Minnesota Muslims scored a Constitutional victory against the LGTBQ indoctrination of their children after six Somali Muslim families threatened to sue the Minneapolis-area St. Louis Park Public School District.
The parents were represented by the First Liberty Institute, a Texas-based law firm focused on religious freedom.
“We think this is a win for religious freedom for people of all faiths, without even having to go to court,” said attorney Kayla Toney, according to the Sahan Journal.
Books featuring LGBTQ+ characters were introduced by teachers to St. Louis Park elementary students in early October.
“Those books included ‘Our Subway Baby,’ about two dads who adopt a baby; ‘My Shadow Is Pink,’ about a boy who likes to wear dresses; and ‘Ho’onani: Hula Warrior,’ about a young genderqueer Hawaiian child who wants to lead a boys’ hula troupe,” the Sahan Journal reports.
Concerned parents asked two elementary school principals to allow their exempt their children from reading the books.
When the principals refused, they attended an October 24 school board meeting to defend their “deeply held religious beliefs.”
We wholeheartedly respect the importance of affirming LGBTQ+ identities, but we are troubled by the way these books have been presented to our children,” one mother, who identified herself by her first name, Ilhan, told the board.
“The manner in which they have been taught appears to exceed the boundaries of affirmation, urging every child to delve into their own understanding of gender and sexuality,” Ilhan said. “This approach, we believe, directly conflicts with our deeply held religious beliefs.”
At least one member of the board, Sarah Davis, took issue with the Somali families’ argument.
Davis, a mother of two who is married to a woman, called their concerns “troubling.”
“I’m thinking about my child,” she said at the end of the meeting. “I’m thinking about what it would feel like for him if I said that having a book about a concept of two dads—he has two moms—is troubling. The idea that my wife and I exist, that our family exists, is not controversial.”
That’s when the parents reached out to the First Liberty Institute, which boasts several Supreme Court religious freedom victories.
“First Liberty has represented the families since last year, along with Renee Carlson, our volunteer attorney at True North Legal,” the Institute said. “Our clients are devout Muslim families who immigrated from war-torn Somalia. Religious freedom and educational opportunities are among the most significant reasons why they came to the United States.”
“Our attorneys sent two letters to school district officials,” First Liberty continued. “We explained that their denials violated state law and the First Amendment.”
According to the Sahan Journal, “The December letter criticized the district’s form to request alternative instruction as overly intrusive and burdensome for immigrant families.”
“The St. Louis Park Public Schools district policy advises parents who wish to review curriculum materials to contact their child’s teacher,” the Journal explains. “Parents can either borrow the materials or review them at school. But in her December letter, Toney said that parents needed advance notice of curriculum and classroom discussion.”
The letter came with a legal threat.
“Unless the district provided this notice, Toney continued, she would ‘proceed as our clients direct, likely pursuing all available legal remedies,’” the Journal reports.
The reply came in a January email from St. Louis Park Public Schools’ attorney Maggie Wallner to First Liberty Institute, who stated that the district would let parents review the curriculum and pursue alternative instruction but stressed that the district would not be changing its curriculum review procedures.
“The District understands its obligation under Minnesota law to provide families an opportunity to review the content of instructional materials and pursue alternative instruction,” Wallner wrote, adding, “District staff does not and will not conduct a review on behalf of families or attempt to determine what materials may be considered objectionable.”
In a statement, St. Louis Park Public Schools made clear they aren’t happy about having to follow Minnesota law, which requires that “every school district to have a procedure for parents to review instructional materials,” according to the Sahan Journal. “If a parent objects to material, the district must ‘make reasonable arrangements with school personnel for alternative instruction.’”
“St. Louis Park Public Schools has always complied with the state law regarding parents’ statutory right to opt out of instructional materials, and we will continue to do so,” the district said. “However, district staff will not conduct that review on behalf of any families or attempt to determine what materials may be considered objectionable. Additionally, class discussions do not constitute instructional materials and are not subject to review or opt-outs.”
“Opt-outs based on representation of protected classes do not uphold our values of creating safe and inclusive learning and working environments in our schools,” the district continued. “However, because it is required within state law, any change would need to happen with the involvement of state lawmakers.”
Still, the families are taking the win.
“We came to America for religious freedom in the Constitution, and so our kids will have a great opportunity,” Hodan Hassan, mother of four St. Louis Park school children, told the Sahan Journal. “By granting us and other families the opportunity to opt out of teaching that violates our deeply held religious beliefs, families are able to raise their children according to the principle that they value the most.”
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Author: Melissa Fine
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