A diverse group of religious parents in Maryland are appealing a federal district court’s ruling that denied them the right to shield their children from storybooks that push pro-LGBT propaganda.
Earlier this year, the Montgomery County Board of Education took away parental notice and opt-outs for “inclusivity” books that advocate pride parades, gender transitioning, and pronoun preferences for kids as young as pre-kindergarten.
The books in question “champion controversial ideology around gender and sexuality,” rather than “focusing on basic principles of respect and kindness,” according to Becket Law, a non-profit public interest law firm that is representing the plaintiffs.
For example, one book tasks three and four-year-olds to search for images from a word list that includes “intersex flag,” “drag queen,” “underwear,” “leather,” and the name of a celebrated LGBTQ activist and sex worker. Another book advocates a child-knows-best approach to gender transitioning, telling students that a decision to transition doesn’t have to “make sense”; teachers are instructed to say doctors only “guess” when identifying a newborn’s sex anyway.
The controversial books were announced last fall for students in pre-K through eighth grade.
After the School Board announced it would take away parental notice and opt-outs for the storybooks, a group of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish parents sued the School Board in federal court.
According to Becket, which describes its mission as “defending the freedom of religion of people of all faiths,” the diverse group of parents are united in their belief that the schoolbooks’ pro-LGBTQ messages are “age-inappropriate, spiritually and emotionally damaging for kids and inconsistent with their beliefs.”
“The Board forged ahead with its storybook mandate over the concerns of thousands of parents and its own principals,” said Grace Morrison, board member of Kids First, an association of parents and teachers advocating for notice and opt-outs in Montgomery County Schools. “But the School Board does not replace parents, who know best about how and when to introduce their elementary-age children to complex and sensitive issues around gender and sexuality.”
Last week, a federal district court judge ruled against the parents, writing that notice and opt-outs to the books are “not a fundamental right.” In the opinion, the judge even dismissed the claims of a religious couple whose daughter’s disabilities make it impossible for them to teach her their beliefs after the storybooks have been read to her. Today, the coalition of parents asked the Fourth Circuit to immediately restore their ability to help their own children on such complex issues and put a stop to the School Board’s no notice, no opt-out policy.
After the lower court upheld the book mandate, the parents filed an Emergency Motion for Injunction Pending Appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, hoping to have their right to raise their children as they see fit quickly restored.
“Children deserve the guidance of their parents when learning about complex issues around gender and sexuality,” said Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “That’s why we are asking the Fourth Circuit to step in to protect the right of parents to guide their children’s education consistent with their religious beliefs.”
The Court is expected to issue a preliminary decision on the Parents’ motion for an injunction early this fall.