- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Montgomery County public school employees censored and discriminated against a group opposed to the county’s new sex-education curriculum, an Alliance Defense Fund attorney said yesterday in a letter to the county school board president.

Teachers and a principal violated the First Amendment right of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, known as PFOX, by encouraging students to throw away the group’s literature, said Jeremy D. Tedesco, an attorney for the conservative legal group, which is often involved in issues of religious freedom.

Teachers and the principal at Winston Churchill High School put the group’s name on school trash cans and told students to throw away its fliers, Mr. Tedesco’s letter stated.

“The problem here is that they’ve targeted PFOX because they don’t like their viewpoint on homosexuality,” Mr. Tedesco told The Washington Times. “It’s a back-door approach to religious discrimination.”

The group had protested a new sex-education curriculum adopted by the board because it did not include its viewpoint that homosexuality is not innate and people can choose to not be homosexual.

The Maryland State Board of Education on July 3 upheld the county board’s decision to implement the lessons.

Montgomery County Public Schools spokesman Brian Edwards denied the group’s charges. School board President Nancy Navarro was unavailable for comment yesterday afternoon.

“No one encouraged students to throw the fliers away,” Mr. Edwards said in an e-mail. “Bins were provided so there would not be a mess on the floor.”

Courts have ruled that community groups have a First Amendment right to distribute literature inside schools without content-based discrimination, and Montgomery County schools allowed the group to pass out fliers.

However, Mr. Tedesco said targeting certain literature after allowing it to be distributed also is a violation of that right.

“They don’t do that to any other group that distributes literature,” he said.

If the school board does not keep similar actions from happening in the future, he will recommend the group file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the board, he said.

Regina Griggs, the group’s director, said members “absolutely” would consider a lawsuit if the Alliance Defense Fund recommended it.

“We just felt that it was not appropriate — it violated our rights,” she said of the purported action by county school employees.

Mr. Tedesco said offensive e-mails sent to the group from school employees show a “policy of discrimination” against the group within county schools.

One from a Montgomery County Public Schools e-mail address accused the group of being “like the KKK but only in the form of religion.”

The sender says he is a homosexual teacher at Thomas S. Wootton High School and is “appalled” at what the group is doing.

Mr. Tedesco’s letter quotes other e-mails hostile to the group, supposedly from county teachers.

According to the letter, a teacher from Winston Churchill High School said in an e-mail he would “fight further intrusions of your group into our public schools.”

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