Parents in the city of Marshal, Minnesota, are threatening to sue their local middle school over a rainbow flag being displayed in the school cafeteria.
At a school board meeting this week, parents argued that showing a pro-LGBTQ flag, but not allowing other flags, implied preferential treatment, the Marshall Independent reports.
They branded the flag divisive, said it would “confuse” children, argued that it removed their right to discuss sexuality, and even called homosexuality a “belief” system.
It was the second such meeting regarding the flag, with some parents threatening that a lawsuit might occur if the situation isn’t rectified to their satisfaction.
According to the Independent, a student at the school claimed their petition opposing the flag was removed by school staff, and students who erected alternative flags, including one depicting a father, mother, and child, had the flags removed.
Attorney Bill Mohrman, representing a group of parents unhappy with the rainbow flag, said the school would face a lawsuit unless it creates a “neutral policy” regarding “viewpoints.”
One of the speakers at the meeting, Mohammed Ahmed, who represented the parents of Muslim students at the school, said they were upset by the flag being displayed.
“We want to make clear we are not against any group,” he said. “[But] as parents, we have the right to educate our own children about sexuality.”
He added: “What’s next, a curriculum teaching this lifestyle in our classrooms?”
Bernie Wang, a retired pastor, said it was a “sexual identity” issue and the flag was intended to “normalize and force us to accept, embrace, and promote lifestyle choices.”
Wang, who said he has a nephew living a “gay lifestyle,” advocated for conversion therapy during his speaking time, and said the rainbow flag supports an agenda that “promotes a systematic undermining of biblical morals and values” and “seeks to normalize homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and a transgender lifestyle.”
But Rev. Scott Luther, pastor at First Lutheran Church, noted that “God loves us as we are, not as we should be according to some people’s assessment.”
“Fifty years ago, if we were standing here it could very well have a different label…. Instead of LGBTQ, it could be African American. Think about that,” he said.
Juliana, a seventh-grader at Marshall Middle School, said erecting the flag was “a really good thing that the school district has done.”
“In my opinion, the flag represents the hope of acceptance and equality, and being able to not be scared for their safety,” she said. “A member of my family grew up during a time where it was not acceptable to be LGBTQ+, so the flag means a lot to them. Also, I don’t doubt that a lot of the students feel that they are more accepted because of the flag. And depending on their situation, it might make them feel safer.”
She was one of a number of students who stood up in support for their LGBTQ classmates and displaying the flag during the meeting.
Marshall Superintendent Scott Monson told the Independent that the district would be consulting its legal representation before commenting further, due to the threat of legal action from parents over the flag.
He added that the school board would ultimately decide what happens to the flag.
Speaking at the meeting, Karrie Alberts, the advisor of the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance, offered a stern rebuke to the adults in the room demonizing LGBTQ children.
“Quit tearing down the kids,” she said. “Quit equating their identity to something controversial. Life is tough enough without being told that there is something wrong with you.”
She continued: “LGBT is not a belief. You cannot be coerced or persuaded into it. Showing acceptance of the group does not require of anyone to share in that orientation or identity. In fact you can’t, because you can’t choose it.”
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