of many of the 100 students who walked out of the auditorium in disgust can be seen. This is unedited and contains profanities.

Send a polite note to the National Scholastic Press Association to express your thoughts on the issue.