RFI Defends Parental Rights in Maryland House of Delegates

February 16, 2024, Annapolis, Md. – Ismail Royer, RFI’s Islam and Religious Freedom Director, testified yesterday before the Judiciary Committee of the Maryland House of Delegates regarding House Bill 553. The proposed legislation aims to set a clear boundary against governmental infringement on parental rights, except in cases where a child’s welfare is directly at risk. Advocates argue that it strengthens families by reasserting parents’ primary role in making crucial decisions about their children’s lives without undue government interference.

As Royer noted in his testimony, this legislation provides that “A parent has the fundamental right to direct the upbringing, education, care, and welfare of the parent’s child.” After citing a series of pertinent Supreme Court precedents, Royer explained that House Bill 553 “recognizes a right due to every person because he or she is human, and it gives the people a way of vindicating that right.”

When asked by a delegate whether he had heard from other Muslims or people of other faiths about this issue, Royer responded: “I represent a Muslim voice for religious freedom, and…I work very closely with Muslim communities around the country, and I have heard so many concerns about this…” As examples, Royer pointed to his interactions with Muslim, Jewish, and other parents and community leaders in Montgomery County, Md. and St. Louis Park, Minn. regarding public school curriculum on sexuality that denies traditional religious teachings. 

In collaboration with partners at the Coalition of Virtue and Family Rights for Religious Freedom, both based in Maryland, Royer has been educating the authors of House Bill 553 on why parental rights matter and how protecting them in law is essential for preserving religious freedom for Maryland families. 

Numerous cases have arisen recently at the intersection of parental rights and religious freedom, particularly in public schools in the context of “LGBTQ” curriculum that contradicts the religious convictions of Jews, Christians, Muslims, and others. In the last several months, RFI has worked to equip parents facing these challenges in Montgomery County, Md. and St. Louis Park, Minn. RFI also filed an amicus brief in the Montgomery County case.

RFI’s Islam and Religious Freedom Action Team recently joined two other amicus briefs in cases dealing with parental rights and religious freedom. The first case, Parents v. Montgomery County Board of Education 2, involves plaintiffs who object to the “Gender Identity Guidelines” issued by the Montgomery County, Maryland Board of Education. As RFI’s amicus brief argues, the school district’s policy threatens the fundamental right of parents to impart their sincere religious beliefs to their children. RFI also filed an amicus brief in Bates v. Pakseresht. This case involves a plaintiff who objects to an Oregon policy that requires adoptive parents to “accept” and “support” a child’s “sexual orientation” and “gender identity,” and will disqualify from adoption many Jewish and Muslim candidates (among others) who maintain traditional views on sex and marriage. 

Read Royer’s testimony here and watch the hearing video here.

The Religious Freedom Institute (RFI) works to secure religious freedom for everyone, everywhere. RFI is a non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Washington, D.C.

Media Contact: Nathan Berkeley