Maryland School District Restricts Parents Direction Over Children’s Religion, Parents Sue

Tierin-Rose Mandelburg | August 10, 2023
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On Wednesday, parents in Maryland gathered at the state district court to fight for parental rights and protect their children from indoctrinating content regarding gender, sex and children’s romantic feelings in schools. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty represented the parents and argued before the court in the Mahmoud v. McKnight case regarding the lawsuit they filed on May 23.

Essentially, a group of Muslim, Catholic and Orthodox Christian parents are fighting for their ability to raise their children consistent with their faith. For some, this means that they want the chance to opt their children out of storybooks that advocate for things like pride parades, gender transitioning and pronoun preferences. 

Erik Baxter, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, argued before the court at 10:00 a.m., but at 8:00 a.m., a pro-parental choice group called Kids First held a rally to show the court their side of the argument. 

“The board’s decision to take away notice and opt-outs for books that promote ideas about gender and sexuality is unnecessary, and unconstitutional," civil rights attorney and former Becket attorney Asma Uddin explained at the rally. "It also strikes at the heart of a parent’s most fundamental freedom. The freedom to raise your child to raise your child in accordance with your beliefs.” 

Another speaker urged rally goers to realize that they "are the voice" of the children who would be affected by these books and that they need to stand up for them. 

In an exclusive interview with Becket’s senior counsel, William Haun, the Media Research Center was told about some of the disturbing themes throughout the stories that parents wish to opt-out of. 

Haun said one book had a grandfather telling someone that gender isn’t such a big deal, while another talked about cisgender hair versus transgender hair “and justifying a child needing to wear a wig for that." He also added that “another book requires a pre-kindergartener to identify a celebrated sex worker at a pride parade.”

He noted that the First Amendment guarantees that parents have a right to direct their children’s religious upbringing and that it also guarantees protection against arbitrary power. Haun said that Montgomery county having opt-outs for these books until March 23, 2023 and then pulling them away with no public explanation “is definitionally arbitrary power.”

The attorney clarified that the lawsuit is not attempting to partake in any book bans at the schools. Instead, the lawsuit aims to give parents the chance to say “no thanks” to specific, woke content that doesn’t align with their religious beliefs. Parents merely want advanced notice and the opportunity to opt their children out of curriculum that would disrupt their ability to respect their children’s religious upbringing. 

Related: Iowa School District Reviews 374 Books Flagged For Inappropriate Content

Unironically, Montgomery County Public Schools, as Haun mentioned, has guidelines on how to deal with religion’s intersection for particular events and discussions. There’s guidelines for things like Halloween parties, music class or Valentine's Day, but not for things like LGBTQ books. 

“You can opt out and get advanced notice any time your religious beliefs are burdened in any one of those contexts,” Haun said in the interview. “But when it comes to pride storybooks, they must be read. No questions asked.”

Often times, when parents stand up and fight against these books and lessons in school they’re called  "bigots," "angry" or "toxic" by news media. The MRCTV asked Haun about these lies. Here’s what he said:

The media is presenting something that is against our best traditions as a country. The Supreme Court has said it’s an enduring American tradition for parents to have the right to direct their children’s religious upbringing. And anyone who’s ever had a parent, which is all of us, knows that parents are their children’s first teachers. Schools should be partnering with the parents to educate their children, not cutting them out of the process.

Ultimately, parents should get the first and prioritized say in what happens to their children in any context, as long as they're not abusive. Parents should be allowed to say, 'you know what, I don’t want my three-year-old to learn about sex and changing their gender.' And honestly, that should be a given. 

Presently the case is still active. Check out more details of the case and updates on Becket’s website.

 

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