Today, the Tyler Clementi Foundation announced the launch of the #Day1 Toolkit for Christian communities. The toolkit creates a simple, effective and empowering framework for stopping, and ultimately ending, bullying, beginning on the first day of any Sunday school or youth group. This new toolkit, specifically geared toward Christian communities and churches, joins those previously released by the Tyler Clementi Foundation for schools, fraternities and sororities, sports teams and workplaces.
The Christian #Day1 Toolkit addresses the unique ways in which belief and religious language is used to bully LGBTQ people. Despite decades of anti-LGBTQ sentiment and policy stemming from religious conviction among Christian communities around the world, there is real progress that can be made to end the stigma and the life-endangering bullying occurring in these communities.
The toolkit includes the #Day1 Declaration, which highlights the dangers of bullying as well as the values and expectations leaders have, and the Upstander Pledge, a commitment to stand up against bullying whenever and wherever community members encounter it. Together, those who acknowledge and commit to the declaration and sign the pledge, will help to drive a change in culture within Christian communities, stopping bullying before it begins.
“Faith communities are places that are supposed to teach us love and give us support. They are not a place for bullying,” said Jane Clementi, co-founder and CEO of the Tyler Clementi Foundation, who lost her son, Tyler, to suicide in 2010 after he was cyber-bullied by his college roommate. “The #Day1 Christian Toolkit helps to fight against bullying by making sure that our Sunday School classes, Christian summer camps, youth groups and choir rehearsals are safe and welcoming places for everyone including LGBTQ youth. We want all our youth to feel celebrated and included from the very first time they gather together. We are hopeful that everyone will be committed to live up to the expectation to put kindness and empathy first.”
“Growing up, I heard a lot of negative things about LGBTQ people in church, and that led me to severe depression when I eventually realized I was gay. It’s an unfortunately common story, but we know that faith can be a powerful tool for good as well,” said Justin Lee, a consultant on faith-based bullying at the foundation and executive director of Nuance Ministries. “That’s why we’re bringing the widely used #Day1 toolkit to faith groups as well, to empower them to become communities of Upstanders—people who stand up against bullying and defend the vulnerable.”
The #Day1 Christian Community Toolkit goes beyond responding to bullying when it occurs; it aims to fundamentally change the culture around bullying so that it doesn’t happen in the first place. By raising awareness around the consequences of bullying and training young people and community leaders to be the first line of defense against it, the toolkit aims to transform our religious spaces, in order to be to be safer, healthier and free from bullying.