Parker v. Hurley

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In Parker v. Hurley, 474 F. Supp. 2d 261 (D. Mass. 2007), a federal district court in Massachusetts held against parents who objected to a pro-homosexual curriculum. This was affirmed on appeal by the First Circuit, which held that there was no claim of direct coercion or extreme indoctrination that might constitute a form of coercion. The appellate court ruled that occasional exposure to material offensive to parents' religious belief did not prevent the parents from instructing the child differently.

The appellate court held against the parents despite evidence that the homosexual agenda was being imposed on public school children as early as kindergarten:

  • the "Diversity Book Bag" given to students in kindergarten included a picture book, Who's in a Family?, which depicted single-parent families including a family with two dads and a family with two moms.
  • the "King and King" read to a second grade class tells the story of a prince, ordered by his mother to get married, who first rejects several princesses only to fall in love with another prince. A wedding scene between the two princes is depicted. The last page of the book shows the two princes kissing, but with a red heart superimposed over their mouths.

The district court Judge Mark L. Wolf, who was appointed to the bench by President Ronald Reagan, held that:

Parents do have a fundamental right to raise their children. They are not required to abandon that responsibility to the state. The Parkers and Wirthlins may send their children to a private school that does not seek to foster understandings of homosexuality or same-sex marriage that conflict with their religious beliefs. They may also educate their children at home. In addition, the plaintiffs may attempt to persuade others to join them in electing a Lexington School Committee that will implement a curriculum that is more compatible with their beliefs. However, the Parkers and Wirthlins have chosen to send their children to the Lexington public schools with its current curriculum. The Constitution does not permit them to prescribe what those children will be taught.
It should also be recognized that while the Constitution does not compel the defendants to revise the Lexington elementary school curriculum, onto permit the Parkers and Wirthlins to exempt their children from teaching about homosexuality or same-sex marriage, it also does not prohibit the defendants from voluntarily accommodating the parents' concerns if there is a reasonable way to do so. Finding a reasonable accommodation may be a challenging task. Allowing parents to exempt their children from classes primarily involving human sexual education may not injure the value of those classes for the students who remain. However, as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in his journal, "'I pay the school master, but 'tis the school boys that educate my son.'" James 0. Freedman, Idealism and Liberal Education 63 (1999). An exodus from class when issues of homosexuality or same-sex marriage are to be discussed could send the message that gays, lesbians, and the children of same-sex parents are inferior and, therefore, have a damaging effect on those students. Cf. Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 494, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873 (1954).[1] It might also undermine the defendants' efforts to educate the remaining other students to understand and respect differences in sexual orientation.


  1. The Supreme Court wrote in Brown, 347 U.S. at 494:
    Segregation of white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon the colored children. The impact is greater when it has the sanction of law, for the policy of separating the races is usually interpreted as denoting the inferiority of the Negro group. A sense of inferiority affects the motivation of a child to learn.