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Muslim, Christian parents protest school district requiring students to participate in LGBT lessons

Hundreds of demonstrators gather outside the Montgomery County Public Schools headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, on June 27, 2023.
Hundreds of demonstrators gather outside the Montgomery County Public Schools headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, on June 27, 2023. | Screenshot: Twitter/Asra Nomani

Hundreds of parents from various faith traditions, including Christian and Muslim parents, demonstrated Tuesday, demanding that the largest school district in Maryland allow them to opt their kids out of LGBT lessons and books they believe contradict their religious beliefs. 

Zainab Chaudry, director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Maryland, told The Christian Post on Thursday that concerned parents in Montgomery County are not calling for the banning of LGBT books but to have the right to decide if their child should be exposed to certain materials. 

"They personally just want to have a right to say when and how their children are exposed to content that conflicts with their beliefs," Chaudry told CP. "The school system has unilaterally made this decision." 

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"They're forcing children as young as pre-K to be part of these discussions, not just book readings, but classroom discussions that teach values, that teach ideas about lifestyles and aspects of different communities that conflict with the basic fundamental principles in many different faith traditions," she continued. 

Muslim parents began contacting CAIR last fall after the school district introduced LGBT-themed books. Parents wanted the right to opt their children out of reading books with LGBT themes.

As WMAR 2 reported Thursday, some of the books parents object to include titles like Pride Puppy and Uncle Bobby's Wedding. The crowd consisted mostly of Muslim and Ethiopian Orthodox parents who believe the school district is violating their First Amendment rights.  According to a tweet from author and former Georgetown University professor Asra Nomani, who attended the rally, the protesters also included Peruvian Catholics.

In addition to introducing the LGBT books, Chaudry said there are additional discussions and classroom activities on the topic happening from the pre-K grade level through 12th grade.

The organization provided parents who contacted them for support with a template letter. Families typically use template letters to request reasonable accommodations due to curriculum content or if a child must be excused for a religious holiday.

While MCPS initially honored their request, according to Chaudry, the school district began requiring all students to participate in the LGBT-inclusive lessons, with no option to opt out, in March. 

"It's deeply troubling on many levels because it sets a very dangerous precedent when it comes to religious freedom for all communities," Chaudry said. "This is not a Muslim issue; this is not a Jewish issue or a Christian issue."

"This is an issue for any student of any faith who chooses to be opted out of content that conflicts with their religious beliefs," she continued. "This sets a very dangerous precedent for that, and it's actually fuel for more bigotry in some cases because, unfortunately, people feel that the school system is not receptive to their voices."

Chaudry voiced similar concerns during a news conference this week, calling for MCPS to restore its opt-out option for parents. The CAIR director emphasized the diversity of the concerned parents, highlighting the members of Jewish, Christian, Hindu and Sikh communities present at the event.

The Montgomery County Public School System did not respond to The Christian Post's request for comment. 

As Fox News reported Tuesday, MCPS announced the LGBT reading list last year. The list is part of the district's English language arts curriculum. Despite multiple requests from parents to opt their children out of these lessons, the school board said that the students are required to "engage" with these materials.

Under a new policy set to be implemented during the 2023–'24 academic year, parents will not be allowed to opt their children out of any instructional materials, with the exception of Family Life and Human Sexuality Unit of Instruction. Teachers also will not send home notices to parents informing them when LGBT-themed books are being read. 

In response to Tuesday's demonstrations, MCPS implemented additional safety measures during its Board of Education meeting that day. Attendees at the meeting were limited to "scheduled speakers, invited attendees and other guests to the capacity of the room."

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: samantha.kamman@christianpost.com. Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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