Will Smith has apologized to Chris Rock for slapping him at last Sunday night’s Academy Awards after the comedian made a comment about Smith’s wife. The Academy announced a formal investigation and condemned Smith’s actions. (For more on our response as Christians, read Mark Legg’s “Should we forgive Will Smith?”)
The story dominated social media, eclipsing even the war in Ukraine. However, another story from the Oscars has received less coverage: the hosts took numerous opportunities to castigate Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill.
The legislation has been dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by its critics and the mainstream press. Wanda Sykes slammed the bill in her opening monologue; she and fellow hosts Amy Schumer and Regina Hall repeated the word gay multiple times as the crowd applauded.
Florida’s governor nonetheless signed the bill into law the next day. So, let’s discuss what the legislation does and doesn’t do, identify the larger cultural narrative this controversy represents, and conclude with two biblical principles that apply to us all.
What does the bill actually say?
Ironically, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill never uses the word gay and does not prohibit its use. Rather, the measure bars classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity for children in kindergarten through third grade (from about ages five to nine) in Florida public schools. The law takes effect on July 1 and allows parents to sue school districts they believe to be in violation.
Republicans argue that parents should discuss these subjects with children. Democrats claim that the law demonizes LGBTQ people by excluding them from classroom lessons.
Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters when he signed the bill, “We will continue to recognize that in the state of Florida, parents have a fundamental role in the education, healthcare, and wellbeing of their children.” He added, “I don’t care what the big corporations say, here I stand. I’m not backing down.”
“Big corporations” have indeed said much about the law. For example, a Walt Disney Company spokesperson claimed that the bill “should never have passed and should never have been signed into law” and added, “Our goal as a company is for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts.”
Why LGBTQ activists are focusing on children
My purpose in today’s Daily Article is not to provide a comprehensive discussion of the legislation. Rather, as a cultural philosopher, I want to focus on the worldview issues it represents since they are relevant to each of us, whether we live in Florida and have young children or not.
Nathanael Blake is a postdoctoral fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and author of a perceptive article on our subject in Public Discourse. He notes that many in our culture now believe the LGBTQ activist narrative that humans are “born this way.” Blake explains the argument: “Each of us is born with an immutable sexual orientation and gender identity,” which would mean that some children are born LGBTQ. As a result, they should learn about their sexual orientation and gender identity as soon as possible so they can discover their authentic sexual selves, or so the argument runs.
In this view, teachers of elementary-age children are on the front lines helping their students “discover” and embrace their sexual identities. Parents and the rest of us should be affirming of such “discoveries” as well. Anyone who rejects LGBTQ ideology is by definition suspect and dangerous to children. This ideology can even lead to “non-affirming” parents losing custody of their children.
Blake reminds us that the search for a “gay gene” ended in failure three years ago. Nonetheless, he warns that LGBTQ activists are “pressuring our culture, curricula, and even churches to affirm the ostensibly intrinsic rainbow identities of children.”
Practical responses for parents
In response to this rising threat to our children, two biblical conclusions are vital.
One: It is urgent that you and I understand, embrace, proclaim, and defend biblical sexual morality in all its holistic relevance and beauty.
God’s word clearly teaches that:
For more, see my How to Defend Biblical Marriage.
Two: Parents are responsible for every dimension of their children’s lives.
One way I am asking God to redeem the frightening rise of LGBTQ activism with children is by using it to empower godly parents to become engaged in the entirety of their children’s experiences. They cannot “subcontract” their children’s education to schools, trust their private use of technology, or assume their friends share their biblical values.
God calls parents to teach his word “diligently to your children . . . when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7). Every part of their lives and yours should be informed and lived biblically.
Is your “train” running on God’s “track”?
Here’s the bottom line: Children need the spiritual and cultural protection of their families and churches more today than ever before in American history.
Pastor Paul Powell explained, “As a train was made to run on a track, so we were made to run on God’s law. A train runs most effectively when it stays on the track.”
Accordingly, the greatest gift we can give our children (and everyone we know) is to help them love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). When they know and live by his word, they live their best and most blessed lives.
Is your “train” running on God’s “track” today?
Is your family’s?
If not, why not?