In an unusual demonstration of unity, Muslims, Jews, and Christians gathered outside the Montgomery County Public Schools’ board meeting Tuesday afternoon in protest of parents’ inability to opt children out of the LGBTQ curriculum.
Many of the protesters were parents of children in the Montgomery County public school system. Despite the board meeting and protest taking place at 1:30 p.m., hundreds took time off from work to attend the rally.
Parents said the inability to opt their children out of lessons that do not align with their family and religious values is an infringement upon their First Amendment right to religious liberty.
“We have the religious right to raise our kids based on the Bible,” said Soloman Hailemariam, a father who attended the rally with his wife and four children who are students in Montgomery County schools.
Another parent said he had to take time off from work to be there “because I am responsible for bringing up my kids in the right way.”
Prior to the school board meeting, participants chanted in couplets: “Our voices, our children” and “What do we want? Opt-out. When do we want it? Now.”
One man led protesters through a series of cheers that included: “We love all people. We are united. We will not stop. We are one voice.”
More than a dozen speakers from various parents’ rights and religious freedom organizations gave statements and testimonies as to why they were rallying and why they believed Montgomery County Public Schools’ denial of an opt-out option is unconstitutional.
A group of about 15 counterdemonstrators stood across the street decked out in “Pride” attire and blared pop tunes over the sounds of the parental protesters.
“We’re here not so much to counter the protest, but to show support for the Board of Education and what they’re doing, and show the queer kids that go to school here that they are supported,” said John Zittrauer, a member of the “Pride” group.
Currently, the school system permits LGBTQ curriculum to be taught outside of sex-education classes through “inclusive texts.” The policy also allows teachers to introduce those texts in class without parental knowledge or consent.
The official statement from MCPS on their “inclusive texts” policy:
Students and families may not choose to opt out of engaging with any instructional materials, other than “Family Life and Human Sexuality Unit of Instruction,” which is specifically permitted by Maryland law. As such, teachers will not send home letters to inform families when inclusive books are read in the future.
The rally was organized by Family Rights for Religious Freedom (FRRF), a coalition of parents in Montgomery County. Other participating groups included the Coalition of Virtue and the Religious Freedom Institute.
Protesters were prohibited from entering the board meeting over supposed “safety concerns,” seemingly violating Maryland’s Open Meetings Act.
At one point, the parents directly called out Superintendent of MCPS Schools Monifa McKnight by chanting: “Dear Dr. McKnight: Do what’s right.”
Many parents also held signs that said, among other things, “Respect Religious Freedom,” “Family Rights,” “Restore Opt-Out,” and “We support inclusion and religious freedom.”
Other signs reiterated those sentiments, with phrases that included “Indoctrination by force is not American,” “First Amendment right, opt-out religious freedom,” and “It’s my right to keep my child safe.”
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