Kind of a ramble

As a teenager, I got into a fight with the Religious Right. The Merrimack school board went God on us, and started doing crazy stuff. Things got messy. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say on the topic:

In recent years, Merrimack has also been a battleground of sorts for the Gay Rights and school prayer movements in New Hampshire and nationwide. In the mid-1990’s, led by a conservative majority, the Merrimack School Board passed a series of school regulations banning what they called “Homosexual Acts and Homosexual Materials” in the school district and mandating a district-wide daily “Moment of silence“. Banned actions included same-sex hand holding and hugging. Banned materials included any literature written by purported homosexuals. Merrimack erupted into a firestorm of political debate, bringing the town into the forefront of the growing debate over homosexuality in the U.S. The scandal culminated in months of dramatic regionally televised school board meetings, student-led walkouts, and a national news special. Today, the district still observes a daily moment of silence, but the bans on homosexuality have been all but forgotten.[3]

As you can imagine, the ‘live free or die’ types didn’t like this very much. Our parents held large meetings in their homes to discuss how to fight the board or support it. Any public event became polarized, with knots of people looking askance at one another. Whose hand did you shake? Who did you ignore? Were you with side A or side B?

I was into it. I argued the topics all the time. I coughed or dropped things during the moment of silence. I interviewed the school board members on their opinions on a variety of sensitive topics, and published their responses verbatim in the school newspaper right before an election, trying to give the jerks the rope required to hang themselves. I imagine I alienated a lot of people without realizing it, but hey. It really bugged me.

Why do I bring this up? I ran across the issue today as I read this page on banned books. Good old Merrimack.

The concept of book banning was one of the many that pissed me off back then. The very term got my blood boiling. What I realize now is that is a high school strikes a book from its curriculum because it contains a swear word or a sex scene, it’s not that big of a deal. We can always go to the public library and get it, or the book store.

Now, if a book is removed from the curriculum because it was written by a homosexual? That’s a real problem.

Overall, I’m glad I ran across this reminded of my hometown’s past (and present) today. While my juvenile fervor may have subsided a little, topics of public school literature curricula and school prayer still get a rise out of me.

3 replies on “Kind of a ramble”

I loved the Moment of Silence. It was three minutes allotted to me by the school board to fantasize about my girlfriend.

Thank you Chris, Shelly, and Ginny!

Good god…that was an embarassing time to be from Merrimack. I was on campus my freshman year in college (in Upstate NY, mind you) when someone came up to me and ask “Hey – Merrimack’s your hometown, right?” and showed me an article about the Religious Right shennanigans in MMK from the New York Times – his Philosophy prof had incorporated Merrimack into a homework assignment. Ugh.

The Shelly/Ginny/Chris Board actually enacted a ruled that school staff couldn’t discuss homosexuality in, say, the Health Dept. curriculum. Okay, pretty standard Religious Right silliness. But they even (can you believe this???) mandated that if a kid in crisis regarding his/her sexuality went to a teacher/counselor for advice/resources, the staff member couldn’t even give him/her the phone number to a hotline for GLBTQ youth. As a suicide prevention measure. [sigh]

I think that’s why I’m a social worker today. Chris Agar pissed me off into a career.

I remember the ruling well. I swear they were going for the most ludicrous actions possible so that when they had to negotiate down from them, they would be more likely to end up with some victory.

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