Teacher’s online remarks on homosexuality draw fire
By Mary Clarkin - The Hutchinson News - firstname.lastname@example.org
A Buhler USD 313 teacher/coach has caused a stir by writing on his Facebook page last week that homosexuality is a sin and ranks in God’s eyes the same as the sin of murder.
The Kansas Equality Coalition criticized what Prairie Hills Middle School social studies teacher/Buhler High School assistant freshman women’s basketball coach Jack Conkling wrote. It also urged USD 313 to review its policy on social media and bullying, whether by students or teachers.
Jon Powell, chairman of the Hutchinson chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition, said Conkling’s “inflammatory statements” could make students think it’s OK to bully fellow students.
Powell termed the posting “reckless,” “dangerous” and “irresponsible.”
“What would Mr. Conkling say to a student who is getting bullied for being gay or lesbian?” Kansas Equality Coalition Executive Director Thomas Witt asked in a press release issued this week.
High school students are among Conkling’s nearly 600 Facebook friends. Some posted comments or reactions, pro and con, to his statement written May 10, in the wake of President Obama’s announced support for gay marriage rights.
It was a former seasonal employee at Hutchinson’s Salt City Splash, where Conkling works in the summer, who alerted the Kansas Equality Coalition to the Facebook statement. USD 313 Superintendent Dan Stiffler learned about it from a teacher.
Conkling wrote: “Gay marriage is wrong because homosexuality is wrong. The Bible clearly states it is sin.”
He also wrote: “It ranks in God’s eyes the same as murder, lying stealing, or cheating.”
“I wrote what I wrote for my Facebook friends who understand my heart and my intent,” Conkling said Monday. “I understand that there were some folks who didn’t understand my heart, and while that’s sad, it is what it is,” he said, declining to elaborate.
Craig Williams, principal at Prairie Hills Middle School, said the school does not have a Facebook policy for teachers.
“We’re looking into it,” Williams said, but said he could not talk about a personnel matter.
USD 313 had a technology committee already looking at a policy for staff and social media, according to Stiffler.
“Where do you draw the line?” Stiffler asked, describing the challenge of setting rules that do not infringe on a teacher’s First Amendment freedom of speech.
“I know that it’s kind of tricky,” said USD 313 Board of Education member Laura Dick, unaware Monday of details of Conkling’s posting.
The News was unsuccessful in reaching other board members.
Hutchinson USD 308 hopes to have a policy by the next school year specifically addressing staff and use of social media, according to district spokesman Ray Hemman.
Hemman, too, described it as “tricky.”
School districts want teachers to be professional, but staff also “have a right to have a life,” Hemman said.
“All this talk in the news about gay marriage recently has finally driven me to write. Gay marriage is wrong because homosexuality is wrong. The Bible clearly states it is sin. Now I do not claim it to be a sin any worse than other sins. It ranks in God’s eyes the same as murder, lying, stealing, or cheating. His standards are perfect and ALL have sinned and fallen short of His glory. Sin is sin and we all deserve hell. Only those who accept Christ as Lord and daily with the help of the Spirit do their best to turn from sin will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. There aren’t multiple ways to get to Heaven. There is one. To many this may seem close minded and antagonistic, but it doesn’t make it any less true. Folks I am willing to admit that my depravity is just as great as anyone else’s, and without Christ I’d be destined for hell, if not for the undeserved grace of God. I’m not condemning gay marriage because I hate gay people. I am doing it because those who embrace it will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And I desire that for no one.”
Facebook posting by Buhler USD 313 teacher/coach Jack Conkling