Appeals court REJECTS request by Maryland parents to allow kids to opt out of reading LGBT BOOKS
By Ramon Tomey // May 19, 2024

A federal appeals court has rejected a request by a group of parents from Maryland to allow their children in elementary school to opt out of lessons involving LGBT-themed books.

On May 15, the three-judge panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia ruled 2-1 against the plaintiffs. Circuit Judge Steven Agee, who was appointed by former President George W. Bush, penned the majority opinion while Circuit Judge DeAndrea Benjamin, who was appointed by President Joe Biden, joined him. Circuit Judge A. Marvin Quattlebaum Jr., an appointee of former President Donald Trump, was the lone dissenter.

The May 15 ruling by Agee found that the parents had failed to demonstrate how the Montgomery County Board of Education's (MCBE) book policy would infringe anyone's right to freely exercise religion. A year earlier, parents of multiple faiths – including Muslim, Jewish, and Christian – sued the MCBE over its refusal to provide notice and an opportunity to opt out from their children’s exposure to certain books and related discussions.

According to the plaintiffs, the no-opt-out policy violates their and their children’s free exercise and free speech rights under the First Amendment, the parents’ substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment and state law. Joined by parents' rights organization Kids First, they argued in court that they should be able to opt their children out of the discussion of books with "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer characters" because the books' messages "contradict their sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage, human sexuality and gender."

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"There's no evidence at present that the [MCBE'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. Simply hearing about other views does not necessarily exert pressure to believe or act differently than one's religious faith requires," Agee wrote.

The May 15 ruling affirmed an earlier decision issued by District Judge Deborah Boardman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. The Biden-appointed judge denied a preliminary injunction on the matter in August last year. While the MCBE initially gave parents the chance to opt their children out of being exposed to the books, this option was scrapped beginning with the current school year. (Related: Biden-appointed judge rules parents can't opt children out of school lessons promoting LGBT ideology.)

Groomers at MCBE defend LGBT books as "important literacy tools"

The lawsuit by the concerned parents followed the MCBE's approval of several LGBT-themed storybooks for use in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS), the largest public school system in the Old Line State and also one of the largest in the country.

Examples of books approved by the MCBE in classrooms include Robin Stevenson's "Pride Puppy," which is about a dog who gets lost during an LGBT Pride parade. Jodie Patterson's "Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope," which is about her female-to-male transgender child's experience, is another title approved by the school board.

The MCBE defended its decision to approve the books in legal filings from late last year. It argued that the said LGBT books are important literacy tools intended to teach English and language arts (ELA).

Moreover, the school board added that the books were approved as part of efforts to reflect the diversity of the school community. The said books also reportedly advance the MCBE's goal to normalize an inclusive environment, according to the Epoch Times.

"They do not prompt children to explore romantic feelings or question their sexual orientation or gender identity. They are language arts instructional materials – approved by specialists for use in the ELA curriculum – that reflect the communities in which MCPS students live."

Agee's majority ruling also indicated that the record regarding how teachers were actually using the books in their classrooms and what, exactly children were being taught from them was "threadbare." He did not close the door entirely on the matter, however, and suggested that further litigation may be on the cards.

Check out for similar stories.

Watch this clip of Muslim families in Maryland's Montgomery County protesting against LGBT books used in the MCPS.

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More related stories:

Michigan school board meeting turns chaotic as Muslim parents push back against LGBT materials.

Tom Renz rants about widespread promotion of LGBT ideology in school system, social media.

Mississippi mayor refuses to distribute funds to libraries that display LGBT books for kids.

LGBTQ-themed books top list of most challenged library books of 2023.

Tennessee city to BAN all LGBT books from county libraries.

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