Federal Court: Parents in Maryland School District Cannot Opt K-5 Children Out of LGBTQ Curriculum

On Wednesday, a federal court upheld the policy of a Maryland district school that prohibits parents from opting their children in grades K-5 out of curriculum on gender identity and sexuality.

The U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit, released a 2-1 panel ruling that affirmed a decision of a lower court denying the request of parents who were religious to block the policy adopted by the Montgomery County Public Schools Board (MCPS) in March 2023. The majority opinion was written by Judge G. Steven Agee (a Bush appointee), who stated that the parents had not presented enough evidence that the policy violated their right to free exercise of religion and due process to direct the education of their children.

Agee wrote: “We do not take a position on whether Parents will be able present sufficient evidence to support their various theories, once they are able to create a record of the circumstances surrounding Board’s decisions and how the challenged text is actually being used in school.”

At this early stage however, due to the Parents’ broad allegations, the high burden of obtaining a preliminary order, and the scanty record that we have before us, it is our duty to affirm the District Court’s decision denying the preliminary injunction.


Parents of Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths, represented by Becket Fund for Religious Liberty (Becket), argued that refusing to let their children opt out of the reading of LGBTQQIAAP2S+ themed books or participating in the curriculum was a violation of their right to raise children according to their faith, including how it defines sexuality and identity. Parents have also claimed that the material is inappropriate for young students.

The Pride Puppy is one of the titles that are integrated into K-5 curriculum. Other titles include Uncle Bobby’s Wedding and Born Ready: The true story of a boy named Penelope. The Pride Puppy, which is the “single test approved for use in Pre-Kindergarten classrooms and Head Start classrooms”, invited “the audience of three and four year olds… to search for items such a “[drag] “king”, “leather,” ‘lip ring,” ‘[drag] “queen,” and ‘underwear”, according to the judge.

Parents pointed out, too, that the district has provided teachers and staff with guidance on how to handle concerns and questions about pro-LGBTQ+ material and content from students.

Order details

Guidance also advises students to not say “a girl” if they are asked. . . The teacher could “[d]isrupt either/or thinking” by saying that people of all genders can like whomever they want. . . . What do you think __ (character’s name )__ would feel hearing you say this? “Do you think that it is fair to let people decide who we like and don’t?

The panel’s opinion states that, despite this, “merely hearing about other viewpoints does not necessarily exert any pressure to act or believe differently than what one’s religion requires.”

Judge A. Marvin Quattlebaum, Jr., appointed by the former president Donald Trump, wrote a dissenting view saying he would overturn the district court’s ruling and block the school district policy.

Quattlebaum wrote: “The parents have demonstrated that the board’s refusal to allow religious opt-outs has burdened their right to exercise religion and to direct the religious upbringing for their children, by forcing them to choose between compromising their religious beliefs or foregoing public education for their child.”

“I find, too, that the actions of the board, at least in this case, were neither neutral or generally applicable. Finaly, I believe the parents have met the other conditions for a preliminary order. “I would therefore reverse the district courts decision and order the Montgomery County School Board of Education to stop denying religiously-motivated opt-outs from the K-5 students for the use of the texts,” he added.

He added:

I do not agree with the majority that parents haven’t provided enough evidence to prove that their rights to free exercise have been violated. They have done their part. The parents have done their part. They provided detailed declarations explaining why the books were in conflict with their religious beliefs. The board has produced its own internal documents which show how teachers should respond to parents and students who are questioning the content of the books.

The faith of these parents dictates that only they can teach their children about sexuality, gender, and family. He wrote that their faiths require them to shield their children against teachings that contradict or undermine their religious beliefs on these topics. No matter how it is sliced, the board’s refusal to allow religious opt-outs means that parents cannot exercise these aspects of their religion if they wish to ensure their children receive a public school education.

Eric Baxter is a senior attorney and vice president of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. He told Fox 5 DC the parents were disappointed by the decision. He said that parents do not want the books removed from the schools, but rather the option to opt-out for their children.

Baxter stated that “we understand there are parents with different perspectives.” “But parents should be able to determine if something is inappropriate and remove their child in such circumstances. “I think every Montgomery County resident can support that.”

Baxter stated that they intend to appeal the case before the Supreme Court.

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