In May of 2011, Rep. Ragan shared his views with a constituent regarding the advance of the "Don't Say Gay" bill (SB0049/HB0229) in the State Senate at that time. In his response to a constituent he claims his view is objective and then compares lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their families with drug addicts, prostitutes, and criminals. Rep. Ragan's bias against LGBT people and their families is even more apparent than in his most recent message to TEP, but you be the judge.
- Jonathan Cole
Email reply to constituent from Rep. John Ragan (May 25, 2011):
Dear [Name withheld by request],
Thank you for your input on the legislation recently passed in the Senate concerning education for Tennessee students. It is obvious from the length of your communication that you feel passionately about its topic.
However, it is good to remember that, sometimes, passion can cloud objectivity.
To begin an objective discussion, please read the bill (re-printed below) as amended:
BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE: SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 49-6-1005, is amended by adding the following as new subsection (c) and by relettering the existing subsection (c) accordingly:
(1) The general assembly recognizes the sensitivity of particular subjects that are best explained and discussed in the home. Human sexuality is a complex subject with societal, scientific, psychological, and historical implications; those implications are best understood by children with sufficient maturity to grasp their complexity.
(2) Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, any instruction or materials made available or provided at or to a public elementary or middle school shall be limited exclusively to natural human reproduction science. The provisions of this subdivision shall also apply to a group or organization that provides instruction in natural human reproduction science in public elementary or middle schools.
As you can see, the bill is about education. In particular, it is about elementary and middle school, public education.
Principally, in elementary school, education should be about mastering the most basic of academic disciplines such as reading, writing and mathematics. Acquiring foundational skills during these crucial years of a child’s education is far more important than someone’s social or political agenda. For example, numerous studies have shown that children who cannot read adequately by the end of the third grade are negatively impacted the remainder of their academic career, in deed, the rest of their lives.
Likewise, basic science education, at all academic levels, is about the systematic study of the fundamental principles of natural phenomena not social or political schema. With the possible exceptions of medicine, psychology or sociology, which are not elementary or middle school, in-depth, study areas, science does not address “lifestyle choices.” Consequently, it is certainly logical to limit the topic as specified in the bill for those grade levels in favor of devoting limited classroom time to more critical, curriculum areas.
I am especially appreciative of your recognition of the principles and values upon which our founders established our nation. However, again, it is worth noting that passion for a particular issue may cause one to “filter” out relevant information that is contrary to a particular perspective. For example, consider the following quotes from our founders concerning those principles you previously referenced.
Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. – John Adams
Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness. – George Washington
It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible. – George Washington
It is better to tolerate that rare instance of a parent’s refusing to let his child be educated, than to shock the common feelings by a forcible transportation and education of the infant against the will of his father. – Thomas Jefferson
As to your objection concerning the labeling of homosexual behavior as “unnatural,” consider the following argument:
Darwinian selection, i.e., survival of the fittest: Homosexual individuals are incapable of reproduction if they are exclusively homosexual. Any species or sub-species that does not reproduce tends to become extinct. The conclusion of this line of reasoning is that the "natural" destiny for exclusively homosexual behavior practitioners over time is extinction. It is "unnatural" for any species or sub-species to intentionally and knowingly try to become extinct.
If these individuals do not practice exclusively homosexual activity, then, by definition, they can choose not to be homosexual… and the issue is entirely defined as a voluntary, behavioral choice.
Therefore, any sanctions, legal restrictions, or societal disapproval accorded to homosexual behavior practitioners is completely a matter of choice on their part. If the homosexual behavior practitioner chooses not to engage in that particular behavior, he or she avoids any sanctions, legal restrictions, or societal disapproval associated with it.
Relative to your question: “Shouldn't the discussion be more of when and in what way it is appropriate to teach homosexuality instead of how to ban discussion of homosexuality?”
The bill to which you are objecting does exactly that. By restricting classroom teaching and materials to scientific examination of normal human reproduction, the bill specifies the way that is appropriate is in the home by the parents, not in a classroom by a public school teacher. By specifying elementary and middle school, the bill identifies the "when" as some point after that (as far as public schooling is concerned).
Relative to your comment: "...that there is never a reason to discriminate, silently or loudly, against any group of people.”
People legally and freely, even ethically, discriminate all of the time… They discriminate on what city in which to live, what job to take, what friends to choose, what church to join, against people who engage in certain behaviors (crime), etc. What you are objecting to is not discrimination, per sae, but to illegal discrimination.
However, it is not illegal discrimination to disapprove of a group of people who engage in abuse of certain drugs. One can easily discern the negative impacts of such behavior and refuse to allow these individuals certain privileges such as piloting an aircraft, etc. without bothering to examine, even, one, individually. Similarly, one can legally choose to discriminate against felons or child abusers or allowing them to be school teachers without ever having met one.
Relative to your comment: “Should we show our children that America values the quality of life a person lives based upon the right of choice? And that nothing can keep a person from following their dreams - not race, religion, disability or sexuality?”
None of the things you cited are based upon behavior, or “the right of choice” except religion. Under the Fourtheenth Amendment and follow-on legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, sex, national origin, religious creed, or color. However, the definition of sex in these laws is based upon anatomy.
Relative to your paragraph: “Homosexuality is … a choice… It is a freedom that should not be denied or silenced because some of the population disagree based on religion?”
As I posited in earlier paragraphs, you are absolutely correct that homosexual behavior is a choice. However, so is prostitution. Am I to infer from your espoused position that prostitution is also “…a freedom that should not be denied or silenced because some of the population disagree based on religion?” What about extra marital, consensual sexual relations between a fourteen-year-old (with permission of a parent) and a thirty-year-old? Is this also a choice? Is this, also, “…a freedom that should not be denied or silenced…”?
Relative to your comment: “Homosexuals are …asking that homosexuality not be silently labeled as unnatural, unclean or bad…”
"Unnatural?" Recall the extinction argument? How could exclusively homosexual behavior be anything else but "unnatural?" Is voluntarily and intentionally exposing yourself and your "partner(s)" to the following list of problems not “unclean and/or bad?”
A partial list of the statistics documenting the negative impacts of the homosexual behavior under discussion: U.S. health regulations currently prohibit men who have sex with men (homosexual practitioners - aka "gays") from donating blood. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration studies categorically confirm that if homosexual practitioners were permitted to give blood, the general population would be placed at risk.
According to the FDA: "[homosexual practitioner or 'gay' men] have an HIV prevalence 60 times higher than the general population, 800 times higher than first-time blood donors and 8,000 times higher than repeat blood donors."
The FDA further warns: "[homosexual practitioner or 'gay' men] also have an increased risk of having other infections that can be transmitted to others by blood transfusion. For example, infection with the Hepatitis B virus is about 5-6 times more common, and Hepatitis C virus infections are about 2 times more common in "homosexual practitioners than in the general population."
A 2007 CDC study found that, although "gay" men comprise only 1-to-2 percent of the population, they account for an epidemic 64 percent of all syphilis cases.
Relative to your comment: "They are asking that the fact that they are a part of our society be recognized."
This group is recognized. However, the counter question is why should anyone be recognized for what is, or, ostensibly, should be, a private behavior that no one else need know about? The second portion of any question concerning recognition is why should any acknowledgement be accorded out of proportion to their percentage of the population (approximately 2%)? For example, 24 hours of TV programing times 2% is less than 1 hour. How many “gay characters” as part of the story line are there in any given day of TV programing? Before you answer that, consider that there are 2 entire networks on cable that are marketed as “gay” programing for the entire day. It would appear that homosexual behavior practitioners are more than adequately recognized.
Relative to your comment: “They are asking that the fact that their choices have an impact upon our society - positive or negative -just the same as a heterosexual persons choices have an impact in either a positive or negative way be recognized.”
Their impact of their choices on our society was just cited, i.e., 64% of all syphilis cases, etc. The assessment of that impact could be expanded to include their proportion of the suicides or of the pedophiles or any number of other impacts. I invite you to look up these “impacts.” I guarantee it will “water your eyes.”
Relative to your comment: “They are asking that children not be barred from being able to talk about their home life or their thoughts simply because they or their parents are gay.”
Nothing in the bill you wrote about barred any child or children from talking about their home life. Read the bill! It is elementary and middle school teachers who are restricted from “teaching about it or distributing material about it.”
However, I suspect that you seldom find children “bragging” about parents that are drug addicts or incarcerated, even formerly so. Since both of the previously named conditions are the result of behavioral choices of the parents, how are these any different from the behavioral choice of homosexual conduct? If children bring up any of these situations before their peers as conditions at home, the children will very likely suffer the same treatment from their peers. Why is one any worse than any of the others? If they are all equally bad in terms of impact on the child, then don’t single any of them out to be protected more than another.
Relative to your comment: “So will you choose to protect our rights from all groups, foreign or domestic, who dare try to take them away?”
Madam, I spent 24 years defending the rights of American citizens. That included more than 7 years overseas and time in 2 combat theaters. I have carried the lifeless body of a comrade-in-arms on my shoulder on foreign soil, and when I was 25, walked the widow of my best friend and squadron mate to the cemetery.
Consequently, I have earned the right to speak my mind regardless of what the mavens of political correctness may prefer. Homosexual behavior has no more right to be taught in our schools than does prostitution, polygamy, pederasty, pedophilia or any number of other licentious activities into which George Washington warned us abused liberty could disintegrate.
John D. Ragan
Constituent email message to State House Representatives (May 24, 2011):
Dear representatives of the State of Tennessee,
As you are well aware SB049 recently came to a vote and passed the Senate and is moving on to the House. If you supported this bill I urge you to think about the words that I am writing and reconsider your position over the next year as it truly is a poor reflection of the values that our wonderful government and nation are based upon.
First and foremost, our nation is a nation based upon the right to personal freedoms and the power of choice. We can choose our religion, our words and our beliefs. We can choose who we support, how we support them and how we announce that support. We can choose to agree to have differences or to actively express our common bonds. There are many things we can choose to do, all without the fear of government or the military knocking on our doors to remove us from our homes and our families because we dared to disagree with the policies of our government.
The absolute conviction that each person has certain inalienable rights such life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are the very things that our troops valiantly fight to protect. And it should be these same things that our representatives fight to uphold. These attributes define the United States of America so much so that if a person is fighting to protect America, they are fighting to protect these rights.
If we become separated from this fact then what are we fighting for? What are we promoting? If we lose even one of these rights, how long before we lose more?
When I see a debate such as this come up and see people who are on both sides openly stating their thoughts and feelings on the matter I am very proud to be an American. After all, that is freedom of speech at its finest. But when I see that a group of representatives of the law of this land is trying to build a wall around a group of people to prohibit others from noticing them except to notice that their chosen lifestyle is labelled as unnatural I am reminded of the scarlet letter that Hester Prynne was forced to wear that branded her as unclean because she chose to do something that others considered wrong. When reading this story now do we not cringe at the short-sighted and small-minded views of these people? If SB49 passes the House and becomes a part of our history how much cringing will future generations do when they review this story?
Her child was ridiculed because of her choice from birth. Is this really what we want to happen to our youth? Should they be penalized because there are people in our nation who think that homosexuality is wrong? Or believe that homosexuality will stop being a part of our society if it is not spoken of in our schools?
Homosexuality has been and will always be a part of our society. Kings, clergy, slaves, businessmen/women, home makers, tax payers, Caucasians, Hispanics, Blacks, Chinese, Japanese - all races from all nations have homosexual members.
Homosexuality, much like sex, if not discussed at home and in the classroom will be discussed among their peers and we can see how that is working. The difference is that if homosexuality is labeled unnatural by silent implication then when students discuss their feelings and thoughts with their peers we can not be certain what will happen. Will there be acceptance and understanding or will there be fear and violence?
Fear of word creates confusion and discord. Knowledge of a word enables clarity and understanding. Understanding of a word removes all fears and social stigmas so that tolerance and love are allowed to flow.
Shouldn't the discussion be more of when and in what way it is appropriate to teach homosexuality instead of how to ban discussion of homosexuality? Teachers do not teach how heterosexuals actually have intercourse so why would people think that they would teach how homosexuals have intercourse? Shouldn't our children be taught that, at least in America, everyone is equal and has equal rights?
At the age group this bill is geared toward shouldn't we be showing our children by example that there is never a reason to discriminate, silently or loudly, against any group of people? Shouldn't we show them that America values the quality of life a person lives based upon the right of choice? And that nothing can keep a person from following their dreams - not race, religion, disability or sexuality?
I say that if the fact that a person is homosexual influenced the choices they made and that those choices impacted the course of our history then it should be presented as such. Much like Harvey Milk - his personal lifestyle affected his political choices. The same as someone being a minority will affect their political choices.
Should either one be ignored? I think not.
Homosexuality is not a disease, it is not contagious, it does not make a person evil. Living a homosexual life style is a choice. Wether or not people are born gay or made a choice to be gay based on their experience with people of the opposite sex, actually living the lifestyle - having a partner or just having same sex relations is a choice. It is a freedom that should not be denied or silenced because some of the population disagree based on religion.
Homosexuals are not asking for teachers or anyone else to encourage children to be gay - they are asking that homosexuality not be silently labeled as unnatural, unclean or bad. They are asking that the fact that they are a part of our society be recognized. They are asking that the fact that their choices have an impact upon our society - positive or negative -just the same as a heterosexual persons choices have an impact in either a positive or negative way be recognized. They are asking that children not be barred from being able to talk about their home life or their thoughts simply because they or their parents are gay.
SB49 HB229, if passed, will impose fines or worse on educators who chose to notice the fact that homosexuality exists and impacts the lives of the students they teach. SB49 HB229 will effectively glue educators mouths shut on an issue that effects many of the students. This legislation will silently label homosexuality as abnormal and lend silent approval to anyone who wishes to treat it as such.
The vote you cast on this piece of legislation is not just a representation of the here and now but of the future also. It will set a precedent for other pieces of legislation that could strip more of our valuable rights. I encourage you to think about this especially as this legislation has grabbed the attention of not just America but other nations as well. The question now becomes, will Tennessee (and America) be viewed as the state (nation) that is known as the "do what I say, not do as I do" nation? Remember, we take up up arms against and go to war for other nations to help their citizens move toward enjoying the rights we enjoy. So will you choose to protect our rights from all groups, foreign or domestic, who dare try to take them away?
I hope so.
Concerned Citizen [Name withheld by request]