Those looking for a political statement on the Florida House Bill (CS/CS/HB 1557: Parental Rights in Education) or the Florida Senate Bill (SB 1834: Parental Rights in Education) won’t find it in this post. I will leave the political spin to activists’ Twitter and Facebook feeds. A myriad of political accusations and arguments can be found just a click or two away on your favorite search engine; it won’t take but a few seconds to find.
If the history and full texts of the Senate House and House bills, the various amendments, and current status, would be of interest, this information can be found at: Senate Bill 1834 (2022) – The Florida Senate (flsenate.gov) and House Bill 1557 (2022) – The Florida Senate (flsenate.gov).
The reader might ask “Why even write about the “Don’t Say Gay” bill at all, if I am not going to address the controversy over it?” Indeed, I ask myself the same question.
My answer is simple and goes to the heart of the WGA purpose statement: “WGA exists to guide and support men and women who seek to understand sexuality and relationship, and to inspire all people to know and personally appropriate God’s plan for their sexuality and relationships.”
Parents of school age children are among those who “seek to understand” on behalf of their children. They want to know what helps and what hinders the healthy development of their children so they can parent well. Parents send their children to school, trusting the schools are providing a good education and protecting their young ones from all that would threaten their well-being. Parents are looking for some “guidance and support” on these issues.
Some parents don’t want their children instructed on issues like homosexuality and transgender before they have reached an age where they can understand such complex issues. Other parents don’t want the schools to be instructing their children on these issues at all. Some parents are lgbtq+, and they want their children to experience acceptance and affirmation of their families; they want them to hear in their classrooms the acknowledgement of their perspective on sexual and gender minorities as part of society just like any other American.
In opening this topic, I hope to simply say a few words about the actual content of the bills, the likely motivations of some legislators and activists, and encourage parents to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit about these issues and how to parent their children.
Content of the Bills
Author’s Note: Please don’t take anyone’s word for it, including mine. I am going to offer my understanding, but I do not pretend to understand the legal and legislative nuances that are embedded in the language of our laws. So, I encourage the reader to go to the source and read the full texts of the bills: Senate Bill 1834 (2022) – The Florida Senate (flsenate.gov) and House Bill 1557 (2022) – The Florida Senate (flsenate.gov).
The actual bill in question has no language in it that suggests that teachers or students are mandated to “Don’t Say Gay”. As I understand it, the main points of House Bill 1557 include:
- parents are to be notified about what is going on with their children and especially regarding when their children are receiving “healthcare services,”
- parents are the rightful decision makers regarding the “upbringing and control” of their children.
- school districts may not mandate any policies that “prohibit school district personnel from notifying parents…,” or that encourage students to withhold information from parents.
- prohibits classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in certain grade levels; (author’s note: it is my understanding that the grade levels at issue are Kindergarten through Third Grade.)
- if any district personnel violates the provisions of this bill, parents are authorized to bring action against school district to obtain declaratory judgment.
Senate Bill 1834, Parental Rights in Education states:
Requiring district school boards to adopt procedures that comport with certain provisions of law for notifying a student’s parent of specified information; requiring such procedures to reinforce the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children in a specified manner; prohibiting a school district from adopting procedures or student support forms that require school district personnel to withhold from a parent specified information or that encourage or have the effect of encouraging a student to withhold from a parent such information; prohibiting a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a specified manner, etc.
(not being a mind-reader, the following is speculation based on my experience with human motivation…. Including my own.)
Legislators are people too. They want to respond to the intents and preferences of the majority of their constituents. Most want to do the right thing; but they don’t often know what is “the right thing” when it comes to psycho-sexual development and education. Politicians are also influenced by the donors who fund their campaigns, so when Disney Inc. comes out in favor or disfavor of a bill, for example, some lawmakers take notice! In matters of intense controversy (moral and ideological differences, for example), legislators are sometimes likely to take the path of least resistance, which is not taking action rather than moving a bill forward for a vote or doing the work of proposing amendments or alternate language.
Activists want to push forward their own perspective without much thought about opposite views, except how to counter them in the public square (author note: my bias leaked in here, I fear). Activism is viewed by them as a battle for the attention and the minds and hearts of the majority of the population in order that their ideological position will “win” at the polls, at the points of decision-making by all voters.
Author’s Note: My opinion is that some activists in the area of sex education for children will push for their side to win without much thought to what is in the best interests of the children… or it might be more accurate to say they believe that it is in the best interest of children to be informed early and thoroughly about sexual realities.
Parents want the absolute best for their children. Most parents, even ones of meager means, will sacrifice to get their kids what they need to do well in life, or to do better than they themselves did. Motivations are strong and they will rise up to defend against perceived threats. In the issues at hand, parents don’t have time to vote someone out of office at the next election; their children are developing now. While politicians debate, time is wasting; their children are at risk. Many parents want their children to be protected from ideological social issues, especially when they are in early childhood (K-3 grades). LGBTQ+ parents, and some other like-minded parents, believe their children are at risk of being marginalized when information about sexuality and gender is withheld from them; they are afraid their children will feel ostracized and discriminated against, or unprepared for life. Some parents are also activists and have multiple layers of motivations, some conflicting.
The Holy Spirit Will Lead
When Jehoshaphat found out three armies were amassing against him, he called the people together to rally the troops – but not in the traditional sense. When the people were gathered, he launched into a prayer: “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 2 Chron. 20:12
There are abundant resources that will inform the inquiring mind about the psychological, emotional, physiological, and moral ramifications of choices regarding human sexuality. Where Grace Abounds has many books, podcasts, by experts in the field. We are glad to offer those – contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a resource list.
But the place to start before even cracking one book or clicking into one podcast on the subject, is to pray and ask the God who created us as sexual beings and knows every desire of our heart, knows the root of all desire, and has in mind the best possible provision for us. We ask:
“Lord, we do not know what to do in the face of the onslaught of information and misinformation, and the pressures of warring ideologies. We don’t know what is best to do to protect our children, our grandchildren. We don’t know what to do to prepare them well for the life they will live in this society. Come, Holy Spirit, guide, and direct us. Our eyes are upon You; show us the way to the truth about sexuality, the truth about human needs, the truth about parenting well. Show us the way.” Amen.
Mary often characterizes herself as “a seeker of Truth” and has a long-standing fascination with human behavior and motivation. Her education consists of lay and discipleship counseling, independent study about the integration of psychology and theology, counseling and human sexuality. She also holds a BS in Human Services and an MA in Psychology from Regis University.
Mary attends a Friends (Quaker) Church.
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