In an unusual display of unity, a diverse religious gathering of Muslims, Jews, and Christians convened at Maryland’s Montgomery County Public Schools’ board meeting to protest against the lack of an opt-out provision in the LGBTQ curriculum.
Many were parents whose children attend Montgomery County schools. They argued that the restriction infringes on their First Amendment right to religious liberty.
Soloman Hailemariam, a father who attended the rally with his family, affirmed, “We have the religious right to raise our kids based on the Bible.” Similarly, another parent remarked, “I am responsible for bringing up my kids in the right way,” implying the necessity of his participation in the rally. Protesters collectively chanted “Our voices, our children” and “What do we want? Opt-out. When do we want it? Now.”
Multiple speakers from parent rights and religious freedom organizations voiced their concerns, arguing that denying an opt-out option is unconstitutional. Amidst the protest, a group of about 15 counter-protesters showed their support for the Board of Education and its LGBTQ curriculum.
John Zittrauer, a member of the “Pride” group, said, “We’re here not so much to counter the protest, but to show support for the Board of Education… and show the queer kids that go to school here that they are supported.”
At present, the school system allows LGBTQ-related content to be taught outside of sex-education classes via “inclusive texts,” without the requirement of parental consent. The MCPS’s official stance is that opting out of such materials is not permitted, except for a specific portion of the curriculum as stipulated by Maryland law.
The Family Rights for Religious Freedom (FRRF), a coalition of parents in Montgomery County, organized the protest. Despite apparent breaches of Maryland’s Open Meetings Act, protesters were not allowed to attend the board meeting due to “safety concerns.”
Superintendent of MCPS Schools, Dr. Monifa McKnight, was urged directly by parents chanting: “Dear Dr. McKnight: Do what’s right.” Placards held up read, “Respect Religious Freedom,” “Family Rights,” “Restore Opt-Out,” and “We support inclusion and religious freedom.” Other signs further stressed these sentiments, stating, “Indoctrination by force is not American,” and “It’s my right to keep my child safe.”