Court rules against anti-gay activists in Lexington curriculum case

If anti-gay crusaders in Lexington don't like the books the local school system uses, they're free to run for School Committee, but they shouldn't expect any help from the courts.

In a 44-page ruling released today (hat tip to Terry Klein at Decisionism, who got the scoop), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit rejected the claims of the Parker and Wirthlin families that the Eastbrook School violated their First Amendment rights to believe and to teach their children that gays and gay marriage are abhorrent.

The court ruled that the First Amendment does not shield children from potentially objectionable material, but rather from efforts by government officials to coerce them into believing or saying things contrary to the parents' beliefs. And that, the court ruled, simply did not happen in Lexington; the two sets of parents are still free to teach their children whatever they want:

[W]e cannot see how Jacob's free exercise right was burdened at all: two books were made available to him, but he was never required to read them or have them read to him. Further, these books do not endorse gay marriage or homosexuality, or even address these topics explicitly, but merely describe how other children might come from families that look different from one's own. 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.

Joey has a more significant claim, both because he was required to sit through a classroom reading of King and King and because that book affirmatively endorses homosexuality and gay marriage. 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 was asked to affirm gay marriage. ... 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. ...

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      Comments

      W00T!

      Thank Deity-of-your-choice these asshats don't get to tell my kids what to think! What would their next move be if they won - demanding to review all the curriculum for all schools to see if it conformed to their narrow view of fantasy world?

      Same sex marriage is legal in MA. Kids will have same-sex married parents. Just because they don't like it, that doesn't make it any less of a reality, nor will it keep their kids from noticing family structures that differ from their own. Their not liking it also doesn't mean the schools can't show kids the different types of families that live in the community.

      Parker and his merry band of sphincterboys were the ones who made it all about sex and not about families. They are the perverts who sexualized their five year olds, not the Lexington Schools. Puhleeze. Deal already.

      Thank Deity-of-your-choice

      Thank Deity-of-your-choice these asshats don't get to tell my kids what to think! What would their next move be if they won - demanding to review all the curriculum for all schools to see if it conformed to their narrow view of fantasy world?

      OK, so you're essentially saying that you don't want your kids to be told something you don't agree with. Wow. I think you and plaintiffs are more alike then you want to admit.

      I don't think schools should be teaching that same sex couples is "right" OR "wrong". Parents should be making that decisions on how to raise their children, not schools, and by extension, the government.

      Or would you be OK with your school teaching your children that homosexuality is wrong?

      "FORCE" would have been a

      "FORCE" would have been a better word. The point above is they weren't implicitly saying same sex marriage was right or wrong, but that tolerance is a virtue.

      People need to stop cherry picking the bible and use that thing atop your shoulders.

      They also need to home school their kids if they don't believe in a broad, multi-viewed education that produces the brightest adults

      Teach the Facts

      The plaintiffs in this case objected to the use of school books that had pictures of different kinds of families, including families where both parents were the same sex. This wasn't teaching any opinion on homosexuality, it was teaching the fact that, as Swirlygrl said, gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts and there are families with same sex parents. The plaintiffs in this case were trying to impose their belief about whether such facts should be shared on others, the rejection of which, I believe, is what Swirlygrl was rejoycing upon. People are free to teach their children that the fact that there are homosexuals is "bad," or the fact that there is gravity is "bad," but they aren't entitled to teach that belief in a school funded by all of the people through taxes. Facts are neutral.

      Wrong!

      My kids bring home buttloads of jingoistic bullcrap baggage from school that neither I nor they agree with. That isn't the point.

      The point is that your religion doesn't get to decide what gets taught in schools. No religion does.

      Even the Jehovahs Witnesses only wanted to have their kids NOT say the pledge of allegiance. They didn't say "I find it offensive so no kid should be taught to say it". My kids find the daily recitation to be annoying and offensive and they stand quietly or omit "under God" and that is fine by me.

      I don't like my kids being taught DARE blather that has been soundly discredited by scientific evaluation of efficacy. I don't demand that other kids not be taught that, but I do exercise my legal rights to opt them out. (although I would be well within my rights to demand it be banished as it has been demonstrated using secular scientific methods to be worse than ineffective). Ditto for the Abstinence Only wastes of time. I'd rather they do their homework in the library.

      BTW, same sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts. There are gay people with kids in Massachusetts, even in the school in question. I think they would be highly offended that someone's religious rigidity got to declare their family nonexistant. So they would sue and ... Oh, I'm sure there are some Catholic League types around who would prefer that kids not learn about the whole inquistion and the indulgence purchasing and Borgia Pope dynasties that led to the Reformation, etc.

      But hey, don't take my word for it. You can always read the 44 page decision for inspiration.

      a minor quibble

      Actually not that minor...I understand using "same-sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts" as an argument for presenting that type of family as fact. However, there are plenty of families with two same-sex parents who are not legally married, in Massachusetts and elsewhere.

      In other words, it's a fact whether or not marriage is legal.

      You mean this quote?

      BTW, same sex marriage is legal in Massachusetts. There are gay people with kids in Massachusetts, even in the school in question.

      I intended that to encompass those parents who chose not to marry. I'm sorry if you missed that or viewed it as an omission.

      There are also straight families that aren't married. I know two kids who each have two unmarried mom-dad pairs who cooperate and coordinate in their rearing as a result of a divorce without remarriage but with live-in partners. My kids think they are very lucky kids indeed!