GREENBELT, Md. (BP)–Handing pro-family groups a major victory, a federal judge May 5 blocked a controversial sex-education program from going into effect at a large Maryland public school system, saying it took sides in the debate over homosexuality by painting conservative Christians as “unenlightened” and “misguided.”
U.S. District Judge Alexander Williams Jr. issued a temporary restraining order against the Montgomery County Public Schools sex-ed curriculum, which was scheduled to be tested in six schools — three high schools and three middle schools — beginning May 9. Montgomery County is the most populous county in Maryland. In light of the ruling, the school system superintendent said he was suspending the pilot program.
Two conservative groups — Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum and Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays — had been fighting the curriculum for months. A religious liberties group, Liberty Counsel, filed a lawsuit on behalf of the groups.
The curriculum — aimed at eighth- and 10th-graders — claims that Jesus “said absolutely nothing at all about homosexuality” and that being homosexual is similar to being left-handed. It notes that some Baptist churches once defended racial segregation, implying that conservative Baptists today are on the wrong side of history. It also says that future generations likely will view today’s traditional beliefs on homosexuality with “astonishment” and that “religion has often been misused to justify hatred and oppression.”
Williams, a nominee of President Clinton, said the curriculum likely violates the Constitution’s protection of free speech and religious freedom. He said he would “fiercely protect” First Amendment freedoms.
“The Court is extremely troubled by the willingness of Defendants to venture — or perhaps more correctly bound — into the crossroads of controversy where religion, morality, and homosexuality converge,” Williams wrote in a 23-page opinion. “… [T]he Revised Curriculum presents only one view on the subject — that homosexuality is a natural and morally correct lifestyle — to the exclusion of other perspectives. Indeed, the Revised Curriculum advises teachers that the information concerning homosexuality is to be presented to students as facts and that ‘no additional information, interpretation or examples are to be provided by the teacher.'”
Williams indicated he likely would make the injunction permanent. His ruling is sure to be used by conservatives and traditionalists in other parts of the country fighting similar battles. In late April the father of an elementary school student in Boston was arrested after he protested the school’s use of a children’s book containing homosexual characters. He went to the school to talk to officials and was taken into custody after refusing to leave.
Rena Lindevaldsen, senior litigation counsel for Liberty Counsel, applauded the Maryland judge’s ruling and said the lawsuit is “part of the bigger battle that is going on” nationwide.
“This really is a first-of-its-kind decision,” Lindevaldsen told Baptist Press. “When a school district is going to venture into the area of teaching about homosexuality, it cannot teach one side on the issue…. They’re actually silencing the opposing viewpoint. They are indoctrinating our kids with the idea that you’re born gay, that you can’t change and that there are no risks associated with the homosexual lifestyle.”
The curriculum includes a “myth and facts” handout, which Williams said was taken from the homosexual group Family Pride Coalition’s website. The curriculum states:
— “Myth: It isn’t ‘normal’ to be homosexual or have homosexual feelings.
“Facts: … It is interesting to note that only a few hundred years ago, being left-handed was considered the mark of a witch, a sign of perversity…. Future generations are likely to look back with equal astonishment that gay and lesbian people were subjected to similar acts of fear and hatred.”
— “Myth: Homosexuals are sick.
“Facts: … One’s sexual and emotional orientations are fixed at a very early age. Many experts claim at birth, certainly by age five.”
— “Myth: Homosexuality is a sin.
“Facts: The Bible contains six passages which condemn homosexual behavior. The Bible also contains numerous passages condemning heterosexual behavior. Theologians and Biblical scholars continue to differ on many Biblical interpretations. They agree on one thing, however. Jesus said absolutely nothing at all about homosexuality. Among the many things deemed an abomination are adultery, incest, wearing clothing made from more than one kind of fiber, and eating shellfish, like shrimp and lobster.
“Religion has often been misused to justify hatred and oppression. Less than a half century ago, Baptist churches (among others) in this country defended racial segregation on the basis that it was condoned by the Bible. Early Christians were not hostile to homosexuals. Intolerance became the dominant attitude only after the Twelfth Century. Today, many people no longer tolerate generalizations about homosexuality as pathology or sin…. Fortunately, many within organized religions are beginning to address the homophobia of the church.”
It then lists the Nation Council of Churches, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Society of Friends (Quakers) and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches as those that “support full civil rights for gay men and lesbians.”
The curriculum adds that “homophobia rather than homosexuality should be cured” and that “approximately” 10 percent of the population is homosexual — a statistic that has been disproved. In 2003 a coalition of homosexual organizations — such as Human Rights Campaign — wrote a legal brief in the Lawrence v. Texas case in which they said the most “widely accepted” statistic is that 2.8 percent of men and 1.4 percent of women are homosexual. The statistic is from the National Health and Social Life Survey.
The curriculum also included a video presentation of a blonde young woman placing a condom on a cucumber. She mentions abstinence but spends most of her time talking about condom usage.
In his ruling Williams said the “importance of protecting” First Amendment freedoms “cannot be overstated.”
“The Revised Curriculum … paints certain Christian sects, notably Baptists, which are opposed to homosexuality, as unenlightened and Biblically misguided,” he wrote. “… The Revised Curriculum also implies that the Baptist Church’s position on homosexuality is theologically flawed.
“… Most disturbingly, the Revised Curriculum juxtaposes this portrait of an intolerant and Biblically misguided Baptist Church against other, preferred Churches, which are more friendly towards the homosexual lifestyle.”
Williams rejected arguments by the pro-family groups that the curriculum posed increased health risks.
Warren Throckmorton, coauthor of a 51-page paper critical of the curriculum, praised Williams’ ruling. Throckmorton is associate professor of psychology Grove City College (Pa.).
“Parents are having their views heard at last,” he said in a statement.
The ruling is available online in PDF form at http://www.mdd.uscourts.gov/Opinions152/Opinions/CRC050505.pdf
For information about the national debate over “gay marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage