Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Latter-day Saint, Protestant, Ethiopian Orthodox, atheist, and agnostic parents are taking a Maryland school board to court Wednesday, Aug. 9, for denying them the right to opt out of the school’s LGBTQ book curriculum.
“These books are in fact teaching explicit sexual orientation and gender identity issues as early as pre-k,” Will Haun, senior counsel at Becket Law, told The Daily Signal in a Thursday interview. The associated reading instructions “require teachers to make dismissive statements about a student’s religious beliefs, to shame children who disagree, and to teach as facts things that some would not agree are facts.”
“This is not a challenge to get the pride books out of the curriculum,” Haun, whose firm represents hundreds of families and the organization Kids First, clarified. “This is about restoring the right to opt out.”
In late March, the Montgomery County Board of Education told parents it was introducing LGBTQ-themed books into its pre-k through eighth-grade curriculum.
Parents did not object to this until the school board announced that it would deny parents the right to opt out, according to Becket.
Despite their various faith backgrounds, hundreds of parents formed a “united front on the fact that parents get to guide their children’s religious upbringing, that parents are the first teachers on a child’s own self-understanding,” Haun explained.
Consequently, on May 23, Muslim, Christian, and atheist parents sued the school board for denying them the right to opt out of reading books that directly contradict their religious beliefs.
For example, “Love, Violet,” one of the mandated “pride” books aimed at kindergarteners through fifth graders, gives romantic details about girls falling in love with other girls.
Denying parents the right to opt out of such instructional material goes directly against the school board’s policy, state law, and the Constitution, Haun argued.
“Montgomery County public schools allow for religious-based opt outs for everything under the sun, from Halloween parties to music class, to Valentine’s Day,” Haun said. “Maryland law requires opt outs and advance notice for all sexuality instruction.”
Not just the state law but also the “free exercise of religion, protected in the Constitution, requires, among other things, that policies be neutral and general toward religion,” Haun told The Daily Signal.
“All of this gives the court strong reason … to uphold the parents’ rights to direct their children’s religious upbringing and also acknowledge that this policy is neither neutral nor general toward religion.”
The judge in the hearing Wednesday will consider a preliminary injunction, halting the district’s policy prohibiting the opt out until the court can resolve the lawsuit as a whole.
Haun told The Daily Signal that the plaintiffs hope to have “an early ruling to put the opt-out policy back into place” right before school starts on Aug. 28.
Before the hearing, the parents will hold a rally hosted by the organization Kids First, a group of parents and teachers who joined together to fight for the right to opt out in Montgomery County Public Schools.
Haun told The Daily Signal that Becket is representing hundreds of parents through Kids First. He expects a large turnout at the rally, since thousands came to a rally in June to protest at a school board meeting.
Despite parents of multiple faith backgrounds coming together to fight for their constitutional right to opt out, MCPS still refuses to respect these parents’ religious beliefs.
“Those on the school board have a completely uniform view,” Haun explained. “It raises a question of who’s really respecting the diversity of Montgomery County.”
These parents remain undaunted because they understand that the material being taught to their children “goes to the core of not only the child’s religious foundation but to the child’s self-understanding,” the lawyer added.
“One thing that has so moved me as a husband and a father myself is that these parents, they don’t have any agenda besides sticking up for their kids,” Haun told The Daily Signal. “These are their children. They get one shot to raise them well, and they want to hand down their faith to their kids.”
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