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Christian Group Attacks 4-H For Making LGBT Youth Feel Welcome

"Socialists trying to destroy 4-H like they did Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts," said one critic.

New guidelines set by the 4-H in Iowa hope to make the group more inclusive of young LGBT people, but they're not sitting well with Christian conservatives.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

DES MOINES, IA - AUGUST 7: People watch as teens participate in a 4-H Club cattle event on the first day of the 2003 Iowa State Fair August 7, 2003 in Des Moines, Iowa. Thousands of people attend the annual fair, which has become one of the largest agriculture events in the country. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

On its website, 4-H, the nation's largest youth development organization, posted a proposed policy that would welcome "all gender identities, gender expressions, sexual orientations, and sexes." Specifically, the proposal calls for Iowa 4-H clubs to allow transgender individuals to use the bathrooms, locker rooms and overnight accommodations that align with their gender identity.

When an individual (youth or adult) notifies 4-H administration (at the county and/or state level as

appropriate) that the individual will assert a gender identity that differs from previous representations or

records, 4-H will begin treating the individual consistent with the individual’s gender identity. There is no

medical diagnosis or treatment requirement that individuals (youth or adult) must meet as a prerequisite to

being treated consistent with their gender identity.

Christian groups are already up in arms: Des Moines' The Family Leader—which "provides a consistent, courageous voice in the churches, in the legislature, in the media, in the courtroom, [and] in the public square"—has called on followers to tell Iowa 4-H not to accept the proposal.

In the comment section, a Family Leader rep claims "issue is a pedophile (statistically, these are most often straight men) need only claim to be transgender to be given access to girls in vulnerable situations."

A commenter on the thread declared the policy was "socialists trying to destroy 4-H like they did Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts." Another insisted if they had children or grandchildren in 4-H, "I would not let them go on overnights without me, or someone I trusted as a chaperone."

4-H is administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), a subdivision of the Department of Agriculture, but it is often overseen by local public universities. The Iowa 4-H, for example, is overseen by Iowa State University.

Bill Clark/Roll Call

UNITED STATES - JUNE 8: Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., speaks to the Nebraska delegation of the 4-H Club's Citizenship Washington Focus program in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building on Wednesday, June 8, 2011. (Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call)

The proposed Iowa 4-H policy would be in line with the state's civil rights laws and the Iowa Department of Education guidelines, which mandate students must be allowed access to facilities matching their gender identity.

Nate Monson, executive director of Iowa Safe Schools, the state's leading LGBT youth advocacy group, told the Des Moines Register the antagonism the proposal is facing shows a lack of understanding .

"Someone doesn’t wake up and put a wig on one day. Often transgender people develop their sense of self as young as age 2 or 3, and go through a long process of solidifying who they are and coming out."

After the public comment period ended last week, a committee will review input and decide on the policy. John-Paul Chaisson-Cardenas, a 4-H Youth Development Program leader says the young people's voices will be given heavy consideration.

Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

METHUEN, MA - FEBRUARY 18: Zach Fritz was with Members of The Hot-To-Trots 4H Horse club who visited the Nevins Farm in Methuen. The club members did some volunteer work and got to visit with Thunder. Thunder is a 2,000 pound steer that is going to a farm sanctuary in upstate New York. (Photo by Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

“At the center of this for me is that we want every child to feel like 4-H is the place for them,” Chaisson-Cárdenas told the Register . “At the end of the day, labels shouldn’t matter. All that should matter is that we all have a passion for [agriculture] and we all care about making a positive difference in our community."

While transgender Iowans are already protected by state law and Department of Agriculture nondiscrimination policies, Chaisson-Cárdenas added that the guidelines will help 4-H staff "navigate those times when it is complicated."