Monday, April 09, 2007

On Pork and Gays and Religious Rights

The Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum like to complain that their religious rights are violated by the new sex-ed curriculum, which discusses homosexuality without mentioning its sinfulness.

For instance, here's a chunk from the CRC's appeal to the state board of education to stop the new classes:
In this case the Appellants seek to protect their legitimate, albeit unpopular, religious belief that views the homosexual sex acts as sinful from being refuted to their children in classes teaching the Additional Lessons. This view rests on a long standing religious tradition, and counts as its adherents many hundreds of thousands of followers in many Evangelical and some other Protestant Christian denominations, Mormons Catholics, Muslims, Orthodox Jews and others.

Also, they say ...
The Additional Lessons violate the Establishment Clause because the government is directly involved in preferring one set of religious beliefs over another.

A couple of days ago we quoted the CRC's John Garza, talking on a TV show, saying:
If you do that [teach tolerance] you’re going to step on the toes of many religious folks who are taught on Sunday that homosexual conduct is a sin so you run right into that major problem.

Well, there is a lot of talk -- lot of talk -- about religion in the CRC's appeal to the state. In fact, I think it is mostly about religion.

This morning somebody wrote something in our comments section that I wanted to bring to the front, because they make such a good point.

See, the CRC says that because their religion teaches that homosexuality is a sin, the school district is violating the Establishment Clause of the Constitution -- known to us ordinary folks as the "separation of church and state" -- by teaching about gay people without noting the, uh, negative stereotype.

You know, these Christians make all the noise, but they aren't the only religion that has prohibitions on things. So "MCPS Mom" wrote this morning:
Every time an MCPS cafeteria serves pork, it steps "on the toes of many religious folks [Muslims, Jews, Seventh Day Adventists, etc.] who are taught" that pigs are unclean and eating pork is an abomination. Similarly, every dress code that allows females to attend school with uncovered heads or wearing miniskirts or shorts steps "on the toes of many [Muslim] religious folks" who are taught that the Qur'an orders Muslims to dress "modestly." Every cheeseburger served steps "on the toes of many [Jewish] religious folks" who are taught to keep Kosher.

If these or countless other conditions at school are so divergent from your religious views that you cannot tolerate them, you are free to enroll your students in religious schools that provides lessons and meals you can tolerate or to home school them.

The good news about health classes on human sexuality at MCPS is that you don't have to withdraw from MCPS and enroll in a religious school to avoid them. You can simply withhold parental permission for your student to attend these classes if you object to them for any reason.

This is an excellent point.

The school serves pork in the cafeteria. The observant Jew or Muslim simply doesn't take a helping. They don't go to court to take pork off the menu, they don't walk around outside the school with signs, they don't robo-call families at home to tell them to boycott the cafeteria. If they eat at the cafeteria, they take a different kind of food.

It's exactly the same.

No religious group has the right to force everybody else to follow their particular restrictions or habits. It's as simple as that. If you have a proscription you obey, then it's up to you to figure out how to do that. It seems to me that the schools will accommodate you as well as they can -- I remember sitting in a school board meeting when some Muslim students complained about final exams being given during their holy week. The school board asked a lot of questions, and it looked like they would do what they could to correct the situation, so that people would be able to practice their religion without coming into conflict with the school schedule. It's not a requirement, the school district doesn't have to do that, but it's a nice thing to do, and they would prefer to respect people's practices if they can. I think that's how it usually is.

And anyway, look. In the long run, it doesn't matter if the classes are right or wrong, moral or immoral, because, as MCPS Mom says here, if you don't want your kid to take the course they don't have to. You don't even have to say why you're not letting them take it. A parent simply doesn't sign the request form, and the kid is excused. It's that easy.

Your kid will only take the class if you, the parent, send a special note to the school, asking for permission for your child to attend the classes. If your religion doesn't accept the content of the classes, just don't ask for permission for your child to attend. How can anybody complain about that?


Blogger andrear said...

Let's not lose sight of the fact that the loud CRCers don't have kids in MCPS- except for Michele Turner- and maybe her last one is getting ready to leave? I feel badly for the boy whose mom said(in the WAPO)- "he is only 13, he is a child, he still sits in my lap." I bet this kid is cringing at his mom's quote. A 13 year old not old enough to know about homosexuality?- this mom is one lost soul.

April 09, 2007 2:16 PM  
Anonymous Andrew B. said...

The constitutional question is two-fold. Our First Amendment reads, in part, "Congress shall make no laws respecting the establishment of a religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." Yes, there is the Establishment part, which means that the State cannot establish a religion. Schools cannot tell students that they have to pray to Jesus, for example. The new curriculum does not violate that part: defining a term or mentioning something doesn't come close to establishing a religion. The harder problem, in my view, is whether the new curriculum violates the second part. Does the new curriculum prohibit the free exercise of religion? I would say no. As you mention, students are allowed to participate in an alternative curriculum, so they are not prohibited from exercising their religion. The courts have set up some legal standards such as "viewpoint discrimination," which CRC repeats ad nauseum in their briefs. Interestingly though, in the Bong Hits 4 Jesus case Bush's Solicitor General argued that schools should be able to engage in viewpoint discrimination ( I think MCPS is in the clear on this one too.

April 09, 2007 2:29 PM  
Blogger Dana Beyer, M.D. said...

To follow up on MCPS Mom:

There are Jewish students for whom any of the food prepared or served in an unkosher cafeteria is off-limits. Those kids bring their own food to school. I don't think they feel shamed by brown-bagging it, or that their school lunch staff are anti-Semitic or intolerant as a result.

And there are those Jewish students who won't even sit and eat in an unkosher cafeteria. They attend religious schools, because their demands are simply too onerous for the system.

April 09, 2007 3:32 PM  
Blogger digger said...

Parents can opt their students out of the classes, home-school them, send them to private school, teach them whatever they want about LGBT people and sexual orientation. But the reality is that some of the children of the supporters of the CRC will be gay, whatever their parents want. Those children may be in for a very difficult time for it, when deep-seated and essential feelings differ from strongly-held beliefs. Groups such as PFOX and Exodus prey on people like that. Their efforts are not morally neutral.

April 09, 2007 4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot of us have similar concerns for gays growing up in homes with strong anti-gay religious beliefs. It's good to know that there are groups like Soulforce ( who are bringing the message that God loves us all to evangelical college campuses like Bob Jones University and Patrick Henry College.

There's an article called "Young, Gay Christians, On a Bumpy Bus Ride
At Evangelical College, Protesters Target Culture That Excludes Them" on the front page of today's Washington Post Style section. If you don't get the paper, you can read it on line at:

It's really a shame the PHU's leadership seems to prefer to hide behind police barricades over conversations with gay Christian students. I'd expect institutions of higher learning to be willing to hear both sides of any issue and I'd expect evangelicals to be secure enough in their faith to hear what other Christians have to say about sexual orientation. The decision to not even allow students to listen to the Soulforce equality riders tells me that their fear is more powerful than their faith.


April 13, 2007 10:55 AM  

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