Last week, Coptic Christian and Muslim parents in New Jersey protested the newly state-mandated LGBT curriculum to be taught in all New Jersey public schools at a board meeting.
The new curriculum was signed into law last year by Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy. The bill, which will go into effect this fall, requires all middle school and high school students to study the history of LGBT people in the U.S.
But critics are concerned that the curriculum will indoctrinate children on issues of sexuality, CBN News reports.
“We respect, love and tolerate everyone the same, as we are all the creation of God,” said Rev. Thomas Nashed of the St. George and St. Shenouda Church. “The schools have a duty to educate the children, not to sexualize them and force our kids to have sexual education by labeling everything to a sexual orientation, therefore stripping away their innocence … Let’s be clear it is the parent’s right and only the parent’s right to teach their own children such matters.”
Victoria Jakelsky, state director of a group called Protect Your Children, agreed, saying that the state is pushing a “radical agenda” that “undermines the constitutional rights of parents.”
Many also stated at the board meeting that they felt their First Amendment rights were being violated. Board Trustee Gerald Lyons, who is gay, disagreed with the protestors and read the First Amendment out loud to the group, according to NJ.
“These curricula provide exposure to the differences in our community,” said Lyons. “They can address prejudice that lead to hateful actions by allowing students to learn that although our neighbors may have differences from us, we are all more alike than different.”
Garden State Equality has piloted the curriculum. It’s currently being tested in 12 schools and will eventually be implemented in all schools.
“To tell our youth that our community doesn’t exist would be to teach them fiction,” said Garden State Equality spokesperson Jon Oliveria. “We are not talking about or indoctrinating youth about the private lives of any individual or community … LGBT-inclusive curriculum reduces the rate of bullying, harassment and intimidation in schools, it improves attendance and it also improves academic outcomes.”
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Mikaela Mathews is a freelance writer and editor based in Dallas, TX. She was the editor of a local magazine and a contributing writer for the Galveston Daily News and Spirit Magazine.