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Parents Ask Appeals Court to Restore Opt-Outs for LGBTQ 'Pride' Storybooks

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A group of multi-faith religious parents were in a federal appeals court Tuesday fighting for the right to opt their children out of LGBTQ storybooks that push one-sided ideology regarding gender and sexuality. The parents see it as extremist ideology, saying it's "forced inculcation."

Attorneys with Becket argued the parents' case before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The nonprofit religious rights law firm is supporting Muslim, Jewish, and Christian parents from Maryland who are fighting to restore their ability to raise their children consistent with their faith.  

In Mahmoud v. McKnight, the Montgomery County Board of Education took away parental notice and opt-outs for storybooks that advocate Pride parades, gender transitioning, and pronoun preferences for kids as young as four years old. 

The 48-page complaint alleges the board violated Maryland law and the First Amendment rights of parents. The lawsuit asserts that the free exercise of religion means the parents have a right to opt their children out of lessons that use Pride Storybooks. The books are a series of children's books from the LGBT activist group the Human Rights Campaign promoting gay and transgender themes, according to The Washington Examiner

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slider img 2As CBN News has reported, these so-called "inclusivity" books were announced for pre-K through eighth-grade students in the fall of 2022. Instead of focusing on basic principles of respect and kindness, the books champion controversial ideologies around gender and sex and focus on children's romantic feelings. 

For example, one book tasks four-year-olds to search for images from a word list that includes "intersex flag," "drag queen," "underwear," "leather," and the name of an LGBTQ activist and "sex worker."  Another book advocates a child-knows-best approach to gender transitioning, telling students that a decision to transition doesn't have to "make sense"; teachers are instructed to say doctors only "guess" when identifying a newborn's sex anyway.

According to Becket, when the board of education first announced the "pride" storybooks, it assured hundreds of concerned parents they would be notified when the books were read and could opt their children out. It repeated that assurance to parents as recently as March 22, 2023. 

But the very next day, everything changed. After announcing that the books would be mandatory for all elementary school students, one school board member accused concerned parents that opting out their child "is just telling that kid, '{H}ere's another reason to hate another person.'"

The school board revoked notice and opt-outs for these storybooks, contrary to Maryland law and the board's own policies, and over the objection of their own elementary school principals, Becket said. 

Soon after the school board announced it would take away parental notice and opt-outs for the storybooks, a diverse coalition of religious parents, including Muslims, Jews, and Christians, sued the school board in federal court. Despite faith differences, these parents believe the new storybooks are age-inappropriate, spiritually and emotionally damaging for kids, and inconsistent with their beliefs. 

After a lower court upheld the mandate, the parents asked the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to step in and strike down the court's no notice, no opt-out policy. 

"Parental involvement is crucial for children, especially in elementary school. The Court should restore notice and opt-outs so parents can parent and kids can be kids," Becket Vice President and Senior Counsel Eric Baxter said in a press release. "Schools have no business pushing instruction on gender and sexuality without even notifying parents."

In our previous coverage of this story last May, CBN News reached out to the Montgomery County Board of Education for comment but never heard back. 

A ruling from the Fourth Circuit is expected in the coming months.

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About The Author

Steve Warren is a senior multimedia producer for CBN News. Warren has worked in the news departments of television stations and cable networks across the country. In addition, he also worked as a producer-director in television production and on-air promotion. A Civil War historian, he authored the book The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory. It was the companion book to the television documentary titled Last Raid at Cabin Creek currently streaming on Amazon Prime. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Communication from the University of