"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
A friend from Orange County, California sent John and me these photos, which speak for themselves. It looks like putting a bumper sticker on your car causes some people to think they are entitled to vandalize your car in response.
In other words, “free speech for me, but not for thee.”
[Editor's note: The following post appeared on The Hedgehog Blog, but on his radio show today, Hugh Hewitt - bless him - promoted that post by directing his listeners to this blog's URL. So I've posted it here too. Thanks, Hugh!]
Perhaps the most hotly-debated question about Proposition 8 is the measure’s impact on schoolchildren. If Proposition 8 fails, will young children be taught that same-sex marriage is equal to traditional marriage? Opponents of Prop 8 have adamantly — and falsely — claimed this will not happen.
The fact is, Prop 8′s leading opponents have been very public for a long time about their goal of teaching schoolchildren about gender orientation at very young ages. What is worse, they have openly promoted strategies for overcoming or circumventing parental objections to such teaching. It is foolish to believe they will not use the same approach to teaching children about same-sex marriage.
Why this matters
When it comes to private sexual practices generally, I’ve long been attracted to the view of English actress Beatrice Campbell: “I don’t care what [people] do, so long as they don’t do it in the street and scare the horses.” My work colleagues and friends, and anyone who really knows me, know that I consider their personal lives to be just that: personal. All my friends, gay and straight, know I support them in seeking personal happiness. I support California’s already very expansive laws providing for domestic partnerships, which, in Family Code Section 297.5, guarantees to registered domestic partners “the same rights, protections and benefits . . . as are granted to and imposed upon spouses.”
But marriage is different, and so is teaching schoolchildren.
Most seven year-olds still need to learn how to sit up straight and cover their mouths when they sneeze. Kids don’t need the schools teaching them about gender orientation — an arcane and confusing subject to even the most precocious children — before they have even thought about their own sexual identities.
Besides, if we are going to start teaching six year-old children that same-sex marriage is the same as traditional marriage, that’s a decision that should be made by the people, not by four of the seven judges on the California Supreme Court.
The law on teaching schoolchildren about marriage
Misinformation about just what California’s Education Code says about marriage has been flying around the internet and on television and radio ads by the No On 8 campaign. There is no doubt, however, what the Education Code requires as to teaching about marriage and families. Here’s an excerpt from the key statute, Section 51933:
(b) A school district that elects to offer comprehensive sexual health education pursuant to subdivision (a), whether taught by school district personnel or outside consultants, shall satisfy all of the following criteria:
. . .
(7) Instruction and materials shall teach respect for marriage and committed relationships.
(Emphasis added.) According to the California Department of Education’s website, 96% of California school districts provide sexual health education that places them under Section 51933′s requirements. Can anyone reasonably deny that if Prop 8 fails, the instruction about “marriage” this statute refers to will include same-sex marriage?
What Prop 8′s leading opponents have said about parental rights
The response to these concerns from from Prop 8′s leading opponents has been that Prop 8 has nothing to do with schools. Amazingly, even the State Superintendent of Public Education has filmed a television ad promoting this falsehood.
Think about it: If the State Supreme Court has defined marriage to include same-sex unions, and schools are required to teach about respect for “marriage and committed relationships,” well, it seems pretty obvious that from kindergarten on, kids will be learning about same-sex marriage, doesn’t it?
But it gets worse. The other response from the No On 8 group has been that parents can simply “opt out” of instruction about gay marriage. This is another deception. The same people who make that claim have argued forcefully that no opt-out rights exist, as long as the instruction is part of “diversity education” encompassing gender orientation. They’ve even made their case in court.
Regarding opt-out rights, an organization called the California Safe Schools Coalition published A Question & Answer Guide for California School Officials & Administrators. The Coalition’s Steering Committee includes The California Teachers Association, Equality California, American Civil Liberties Union chapters throughout California, State Senator Sheila Kuehl, and other prominent backers of No On 8 who have already raised millions of dollars to oppose the measure.
Here’s one of the questions and answers:
Can parents ‘opt out’ of their children’s participation in school programs that discuss sexual orientation and gender identity?
State law explicitly provides that “instruction or materials that discuss gender, sexual orientation, or family law and do not discuss human reproductive organs or their functions” is not subject to the parental notice and opt out laws. Thus, where issues of sexual orientation or gender identity are raised in school programs other than HIV/AIDS or sexual health education, such as programs designed to encourage respect and tolerance for diversity, parents are not entitled to have notice of or the opportunity to opt their children out of such programs. California law does not support a broad parental veto regarding the contents of public school instruction.
(Emphasis added.) Translation: If you are a California parent and think you have the right to opt your second-grader out of story time because the teacher is reading the students a book about a prince who marries a prince, you should think again. As long as story time is part of a program “designed to encourage respect and tolerance for diversity,” you have nothing to say about whether your child participates. You won’t even hear about the book unless your child comes home and mentions it to you.
The California Safe Schools Coalition also published on its web site a “Question and Answer Guide to California’s Parental Opt-Out Laws.” The Guide’s goals include helping educators who are promoting “tolerance and diversity” to circumvent the opt-out laws, as evidenced by this question and answer from that guide:
Do parents have a constitutional right to prevent their children from receiving education in public schools on subjects they disapprove?
Almost never. Parents have filed a number of court cases seeking to prevent public schools from teaching their children controversial literature or subjects . . . and have lost virtually every case. Courts have held that so long as the public school curricula are secular and reasonably related to educational goals, parents do not have veto power over the content of public school instruction. . . . Schools may wish to excuse students from non-essential activities (such excusing a Jehovah’s Witness student from a Valentine’s Day party) but are not legally required to excuse students from curricular activities such as . . . diversity education. The interests of the school and student in education outweigh parents’ interests in preventing their children from being exposed to ideas that conflict with religious traditions.
Here’s the guide’s concluding paragraph:
[By] carefully articulating the purpose and content of diversity education programs, schools can both fulfill their legal duty to ensure a safe and nondiscriminatory school environment for all students, and also avoid violating parents’ notice and opt-out rights.
(Emphasis added.) So, you see, it’s all a matter of how the schools set up their program. If they do that right, parents have no voice. The next time you hear a No On 8 spokesman tell you that parents need not worry about their kindergarteners being taught about same-sex marriage, think about the Question and Answer Guide to California’s Parental Opt-Out Laws.
(Somewhat curiously, the Question and Answer Guide seems to have disappeared from the Safe Schools Coalition’s web site. An e-mail correspondent sent me the Question and Answer Guide on October 23. By October 26, as I am writing this post, the guide no longer appears on the internet. The now-defunct URL is here.)
Proposition 8 raises serious and controversial issues. Instead of continually dissembling about the real facts and the law, it’s time for the opponents of Prop 8 to get serious about addressing those issues.
And about telling the truth.
UPDATE: An e-mail correspondent, Richard, writes:
“Lowell: Regarding your article . . . . Apparently the Coalition had something to hide so they also removed the Guide from the above URL. They may be unaware that www.archive.org maintains an archive of billions of web pages for the past 10-15 years. Here is the archived web page’s URL:
“I doubt that the Coalition can get web pages removed at archive.org.”
On this video, Dee Garrick, who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, says no: “It’s not about civil rights. Racism was about civil rights. This is about society, our future and our children.”
Watch and see if you agree with Ms. Garrick.
Dean Barnett has lost his latest fight with cystic fibrosis. I never met Dean in person, nor do I think Lowell ever did, but he was a friend of this blog. We did communicate routinely and as Hugh Hewitt’s regular sub he was as gracious towards us as Hugh.
I’m going to miss him a lot, but other people will much more. Our prayers and blessings go out to his close friends and family.
I always wonder how to honor someone like Dean? I did not know him well enough personally to have some great insight, but you know, I think a John McCain victory would be a good start.
Not surprisingly, there are those in San Francisco that find the area newspaper, the San Franciso Chronicle, too conservative. One publication, BeyondChron, is normally beneath notice, but has posted a piece that while utterly and evilly nasty towards religion inspires hope in its treatment of at least Catholics and Mormons on an equally ugly footing.
Word was it in my old Italian Catholic neighborhood that the Irish monsignor of the local parish kept African Americans from buying houses by warning realtors not to sell to them. The monsignor wasn’t just some guy in a black suit. When he spoke, people listened. He had his ways.
So, it’s no surprise to me that ProtectMarriage.com, which is spearheading the anti-gay marriage initiative (Prop 8 ) in California, is using similar strong-arm tactics to try and get businesses who have donated to the “No on 8″ effort to give them dough as well. In a letter sent to these establishments, the anti-gay bigots (which include representatives of the California Catholic Conference, and the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints) have threatened to publicly reveal the names of businesses contributing to the effort to keep gay marriage legal. Blackmail, anyone?
Blackmail? BLACKMAIL? Wait just a cotton picking minute! Since when did turnabout become blackmail? Besides, unlike the efforts from the left that Lowell chronicled, which require that web sites be used to gather information that is not otherwise necessarily public, the identities of donors to a California proposition effort must be made public BY LAW. Give me a break here.
But again, I find some hope in the piece because of its equal treatement of Catholics and Mormons. It emphasizes something we have discussed at this blog for a long time: The left – our true political opponents – view us all, Catholics, Protestants, Mormons, Evangelicals, Orthodox, other Jewish, as in the same pot. When they distinguish between us it is purely to further their own political agendas and when we feud among ourselves in the political/public square, we aid their efforts. When we stand together, regardless of our theological differences, they are shooting at a much thicker, much sturdier wall.
There is also hope to be found in a piece from the actual San Francisco Chronicle, that manages to sound even-handed about and even a little sympathetic about the tactics used against Mormons involved inthe Prop 8 effort. (I think they are reading this blog by the way!)
Those words speak for Michele Sundstrom, 47, of San Jose, who has been married for 18 years and has five children.
She and her husband gave $30,000 to the Yes on 8 campaign and put a sign on their home. But in response, two women parked an SUV in front of their home, with the words “Bigots live here” painted on the windshield.
Sundstrom believes such responses must come from deep places of pain – and that gays and lesbians are entitled to the same rights as heterosexuals, just not the word marriage. Any animosity toward gays or lesbians is wrong, she said.
“There must be such deep, deep, deep hurt; otherwise there couldn’t be so much opposition,” she said. “They’ve lived with this. I guess we’re getting a taste of where they live.”
Which brings me to a brief personal thought on all this. Homosexuals are a people group, bound not by ethnicity, creed, or religious affiliation, but by behavior. Behavior is something it is government’s business to control and regulate. Mormons more than most religious groups should have a deep understanding of this simple fact. The kind of protected status that homosexuals here seek is something this nation has denied throughout its history. We have never allowed protected status based on behavior. Nor can we ever start, for it would be a recipe for chaos.
When I read the kind of stuff like what is beyond the pullquote in the BeyondChron piece above, I am livid at the thorough lack of understanding of our nation and its history. I also find it fascinating that such venom could be aimed particularly at Mormons from particularly this group since Mormons have so much in common with homosexuals. Both groups had behavioral issues that resulted in issues with governance.
The responses of the groups to those pressures could not be more different. Homosexuals have already achieved far more concessions from the general society than Mormons ever dreamed about, and yet they have a chip on their shoulder. Mormons on the other hand chose a path of distinctive conformity and in the process have achieved so much. Were I homosexual, I’d be looking to learn from the Mormon model, not hate it so.