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Community responds to Rauner's nomination of Meeks as ISBE Chair
by Matt Simonette


Illinois Safe Schools Alliance (ISSA) and a coalition of organizations have joined together to challenge the nomination of former state Sen. Rev. James Meeks as the chairman of the state School Board. Gov. Bruce Rauner named Meeks for the post Jan. 10.

In a Jan. 20 statement, ISSA LGBTQA Youth Engagement Manager Lawrence Carter questioned Rauner's commitment to education by appointing an individual as divisive as Meeks, who has extensively challenged the goals of Illinois LGBT community.

"Rev. Meeks has made his contempt and disgust of many communities very clear," Carter said. "He has said publicly that LGBT people are 'not natural' [and have] 'an evil sickness,' and supports a deadly anti-choice stance. Meeks also believes in the exclusion of Latinos and Asians as minorities, and that women of all races should not be considered a minority community because they 'are not people who have been discriminated against.' Reverend Meeks' long history of actively and vocally working to undermine every effort and initiative that support the values of equality and justice that we have sought to achieve is insulting and harmful to the children and their parents in our school system. It is offensive and duplicitous that Governor Rauner, after promising 'no social agenda,' would nominate a bully to lead a board whose mission is 'to provide leadership, assistance, resources and advocacy so that every student is prepared to succeed.'

As of Jan. 23, eight other organizations had joined the coalition, including About Face Theatre, Affinity Community Services, Center on Halsted, Equality Illinois, Lambda Legal, Peoria Proud, Prairie Pride Coalition and Pride at Work Chicago.

In a Jan 23 statement, Christopher Clark, Lambda Legal counsel and Youth and Schools Program strategist, said, "Keeping LGBTQ students safe in school and protecting their right to a fair and equal education is a critical part of Lambda Legal's mission. The people who lead and oversee our schools must consider it their highest duty to ensure that our schools are safe, respectful and supportive to all students. We simply cannot allow anti-LGBT rhetoric and policies to stand in the way of our children becoming the best that they can possibly be. … Rev. Meeks's long record of making hateful public comments about the LGBT community and his active attempts to deny our families the freedom to marry are well-known, as are his demeaning comments about women and members of the Latino, Asian and Jewish communities. Such divisiveness has no place in setting an education agenda for our children's future. We urge Governor Rauner to withdraw this nomination."

Rauner proclaimed that he had "no social agenda" during his campaign, despite remarks that gay marriage should have been decided in referendum, and his acceptance of campaign funds from anti-gay contributors. Activists in the gay community were vocal about his perceived indifference or opposition throughout 2014.

Read more story below....

"The governor has said he has no 'social agenda,'" said activist Rick Garcia in a Jan. 21 statement. "Surely this doesn't mean he will turn a blind eye to discrimination and the demonization of those who are different or ignore efforts to make sure we all live in harmony. …Meeks' position is not only insulting it is dangerous to the common good. His positions give tacit approval to discrimination and bullying of lesbian and gay people and send the message that we can demonize and treat unfairly those we dislike or who are different from us. Someone like this should not be in a position to lead the Illinois State Board of Education."

For more information, visit http://illinoissafeschools.org/meeks-ISBE-chair .

[Note: This article has been updated online with further information.

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