Court says Maryland parents have no right to opt out of LGBTQ curriculum

May 16, 2024 2 Min Read
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A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that parents in Maryland have no right to be informed when their children are being instructed with LGBTQ materials or to opt their children out of that instruction.

The legal advocacy group Becket Law, which is representing the parents challenging the Montgomery County Board of Education, said on Wednesday that the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling.

The firms said the ruling means that parents of children enrolled at Montgomery County Public Schools “have no right to be notified or opt their kids out of” materials that teach transgenderism and other sexual ideologies.

Becket, which specializes in religious freedom cases, said the parents had objected to their children being exposed to books that included materials that “champion pride parades, gender transitioning, and pronoun preferences for children.”

Other books reportedly asked children to locate words such as “underwear” and “leather,” and to explore topics such as “nonbinary” identities, in which individuals believe themselves to be neither male nor female.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland had originally ruled against the parents in August of last year, arguing in part that the parents “are not pressured into violating their religious beliefs in order to obtain the benefits of a public education.”

The appeals court on Wednesday similarly held, in a divided 2-1 ruling, that the plaintiffs “have not shown a cognizable burden” to the free exercise of their religion.

There is “no evidence at present that the board’s decision not to permit opt-outs compels the parents or their children to change their religious beliefs or conduct, either at school or elsewhere,” the court argued.

The plaintiffs did not provide evidence that they have “been asked to affirm views contrary to their views on gender or sexuality, to disavow views on these matters that their religion espouses, or otherwise affirmatively act in violation of their religious belief,” the ruling said.

Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, said in a statement after the ruling that the court “told thousands of Maryland parents they have no say in what their children are taught in public schools.”

“That runs contrary to the First Amendment, Maryland law, the school board’s own policies, and basic human decency,” Baxter argued.

“Parents should have the right to receive notice and opt their children out of classroom material that violates their faith,” he said.

Becket will appeal the ruling, Baxter said.

The controversy has united a broad coalition of primarily Muslim, Catholic, and Ethiopian Orthodox Christian parents against the county board of education’s policy.

Last August, ahead of the district court’s ruling, dozens of parents from various religious faiths rallied outside the Montgomery County federal courthouse in support of the plaintiffs.

William Haun, senior counsel at Becket, told CNA at the time that “the point of this lawsuit is to restore the ability to give parents notice and opt out.” The school board originally scrapped the opt-out option in March 2023.

“The school board just took [the opt out] away without any public explanation,” Haun said. “The First Amendment protects against arbitrary power, and it protects the right of parents to direct their children’s religious upbringing.”

Daniel Payne

Catholic News Agency

Daniel Payne is a senior editor at Catholic News Agency.

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