Bad day for woke: Critical Race Theory, preferred pronouns, anti-Christian foster care all take a hit

Analysis by WorldTribune Staff, December 15, 2023

Are the stars aligned? The woke agenda that the Left is attempting to ram through got slammed on three fronts over the past 24 hours.

Washington, D.C.: The House and Senate approved the $886.3 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2024 that includes an effort by the Republican majority in the House to end “wokeness in the military.”

Under the newly passed National Defense Authorization Act, the U.S. Air Force Academy and other military academies will be prohibited from teaching Critical Race Theory.

The NDAA prohibits funding for the teaching, training, or promotion of Critical Race Theory in the military. That includes at service academies and Department of Defense schools. It would prohibit the display of any unapproved flags, such as the LGBTQ pride flag, at military installations.

The NDAA also puts in place a hiring freeze on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) positions until the U.S. Government Accountability Office completes an investigation of the Pentagon’s DEI programs.

The package includes a Parents Bill of Rights, which would give parents of children in Department of Defense schools the right to review curriculum, books and instructional materials, meet with teachers, and provide consent before schools conduct medical exams or screenings of students.

In addition, the legislation reiterates that no funds may be spent on drag shows, Drag Queen Story Hours or similar events.

Virginia: The state Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that high school teacher Peter Vlaming, who was fired over his refusal to use a student’s preferred pronouns because of his religious faith, was protected by the free exercise and free speech clauses of the Virginia Constitution.

In 2018, Vlaming, then a West Point High School French teacher, consistently referred to his transgender student (a biological female) by the student’s preferred name. However, he carefully avoided the use of third-person pronouns when referring to the student so as to not violate his religious beliefs. The West Point School Board ordered Vlaming to use the student’s preferred pronouns and fired him when he refused.

Vlaming sued the West Point School Board in 2019, asserting constitutional, statutory, and breach-of-contract claims. While a lower court dismissed Vlaming’s claims, the Virginia Supreme Court reversed, sending Vlaming’s lawsuit back down to the trial court so that his case against the school board can proceed.

The Virginia Supreme Court’s majority decision, which was written by Justice D. Arthur Kelsey, is seen as a landmark victory for freedom of conscience and expression in the state. In its opinion, the court held that religious exercise is protected under the Virginia Constitution unless it threatens the public safety or order.

The court wrote that when religious liberty merges with free-speech protections, as it did in Vlaming’s case, mere “objectionable” and “hurtful” religious speech (or in Vlaming’s case, “nonspeech”) wasn’t enough to meet this strict scrutiny standard. Objectionable and hurtful religious speech, the court declared, poses no threat to the public safety or order. That meant that Vlaming’s refusal to use the student’s preferred pronouns because of his religious beliefs was protected even if others viewed his silence as offensive or hurtful.

“[I]f liberty means anything at all,” Kelsey wrote, “it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear…. All the more, it means the right to disagree without speaking at all.”

Texas: Attorney General Ken Paxton has joined 18 other state attorneys general in opposing a recently proposed rule that would prevent Christians who do not affirm LGBTQ lifestyles from becoming foster parents.

The rule — proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Sept. 28 — is called the “Safe and Appropriate Foster Care Placement Requirements for Titles IV-E and IV-B.”

The summary of the rule proposes that guidelines be established for foster parents to follow, specifically concerning children who identify as LGBTQ.

According to The Gateway Pundit, the American Family Association said that “Those who do not ‘affirm’ the LGBTQ rules because of their Christian faith will be deemed ‘unsafe’ by the Biden administration and ultimately rejected as foster parent candidates.”

In response, Paxton signed onto a letter along with 18 other attorneys general in opposition to the proposed rule.

“This proposed rule seeks to accomplish indirectly what the Supreme Court found unconstitutional just two years ago: remove faith-based providers from the foster care system if they will not conform their religious beliefs on sexual orientation and gender identity,” the letter reads.

Among its many other objections to the proposed rule, the letter notes that individuals and organizations of faith are a critical part of the foster care system.

It also says that the rule discriminates against individuals and organizations of faith, threatens discrimination against family members, and threatens foster children themselves.

“The proposed rule infringes on the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech, fundamental rights preserved by the First Amendment,” it reads. “The Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected attempts by the government to exclude foster care providers based on religious beliefs or to mandate speech on private actors.”

It concludes by stating that “The proposed rule also will harm children, harm families, and harm States, all to advance an ideology. HHS should reject the proposed rule.”

In addition to Paxton, the letter was signed by the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

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