Maryland parents can’t opt kids out of LGBTQ book curriculum, court rules

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Maryland LGBTQ book curriculum court ruling

Federal Appeals Court Decision

On Wednesday, a split decision by a federal appeals court denied a request from a group of Maryland parents to mandate that a school district allow them to opt their elementary school children out of reading assignments that feature LGBTQ characters.

Details of the Case

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, ruled 2-1 against the parents. The parents had contested the Montgomery County Board of Education’s decision, made in 2022, to integrate LGBTQ-inclusive storybooks into the school curriculum.

Arguments Presented

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty represented the parents, who opposed the inclusion of books depicting gay, transgender, and non-binary characters. The parents, comprised of Muslims, Christians, and Jews, argued that the policy violated their religious rights under the First Amendment by not allowing an opt-out option.

Majority Opinion

U.S. Circuit Judge G. Steven Agee, appointed by former President George W. Bush, authored the majority opinion. Judge Agee indicated that the parents did not sufficiently demonstrate how the book policy infringed on their religious freedom. He pointed out that there was a lack of evidence on how teachers utilized the books and the specific teachings being imparted to children.

Judge DeAndrea Benjamin, appointed by President Joe Biden, concurred with Agee’s opinion. The court found no substantial proof that the policy placed a burden on the parents’ rights to religious education for their children.

Dissenting Opinion

In dissent, U.S. Circuit Judge A. Marvin Quattlebaum, Jr., appointed by former President Donald Trump, argued that the policy infringed on the parents’ First Amendment rights. He believed that the board’s decision interfered with the parents’ right to guide their children’s religious upbringing.

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The court’s ruling means that the Montgomery County Board of Education can continue to use LGBTQ-inclusive storybooks in their curriculum without offering an opt-out option for parents. The decision underscores the ongoing debate over educational content and parental rights in public schools.

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