In an otherwise deflating election for Republicans, one of the few areas where conservatives did make hay was America’s school boards. From Florida to Loudoun County, the parents’ rebellion rode a red wave of upsets from coast to coast. For all of the chatter about what the GOP could have done differently in these midterms, education stands alone as one of the most powerful issues connecting the party with voters. So why would Republicans support a bill that strips away parents’ say in the classroom?
Good question — one that every American should be asking their U.S. senators before Wednesday, when they’re scheduled to take the most important vote on parental rights in the last 10 years. Of course, no one on the Left is framing the Respect for Marriage Act as an education bill — and that’s by design. Democrats are hoping that if Republicans don’t look at the legislation too closely — if they’re too worried about appearing intolerant to read the fine print — they won’t realize that everything moms and dads have fought for these last few years would be destroyed.
Like free speech, conscience rights, tax-exempt statuses, religious freedom, and every other fundamental value on the chopping block with this bill, the right of parents to have a say in their children’s education would vanish. The second Joe Biden’s pen hits the paper to sign H.R. 8404 into law, the microphones across the country’s local school boards meetings — the same ones that thousands of moms and dads have used to speak their peace — would be turned off.
Under this proposal, which some Republicans have the audacity to support, natural marriage is considered a bigoted view — discrimination, in fact. Some legal experts, including Family Research Council’s Mary Beth Waddell, believe the text actually makes a correlation between natural marriage and racism.
The bill itself threatens, “The Attorney General may bring a civil action in the appropriate United States district court against any person who violates subsection (a) for declaratory and injunctive relief." In other words, if you hold the belief that marriage is the union of a man and woman — the mainstream view for all of human history — and stand in the way of the Left’s redefinition in any way, the full weight of the Justice Department will be brought to bear. As if that weren’t enough, a private right of action — meaning everyday citizens can sue based on some perceived violation of their rights — is encouraged for anyone “harmed” by your biblical beliefs.
Carrying that out to its logical conclusion, parents who object to graphic or inappropriate curriculum in the classroom would be targets. If people thought the “domestic terrorism” label was bad, this legislation effectively turns every same-sex marriage enthusiast into an agent of the DOJ. “Once this is codified into law, parents will be considered bigots for pushing back on extremism in the classroom,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins warns. “It won’t be an illegitimate ruling, where the courts acted on their own. It will be the law of the land.”
“After the Obergefell decision, we saw school boards across the country begin to revise sex education curricula to reflect the ruling. This has resulted in significant controversy given the nature of the material,” FRC’s Meg Kilgannon points out. “Some of those revisions are only now becoming evident in the classroom, where they quickly catch the attention of parents who are shocked by highly sexualized content being directed to very young children. Parents who perhaps supported the idea of expanding the definition of marriage now face the reality of teaching young children about homosexual acts and other queer theory pet projects that quickly moved under the LGBTQ+ umbrella.”
The Ethics & Public Policy Center’s Mary Hasson echoed those concerns, cautioning, “We have to understand that the objective for those who are pushing same-sex marriage is not just to acquire the right to get a piece of paper and to have a celebration, which was sort of the promise. It’s much more than that. It is to shut down and silence those who believe otherwise.” Over these seven years since Obergefell, we should have all seen how this plays out. “Whatever the law baptizes becomes the norm. It becomes the standard that is being taught.”
And the grass doesn’t get any greener for Christian schools and colleges. While some Republicans are insisting all of the landmines for religious freedom have been defused, that lie is about to explode in believers’ faces. The latest draft of the bill “protects” religious educational institutions, but only in the context of solemnizing or celebrating marriage. The language is so narrow that the only expression of natural marriage allowed on campus would be an actual wedding ceremony. Otherwise, paint a bullseye on every orthodox, Bible-believing school.
As for the other “corrections” made since this summer, when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) couldn’t find 10 GOP senators foolish enough to support the bill, they’re an insult to Republicans’ intelligence. Under a bold font that declares, “NO IMPACT ON RELIGIOUS LIBERTY AND CONSCIENCE,” the text outlines the exact opposite.
Consistent with the First Amendment to the Constitution, nonprofit religious organizations, including churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, nondenominational ministries, interdenominational and ecumenical organizations, mission organizations, faith-based social agencies, religious educational institutions, and nonprofit entities whose principal purpose is the study, practice, or advancement of religion, and any employee of such an organization, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage. Any refusal under this subsection to provide such services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges shall not create any civil claim or cause of action.
Sounds great, until those eight little words — “for the solemnization or celebration of a marriage” — reveal this fig leaf for the sham it is. What this phrase means is that outside of an actual wedding ceremony, the freedom of every American would be cut off at the knees, including Bible-believing adoption agencies, women’s shelters, ministries, religious schools, and charities. “It’s merely a pastors protection act,” FRC Senior Director of Government Affairs Quena Gonzalez warns, “and it is intentionally obfuscating. Solemnization happens at the altar, and only people and institutions directly involved in that event are safe. Everything before and after is unprotected.”
Surely, we didn’t come this far in the defense of religious liberty to leave bakers, photographers, small business owners, teachers, and thousands of other Christians twisting in the winds. And yet, under this law, the minute your child walks into a classroom, the minute you walk into your secular workplace or school board meeting or townhall, your rights cease to exist. The Republican Party would literally be putting a hammer in the hands of the Left to crush every non-conformist.
And yet some Republicans seem willing to trade America’s sacred freedom to believe for the crumbs of society’s praise. And for what — the adulation of people who will never vote for them? The conditional approval that will evaporate the minute they contradict another piece of the Left’s extremism? For that, they’re willing to alienate the conservative base, the refugees of the Democratic Party, and parents?
It’s a fool's errand and a selfish one. In a country desperate to believe that its leaders are still capable of standing on truth, this is the GOP’s moment. May they find the moral courage to seize it.