ANAHEIM — The Anaheim City School District has refused to give the Rev. Louis Sheldon assurances that it will not "condone" homosexuality in the classroom, prompting the religious lobbyist to say Thursday that he will develop a countywide campaign on the issue.
In a November letter, Sheldon asked the district to pledge that no school employees would support or provide materials, counseling or services that suggest homosexuality is "a positive life alternative."
Officials for the district, which handles kindergarten through sixth grade, on Tuesday refused to adopt such a policy statement. "There are already ample safeguards in place protecting the integrity of our instructional program," they wrote to Sheldon.
Sheldon said the response from Anaheim--which he said he picked for the letter because it is his home base--was a victory of sorts. He promised to pursue the campaign in other schools in the next few months, following up on campaigns he has waged in Orange County and Sacramento on homosexual issues.
"I got the answer I was looking for" in Anaheim, Sheldon said. "And I shall return; you can count on it."
One of the most visible figures in the state on gay issues, Sheldon insisted in an interview that his campaign is needed because of efforts by activists such as the Gay Lesbian Educators of Southern California, or GALE, to "bring homosexuality into the classroom."
But Carl Becker, chairman of the Orange County area chapter of GALE, blasted Sheldon's notion of a "homosexual agenda" and questioned his idea that a school program can encourage a youngster to adopt homosexuality.
"He makes these things up as he goes along," Becker said. "How anybody can say that you became (homosexual) because somebody 'advocated' it is beyond me."
Becker, a junior high and high-school teacher in Orange County, said his group wants to seek more counseling and informational programs aimed at gay students. The group sent about about 1,000 brochures on the subject to guidance counselors and administrators in Orange County schools in December, he said.
Meanwhile, Meliton Lopez, superintendent of the Anaheim City School District, said the whole debate was "nonsense" that has little relevance to Anaheim's elementary schools.
"This doesn't deserve the publicity. All of the sudden this jerk gives me this letter, and every newspaper in town wants to hear about it," he said. "It disgusts me."