by Jorge Gomez • 5 min read
Our children are not children of the State. They are children of their parents. Religious parents should be allowed to raise their children consistent with their faith. In America—a country founded on religious liberty—that’s something that we can all agree on, right?
Sadly, some government officials in our nation’s schools don’t think that’s the case. They want to force radical gender and sexual ideology on students, even though it violates the beliefs of the family.
A case dealing with this very issue has made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In John and Jane Parents 1 v. Montgomery County, several religious parents are taking on a school board in Maryland, just outside our nation’s capital. The parents are challenging a policy requiring staff to hide children’s gender transitions from their own religiously observant parents.
This week, First Liberty filed a friend-of-the-court brief in that case. We submitted it on behalf of several religious groups, including the Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty, American Hindu Coalition, Islam and Religious Freedom Action Team, Christian Legal Society and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
These groups argue that their faiths entrust parents with the primary responsibility for imparting their religious beliefs to their children – without government interference. It’s a belief shared by millions of Americans of all religious traditions.
Our brief explains that Montgomery County’s policy is an attack on the sincerely held religious beliefs of these and many other faith groups. We argue that the district’s policy violates the First Amendment, and make clear that “the Free Exercise Clause protects the right of parents to raise their children in accordance with their sincere religious beliefs, without being undermined by public school administrators.”
“Under the Policy, religious parents teaching their faith to their children will be excluded as their children must choose between following the ideals they learned at home or succumbing to school pressure to support gender transitions,” our brief adds.
We urge the Court to hear this case and to “uphold Free Exercise rights and consider the impact of such policies on religious families nationwide, particularly families from minority faith backgrounds.”
Similar Legal Battles Unfolding Across the Country
Montgomery County parents aren’t the only ones in the midst of this battle. Cases involving parental rights and religious liberty are surfacing all over.
First Liberty is representing several Somali-American families in the suburbs of Minneapolis dealing with the same issue. We sent two letters to the St. Louis Park Public School District in Minnesota urging officials to allow several children from these families to opt out of sexual content being taught in elementary English classes.
In that case, we’re fighting for devout Muslim families who immigrated from war-torn Somalia. Religious freedom and educational opportunities are among the most significant reasons they sought refuge in the United States. These parents believe they have an obligation to raise their children consistent with their faith. All they’re asking for is prior notice and the ability to opt out from books that discuss sexual orientation or gender identity. The district denied their requests.
First Liberty submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in a related U.S. Supreme Court case. We asked the Justices to hear M.C. and J.C. v. Indiana Department of Child Services, which deals with the state of Indiana’s decision to remove a child from the home of Christian parents because of their religious beliefs about sexuality.
Our brief recounts the tragic story of Abigail Martinez, a Christian mom in California, who lost custody of her teenager Yaeli. The state took issue with Abigail’s religious beliefs about sexuality. Yaeli eventually committed suicide. Through First Liberty’s brief, Abigail shares her family’s tragic story in hopes that other families will not experience similar heartache from harmful state policies.
It’s wrong for the state to tell parents what to believe or how to raise their children. It’s also unconstitutional. Our children are not children of the state. Parents have a constitutionally protected right to impart their sincere religious beliefs to their children without government interference. This certainly includes the right to direct their children’s education and the right to know what their children are learning in school.
The decisions in each of these cases will impact countless families, including yours. Schools shouldn’t force students to participate in anything that violates their religious convictions. The Constitution is clear that government cannot target parents because of their religious beliefs or interfere with the religious upbringing of their children.