Muslim-led parents’ group protests LGBT curriculum mandate in Maryland school system
Parental and religious freedom rights advocates, including a group of Muslim parents, on June 6, 2023, protest a Maryland school system policy that removes parents’ authority to opt their children out of homosexual and transgender coursework. | Credit: The Religious Freedom Institute
A group of Muslim parents joined parental and religious freedom rights advocates Tuesday to protest a Maryland school system’s new policy that removes the parents’ authority to opt their children out of coursework that promotes homosexuality and transgenderism.
The June 6 protest at the Montgomery County public school district’s headquarters was led by a group called Family Rights for Religious Freedom. About 50 parents and activists carried signs that read “family rights” and “restore the opt-out” while chanting slogans such as “protect our children” and “religious freedom now.”
Maryland law requires that school districts allow parents to opt out of coursework that deals with “family life and human sexuality.” However, the school district decided in March that it does not consider reading materials that discuss subjects related to homosexuality, transgenderism, and other aspects of gender ideology to be a part of “family life and human sexuality instruction.”
For this reason, beginning on May 1, the school district no longer notifies parents of such material in the coursework and will not allow them to opt out.
“We don’t want to be put aside as basically irrelevant,” Wael Elkoshairi, who leads Family Rights for Religious Freedom, told CNA.
The school district has approved several books that discuss subjects related to homosexuality and transgenderism for students as young as 3 or 4 years old. This includes a book called “Pride Puppy!”, which seeks to teach children the alphabet through a story about a homosexual pride parade and introduces them to words like “drag queen,” “leather,” and “zipper.” It also introduces them to Marsha B. Johnson, who was a drag queen, a gay rights activist, and, temporarily, a prostitute.
VIDEO THREAD: "Protect our children!" Today a Muslim-led coalition rallied outside the Montgomery County Maryland School Board against the removal of an "opt-out" option from human sexuality related material.
Elkoshairi told CNA that he had opted his daughter out of this type of coursework in the past, but the current policy will no longer allow him to do that. His daughter is in second grade.
“We were always afforded the right to opt out,” Elkoshairi said.
Elkoshairi emphasized that the rally was not anti-LGBT and that they did not protest the school district for introducing these books. He said their only request is to “allow us to opt out because the state of Maryland has that provision in it.”
“We’re not anti-LGBT, but we are pro-family rights [and] we are pro-religious freedom,” Elkoshairi added.
Family Rights for Religious Freedom began primarily with Muslim parents, but Elkoshairi said a lot of Christian groups have reached out to them and they are growing their coalition membership.
Lindsey Smith, a member of Moms for Liberty Montgomery County, which also took part in the event, told CNA that her organization teamed up with other parents “to rally with parents who are standing up for parental and religious rights to opt out of sexual orientation curriculum being used in English literature classes and social studies in pre-K and up.”
“So far the BOE has stated multiple times that they are standing firm in their decision to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion and not honor their own religious policy giving the rights to the parent to opt out of any sexual orientation teaching,” Smith added. “We will continue to empower parents and stand beside like-minded organizations making known that we do not co-parent with the government but that we are the parents and advocates for our children, not any educational governmental agency.”
Montgomery County is located within the greater Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and is home to the largest public school district in the state of Maryland, with more than 160,000 students enrolled.
Some of the protesters testified about the policy at the school board meeting held at the site.
“Religion is not just private worship,” she continued. “It involves public expression on social and moral issues. … The issue of gender and sexuality are influenced by our faith and we should not be caricatured as intolerant and our faith to be subversive because it doesn’t align with your beliefs. Intolerance of the faith community threatens to erode support for religious freedom, therefore eroding the benefits it provides for everyone: religious and nonreligious.”
Becket Law, a legal nonprofit that defends religious liberty, filed a federal lawsuit on May 24 to demand the state Board of Education and the county Board of Education respect the parents’ right to opt out from this coursework, which they argue is required by state law and the First Amendment of the Constitution.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Muslim, Catholic, and Orthodox Christian parents.
“The law already provides the right of parents to opt out,” Eric Baxter, senior counsel for Becket Law, told CNA.
Baxter said the state law “applies generally to all instruction on family life and human sexuality” and is not limited to only health classes discussing sexual education.
“All we’re asking is to restore the opt-outs,” he said.
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“This is an issue that crosses political lines [and] it crosses religious lines,” Baxter said.
Tyler Arnold is a staff reporter for Catholic News Agency, based in EWTN News’ Washington Bureau. He previously worked at The Center Square and has been published in a variety of outlets, including The Associated Press, National Review, The American Conservative, and The Federalist.
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