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May 09, 2005

Scopes trial of the Left?

I live in deepest-blue Montgomery County, Maryland (Kerry over Bush, 66%-33%). With that background, here's a puzzler for you.

A school board develops a novel curriculum to deal with a controversial issue. Its curriculum challenges conventional wisdom and announces that there are fundamental truths that are totally beyond discussion. It invokes the doctrinal views of certain religious sects in support of its position and denounces other religious sects that disagree.

Question: Topeka, Kansas, or Montgomery County, Maryland?

If you answered Topeka, Kansas, you get no credit.

A federal judge in Maryland has granted a temporary restraining order against the new Montgomery County sex-ed curriculum. The opinion, found here, in PDF format, focuses on the portion of the curriculum addressing homosexuality. Here is an example from the opinion of putting these truths beyond discussion:

The Revised Curriculum begins the discussion of sexual orientation by describing the terms heterosexual, homosexual, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, questioning, coming out, and intersexed. The Content Outline explains that "[t]he definitions are to be presented to students as stated below — no additional information, interpretation or examples are to be provided by the teacher."
And here, quoted in the opinion, is the invocation of religious doctrine, taking sides in the doctrinal disputes:

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 a 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. Few would condemn heterosexuality as immoral — despite the high incidence of rape, incest, child abuse, adultery, family violence, promiscuity, and venereal disease among heterosexuals. Fortunately, many within organized religions are beginning to address the homophobia of the church. The National Council of Churches of Christ, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Society of Friends (Quakers), and the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches support full civil rights for gay men and lesbians, as they do for everyone else.

I have no intention of discussing homosexuality here -- whether it's "bad," "good," or neutral. I have no intention of discussing how it should be covered in a sex-ed curriculum. My desire here is instead to point out the Maoist mentality of the well educated Left, in which the party makes decisions about the correct political position, it pronounces those decisions, and then it denounces as evil those who dissent. But in this case, it's really worse than that: The government has officially designated good and bad religions based on their views on the official political position. It's beyond belief that people who can be totally doctrinaire in their approach to church-state separation are willing, when it suits their purposes, not just to teach religious doctrine in the public schools but actually to take sides on that religious doctrine.

And who is to blame? We all know the answer, given in Saturday's Washington Post:
Maryland's largest school system has become a battleground over what students should be taught about sex and a symbol, some supporters of the new curriculum said, of the increasing influence the conservative movement is hoping to play in public school classrooms.
That's right. Pesky little critters. And if you see one termite, you'd better call the exterminator now and not wait to see more.

On the other hand, maybe we should blame the would-be Maoists who can brook no dissent. As Post columnist Marc Fisher, hardly a conservative, put it:
Only those who lack confidence in the power of truth resort to forcing one viewpoint on children. Only those who mistrust their fellow man feel compelled to exclude opposing beliefs.
If these people had spent more time putting condoms on cucumbers and other vegetables, maybe we wouldn't have this problem.

UPDATE (5/9): Eugene Volokh slowly and patiently eviscerates the curriculum. (Via Best of the Web Today.)