The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit on Thursday unanimously upheld the rejection of a suit brought by two couples from Lexington, Massachusetts, who said their school district had no right to include LGBT-related books like King & King in its elementary school curriculum. (See my August post about the case.) The parents claimed such readings were an attempt to “indoctrinate” children to accept “homosexuality” and same-sex marriage, and they as parents had a right to be notified before such books were read in the classroom.
The Circuit Court this week noted:
The mere fact that a child is exposed on occasion in public school to a concept offensive to a parent’s religious belief does not inhibit the parent from instructing the child differently. A parent whose ‘child is exposed to sensitive topics or information [at school] remains free to discuss these matters and to place them in the family’s moral or religious context, or to supplement the information with more appropriate materials.’ . . . There is no free exercise right to be free from any reference in public elementary schools to the existence of families in which the parents are of different gender combinations.
Even when a book is chosen to influence children towards a particular viewpoint, the Court found it is acceptable if the end goal is tolerance:
It is a fair inference that the reading of King and King was precisely intended to influence the listening children toward tolerance of gay marriage. That was the point of why that book was chosen and used. Even assuming there is a continuum along which an intent to influence could become an attempt to indoctrinate, however, this case is firmly on the influence-toward-tolerance end. There is no evidence of systemic indoctrination. There is no allegation that Joey [one of the plaintiff’s children] was asked to affirm gay marriage. Requiring a student to read a particular book is generally not coercive of free exercise rights.
Public schools are not obliged to shield individual students from ideas which potentially are religiously offensive, particularly when the school imposes no requirement that the student agree with or affirm those ideas, or even participate in discussions about them.
Amen to that.
An attorney for the couples says they are considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. I wonder what would happen if these parents put the time spent on this lawsuit into their children’s education and enrichment?