Friday, January 21, 2005

Much Ado about SpongeBob

He lives in a pineapple under the sea. And, apparently, he is teaching kids to be gay. Or at least that's what the media is saying Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family is saying.

To be fair to Dr. Dobson, that isn't really what he said.

From the outset, let's be clear that this issue is not about objections to any specific cartoon characters. Instead, Dr. Dobson is concerned that these popular animated personalities are being exploited by an organization that's determined to promote the acceptance of homosexuality among our nation's youth.

The flap is over a video produced by the We Are Family Foundation, which features many children's characters from a wide spectrum of shows and distributors, including Sesame Street, Barney, Bear in the Big Blue House, Arthur, Rugrats, Kim Possible, Lilo & Stitch, and many, many, more, including Mr. Squarepants. According to the We Are Family Foundation, the purpose of the video is:

to promote tolerance and diversity to America's children. The video, which demonstrates to children the importance of togetherness embodied in the word “family”, will be distributed to 61,000 public and private elementary schools in the United States on March 11, 2005, in celebration of the proposed National We Are Family Day.

The problem Dr. Dobson has with the video?

While some of the goals associated with this organization are noble in nature, their inclusion of the reference to "sexual identity" within their "tolerance pledge" is not only unnecessary, but it crosses a moral line.

Okay, so let's take a look at the Tolerance Pledge in question. In part, it says:

To help keep diversity a wellspring of strength and make America a better place for all, I pledge to have respect for people whose abilities, beliefs, culture, race, sexual identity or other characteristics are different from my own.

With all due respect to Dr. Dobson, what's the problem here? This isn't promoting a "homosexual agenda" and it isn't saying you have to agree with gay people or accept their lifestyle as moral. It simply says you will treat people who are different with respect. Why is that a bad thing?

In looking into this a little deeper, the real problem is that this all started over a mistake. It seems that there is another organization called We Are Family that is specifically a gay/lesbian advocacy group. World Net Daily posted an article that originally stated, "While the video is not specifically about homosexuality, it's producer, the We Are Family Foundation, has the primary purpose of 'fighting homophobia,' according to its website." Clearly this refers to the wrong organization! World Net Daily has since updated the article with a reference to the correct organization, but still, you have to wonder if the mistake hadn't been made in the first place, would the "Tolerance Pledge" be enough to bring out the wrath of Focus on the Family? Is it all just a mistake for which they refuse to apologize, or is that "Tolerance Pledge" something they really see as an insidious threat to children? Since when did respect, even with people we don't agree with, become such a bad thing to teach children?

As for the video itself? It's completely innocuous. Lots of favorites from children's shows singing about being family. Not a hint of anything remotely connected to sexual orientation. You can view the actual video here, but you do have to wade through a biased commentary from MSNBC first.

Then again, maybe Dr. Dobson is right. SpongeBob is pretty scary. That whole "living in a pineapple under the sea" lifestyle? It's just so... wrong.


At 2:07 PM, Blogger Alan Levering said...

What the liberal media fails to realize is that the video in question makes 2 separate references to the Foundation, including a clip from the character "Mouse" from PBS's "Between the Lions" which apparently has found the Foundation's website on his computer.

The Foundation, itself, beyond just the "Tolerance Pledge" has at least SIX different references to homosexuality, sexual identity, or sexual orientation in its site's materials, mostly in suggested lesson plans (from previous campaigns) aimed at school-aged children.

The actual lesson plans that will be accompanying the video are not publicly posted anywhere for review, so no one knows what the exact package will contain (Though MSNBC supposedly has a copy).

My website's discussion board has research showing at least SEVEN references on WAFF's website as well as a sample letter to school administrators who might be showing the video or other pro-gay material in the classroom.


--Alan Levering, Director & Founder, NCXDS Ex-Gay Internet Christian Ministries

Discussion Board:

At 2:15 PM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

That still doesn't explain why respecting gays and lesbians is not a good thing. I found nothing on the site that actually promotes homosexuality, only respect for people whose sexual orientation is different from ones own. Teaching kids respect for others, especially when you don't agree with them, is always a good thing.

At 12:12 PM, Blogger the-unintentional-blogger said...

My concern is about the target age group. If we are using sesame street characters, then we're talking age 4-10 or so. As the parent, I want to be the one that breaches the subject of "sexual identity" with my child, not some tolerance pledge. To specifically mention "sexual identity" in a kids video, to me, seems like an inappropriate push to introduce that topic to a child that might not be ready for such a topic.

At 1:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But as Bad Methodist points out, nothing in the video is connected to sexual orientation. Kids who see the video are not going to be coming home and asking "Mommy, what's sexual identity?".

And if they do come home and ask "Mommy, what does homosexual mean?" why is that so traumatic or difficult?

At 4:04 PM, Blogger the-unintentional-blogger said...

If "sexual identity" isn't connected to "sexual orientation", then what DOES that phrase represent? And if kids aren't going to ask about the pledge and what it contains and are just going to say it without understanding it, then why even TAKE the pledge?

For the record, my kids do know what homosexuality is at a level I'm comfortable sharing with them. However, again I say that it is MY decision to educate my kids about homosexuality, NOT my schools.

At 4:21 PM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

The video doesn't mention either sexual identity or homosexuality. It's just all the characters singing "We Are Family."

At 7:20 PM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

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At 7:27 PM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

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At 7:32 PM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

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At 7:47 PM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

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At 7:49 PM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

Also, in looking back at the website, the "Tolerance Pledge" is nothing more than a link to's pledge to respect diversity and is from a completely different part of the website from the video. I see no indication that it is a part of the curriculum going out to schools and it is not something that originates with the We Are Family Foundation. I highly doubt they're wanting kids to take a pledge; Dobson is the one who dragged the pledge into this. To quote their site:

“Cooperation and unity are the most important values we can teach children. We believe that this is the essential first step to loving thy neighbor,” says Nile Rodgers, co-writer of the song “We Are Family” and founder of the We Are Family Foundation. “And the fun and exciting format makes it a lesson that's easy for children to learn.”It’s so innocuous and sweet it almost makes my teeth hurt. Seriously, I think the only reason this got any attention at all is because they were mistaken for a different group with a similar name and Focus on the Family won't just admit they were wrong.

At 7:52 PM, Blogger Bad Methodist said...

Argh. And sorry about all the deleted comments. Blogspot kept eating them and spitting them out all wonky. And the last one really did have a paragraph break after the italics quote. Don't know why it won't post that way. Grrr.


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