Commentary

New LGBTQ Law All About Tolerance, Not Religion

By LLOYD ROSS | Sep 25, 2019

S-1569, which Gov. Murphy signed into law on Jan. 31, is a state law requiring every school district to “include instruction and adopt instructional materials that accurately portray political, economic, and social contributions of persons with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.” The law will take effect during the 2020-2021 school year, and is designed to simply build an inclusive and affirming environment for LGBTQ children so that these children are less likely to be bullied.

Both the suicide rate and bullying of LGBTQ children are extremely high in New Jersey schools, and this bill is designed to simply provide some emotional and academic support to build an inclusive and affirming environment for LGBTQ children.

If you have an LGBTQ child in your family, the new law may be the difference between that child living and committing suicide. This small change in the curriculum is not going to take away any parental rights, nor is it going to teach children to be gay or transgendered. It simply attempts to teach that all people, including LGBTQ children, are worthy of dignity and respect, and it may put a dent in their continued bullying.

The law has nothing at all to do with religious freedom. Because divisiveness and hating others have become commonplace in our society, this legislation is simply an attempt to help students to understand the importance of tolerance and equality. I guarantee that if you learn the history of some gay or transgender person who contributed to our society, you will not turn into one, and LGBTQ history is very much a part of American history.

Barnegat Mayor Alfonso Cirulli publicly stated from the mayor’s chair that LGBTQ rights are an affront to God. He said the LGBTQ community was “out to crush anyone who does not embrace their lifestyle.” He went on to say, “For people of faith, this is an affront to almighty God, and they are trying to eradicate God’s law and the foundation this country was built on. The Bible tells us they will try but not succeed, and they will pay the eternal price for their rebellion. For politicians passing righteous laws, you will be held accountable. And those who support those politicians, you also will be held accountable.” Cerulli ended with a call for “all God-fearing people to organize” and “the future of the nation is at stake.”

Sounding like an evangelical minister, this man has made Barnegat Township look like “Bigot-town” of America. Mayor Cirulli went on to say that the state “has no right to interfere with someone’s religious upbringing.” He said, “Everyone has the right to live the way they want to live.”

Mr. Cirulli is totally wrong. The state passed laws against bigamy even though a religion supported it. We have also passed laws opposing the actions of the Ku Klux Klan, even though they call themselves “Christians.” Some religions support a parent’s right to beat his or her children.

However, in America, if you do that you go to jail and lose custody of your children. In America, Mr. Mayor, the government does have a right to regulate how you morally and physically raise your children.

Both elected and appointed government officials must separate their personal views from their governmental functions, where you represent all of your constituents, not just those of your religious belief.

Mr. Mayor, you quote Bible verses to support your views. What’s great about the Bible is it can mean whatever you want it to mean. In America, 250 years ago, both slave holders and abolitionists not only used the same Bible to argue their opposite viewpoints, they used the exact same version to argue their opposite viewpoints. It’s about who reads it, not about what it says.

For example, look at the phrase “Jesus loves you.” It’s a nice gesture in church, but a horrific thing to hear in a Mexican prison. Based upon what you state, Mr. Mayor, it means that neo-Nazis, The Proud Boys and assorted white supremacists also have the right to opt out of black history or Holocaust studies.

The one thing that stands out to me, a two-time graduate of a Catholic university, is that Jesus taught love and acceptance, not hate. You are entitled to your beliefs, no matter how biased they are, but you are not entitled to conflate your religion and your sworn oath not to bring your religion into your public service. Believe what you want, but keep it out of your public service. If you cannot do that, then resign.

Eighteen years ago, my wife and I bought a house on a lagoon in Barnegat that was eventually destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. We then had a house built in the community. With Mayor Cirulli’s comments, we now feel like we live in Alabama, not New Jersey.

While I am shocked and disappointed to hear Mr. Cirulli’s personal beliefs, he certainly has a right to them. As an elected official, Cirulli took an oath to separate his religious views from his job as mayor. By preaching his biases from the public dais, he has violated his oath of office. His statements from the public dais are the words of a bigot. To make matters worse, Deputy Mayor John Novak verbalized support of Mayor Cirulli’s bigotry, and the remainder of the town council just sat there in cowardly silence.

Mr. Mayor, you state that the LGBTQ community “was out to crush everyone who does not embrace their lifestyle.” Children who identify as LGBTQ experience a great deal of bullying and have disproportionately high rates of substance abuse, homelessness and suicide. Ocean County has one of the highest rates of drug abuse in New Jersey. I think it’s about time that you and this council try to address the real problems in this town rather than create a meaningless distraction out of your own head. If that’s not possible, you must turn over the town government to those who can, or at least who are willing to try.

Lloyd Ross of Barnegat has a doctorate in clinical psychology.

 

 

 

 

 

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