Alameda County, Calif., May 24, 2009 (CNA) - A California school district decision to mandate a new curriculum requiring children as young as five years old to be taught about homosexual and transgender communities has prompted significant protest from parents who charged that a "political agenda" is pressing age-inappropriate material upon their children.
The Unified School District in Alameda has proposed a curriculum with the stated intention of addressing bullying, respect and acceptance. The curriculum includes a 45-minute Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) lesson once a year from kindergarten through fifth grade. The kindergarten lesson will focus on the harm of teasing while the fifth graders will study sexual orientation stereotypes, Fox News reports.
Second grade course material includes a children’s book about homosexual penguins trying to create a family. The book is titled "And Tango Makes Three."
Protesting parents in Alameda, a suburb of San Francisco and Oakland, said the curriculum is definitely not age-appropriate and the issues are best learned at home. They were also angry they will not be allowed to keep their children out of the classes.
"I believe these children are far too young to be learning about what these issues mean," Alaina Stewart, an Alameda mother of three elementary school children, told Fox News. "These are adult issues and they are being thrust upon the children."
One father of schoolchildren charged that the policy would violate the First Amendment rights of those who don’t support homosexuality because of their religion.
Kirsten Vital, superintendent of the Alameda Unified School District, said students reported feeling bullied on LGBT issues.
"This work is in response to teachers asking for tools to combat name-calling and bullying at school," she told Fox News.
One parent named Michael Williams said he thought LGBT issues would come up anyway and that teachers should be prepared to help kids "respond appropriately."
Another father named David, who asked that his last name be withheld, told Fox News an "overwhelming" majority of parents spoke against the LGBT instruction at one of the school board meetings, but their protests had little effect.
"The chairman of the school board repeatedly claimed to the audience that the curriculum is evenly supported and opposed," he said. "I am beginning to lose confidence of the board, as it seems to have a preconceived political agenda and [does] not truly represent their constituents’ opposition to the curriculum."
Karen England, a spokeswoman for the conservative policy advocacy group Capitol Resource Institute, noted that there are five protected categories under anti-discrimination laws but the curriculum only focuses on sexual orientation.
She told Fox News she believes the curriculum committee purposely excluded religion. England suggested "an agenda is being pushed."
A May 21 report from the Capitol Resource Institute said that school board meetings had been packed with people and claimed 90 percent of those who spoke opposed the curriculum. The only speakers allowed during the Monday continuation of a May 12 meeting were those who had attended the first meeting.
Saying that speakers were "courteous" and presented "well-reasoned, articulate opposition," the Capitol Resource Institute reported that hecklers "repeatedly booed and hissed when parents and students rose to express their opposition.
One man angry that he was not allowed to address the audience about his support for the homosexual schoolwork physically charged one woman presenter, forcing other men in the audience to come to her defense and forcibly remove the attacker.
One father denounced the actions of homosexual advocates, saying "This bullying is taking place by the people you're asking me to entrust my children to!"
He also said he had recently been labeled a bigot and a white supremacist for expressing his opposition to what he called social indoctrination.
According to the Capitol Resource Institute, the few speakers who favored the curriculum repeatedly stated that the LGBT curriculum was "just a start" and "the first step" in teaching equality in classrooms. Some reportedly told the board that no parental opt-out should be allowed because the children of curriculum opponents were those who most needed the instruction.
Another speaker at the meeting, an Alameda principal and teacher for 45 years, said the curriculum would place teachers in a very difficult position. She expressed concern over the questions sexual classroom teaching would prompt in young children and was booed by supporters of the curriculum.
The final vote on the curriculum will take place on the evening of Tuesday May 26.
Montecassino, Italy, May 24, 2009 (CNA) - At the conclusion of Sunday Mass in Montecassino, Italy, Pope Benedict XVI addressed the faithful before praying the Regina Coeli. As he was speaking beneath the Benedictine Abbey, he stressed the contribution of Benedictine monasticism to the dignity of prayer and of work as well as the importance of “daily contemplation on the Word of God.”
The Pope spoke of the “power of Christ.” He continued: “Saint Benedict was a great witness of this, because he gathered it into his existence and saw it fruitfully multiply through works of authentic spiritual and cultural renewal.”
“This is why, on the entrance to the Abbey of Montecassino, indeed on the entrance to every Benedictine monastery, the word “PAX” is emblazoned as a motto. The monastic community is indeed called to live according to this peace, which is the greatest gift of Easter.”
“Once again the history of monasticism teaches us that the growth of all great civilizations is based on daily contemplation of the Word of God, which drives believers to a personal and common effort to fight against all forms of selfishness and injustice,” he continued. “Only, through the grace of Christ, by learning to fight and win over the evil within ourselves and our relations with others, can we become authentic builders of peace and civil progress.”
“May the Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, help all Christians, in their varied vocations and situations of life to be witnesses of the peace that Christ has gifted us and left us as our mission to be realized everywhere.”
Marking the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, the Holy Father said that his prayers go out to those in the Asian country. He explained, “My thoughts go to all the people of China, in particular to the Catholics in China, as I urge them on this day to renew their communion of faith in Christ and fidelity to the Successor of Saint Peter.”
He concluded, “May our common prayer obtain a spreading of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, so that unity between all Christians, the Catholicity and universality of the Church be ever deeper and more visible.”
Vatican City, May 24, 2009 (CNA) - For a second day in a row, the Vatican daily L’Osservatore Romano echoed the U.S. bishops’ criticism of Barack Obama’s pro-abortion policies, which many pro-life Catholics have claimed to be missing from previous reports in the Vatican newspaper related to the U.S. President.
The front page article, signed by Marco Bellizi and titled "the U.S. Bishops Regarding Conscientious Objection," reports on Cardinal Francis George’s statement released last Friday by the USCCB. The statement requested that President Obama deliver on his alleged commitment to respect the right to conscientious objection, a right which, according to L’Osservatore, should include "the right not to finance abortions with taxes paid to the state."
"This is a relevant issue, since following the decisions made by the new administration on ethical issues, many health workers could find themselves providing services that they do not morally accept," Bellizi writes.
The front page article in the Sunday edition of the Vatican’s newspaper quotes extensively the President of the USCCB as well as Msgr. David Malloy, General Secretary of the USCCB, who recently urged the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to respect human life at all stages.
L’Osservatore quotes Msgr. Malloy’s claim that "President Obama’s executive order of March 9" rescinded "the executive order of 2007 instructing the NIH to thoroughly explore new avenues for obtaining pluripotent stem cells without destroying human embryos… Both science and ethics have been ignored in this decision."
The two back to back articles in L’Osservatore Romano reflecting the U.S. episcopate’s critical stand to Obama have followed a series of complaints from several bishops and pro-life Catholics.
Early this week, the Vatican’s newspaper published a short news story commending Obama’s speech at Notre Dame and ignored the opposition of more than 70 U.S. bishops – including the President of the USCCB, Cardinal Francis George- to the university’s decision to honor the President despite his staunchly pro-abortion record.
The article, as well as a previous one arguing that Obama’s first 100 days in office did not confirm the Catholic Church’s worst fears about policy changes on ethical issues, had been used by pro-Obama Catholics to push the theory that "the Vatican" was somehow distancing itself from the majority of U.S. bishops.