.- Gay activist and anti-bullying advocate Dan Savage continues to draw criticism despite backtracking from his insults launched against Christian students at a youth event.
âThe first mistake was inviting a man who has a long history of making the most vile, disgusting and bigoted remarks. What did these people think he would do? Act civilly?â Catholic League President Bill Donohue asked May 1.
The National Scholastic Press Association and Journalism Education Association, who sponsored the âJournalism on the Edgeâ conference in Seattle, had invited Savage to talk to students about the power of social media as well the problem of bullying against gay young people.
Savage was one of two plenary keynote speakers at the April 13 national high school journalism conference.
âWe can learn to ignore the bulls--t in the Bible about gay people â the same way we have learned to ignore the bulls--t in the Bible about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation,â Savage told students.
More than 100 teens walked out of the auditorium as he continued to mock the Bible. Savage then taunted those who left, calling them âpansy-a--ed.â
In response, Donohue issued a statement Monday saying the incident reflects poorly on Savage and on the conference organizers.
âThe only ones who acted admirably were the students who walked out in protest,â he said. âThey showed a lot more âthoughtfulnessâ than the adults who ran the conference.â
âIronically, Savageâs bullying of Christian students was done in the name of protesting the bullying of homosexuals,â Donohue added. âWhen it comes to bullying, Savage has no peer.â
The conference sponsors initially gave no apology after complaints on Savageâs statements. They said they appreciate âthe level of thoughtfulness and deliberationâ on his remarks, claiming that those who objected to his talk âhad simply reached their tolerance level for what they were willing to hear.â
The sponsors conceded, however, that Savageâs comments were âso strongly worded that they shook some of our audience members,â adding that they wished he had âstayed more on targetâ for teen journalists.
Savage initially apologized for hurting âanyoneâs feelingsâ but claimed the right to âdefendâ himself and âpoint out the hypocrisy of people who justify anti-gay bigotry by pointing to the Bible,â Fox News reported.
But as media furor continues to grow over the incident, conference sponsors made a stronger apology on April 30, saying they consider Savageâs âharsh language and profanityâ to be âinappropriate and offensive to many in attendance.â
âThis is not what our organizations expected. In his attempt to denounce bullying, Mr. Savage belittled the faith of others â an action that we do not support. Ridicule of othersâ faith has no place in our programs, any more than ridicule of the LGBT community would.â
The sponsors said Savageâs speech fell short of the standards of civil discourse. They also claimed that Savage had apologized for his âinappropriate language.â
On April 29, Savage said his use of the word âpansy-a--sedâ was âname-callingâ and âwrong,â but he also charged it was insulting to homosexuals for religious conservatives to say âlove the sinner, hate the sin.â
He also reaffirmed his description of some biblical passages as âbulls--tâ and his rejection of religious views against homosexuality.
Rick Tuttle, a teacher at Sutter Union High School in Southern California, told CNN that Savageâs speech âtook a real dark, hostile turn.â
âIt became very hostile toward Christianity, to the point that many students did walk out,â he said.
A father of one 17-year-old girl who walked out of the speech, himself a public school teacher, said that teachers have to guard their speech because students are captive audiences.
âIf Dan Savage was a teacher, theyâd suspend him without pay for this behavior,â he told the family advocacy organization CitizenLink.
âHow many of the kids who didnât walk out felt backed into a corner? To me, thatâs bullying behavior. It has all the symptoms, as far as Iâm concerned.â
Savage is the founder of the âIt Gets Betterâ project which aims to help homosexual and transgendered youth against bullying. He has blamed Christian morality for causing teen suicide.
Many members of the Obama administration, including President Obama himself, made videos for Savageâs project.
Savage is also the author of a graphic sex advice column and led a âGoogle bombâ campaign to link former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorumâs last name to an obscene phrase.