Religion in Society

Parents Complain After Lesbian Minister Speaks at High School

| by Pacific Justice Institute

SACRAMENTO --- More than twenty parents filed suit yesterday against the Castro Valley Unified School District, after the District refused to comply with a public records request. The parents are represented by staff attorneys with Pacific Justice Institute.

The parents sought more information after learning from their children that a lesbian minister had been invited by the school to speak to math and science classes at Castro Valley High School. According to students, the minister spoke about her lesbian wedding and the process of "coming out" to God, self and family. Pacific Justice Institute sent a public records request to the school on the parents' behalf, seeking all records related to the minister's presentations, as well as any records demonstrating the connection between the minister's talk and the math and science curriculum.

In response, the school district flatly refused to provide the records. To the bewilderment of PJI attorneys, the District invoked the clergy-penitent privilege-ordinarily used to shield ministers from testifying in court about confessions made to them in private. PJI filed a writ petition yesterday in Alameda Superior Court to compel release of the records.

"It's a mystery to us why the district chose to take such a hard-line approach with these parents who simply wanted all the information they are entitled to about this minister's visit," noted PJI Chief Counsel Kevin Snider. "But the parents have a strong right under California law to examine the curriculum and materials associated with in-class presentations, and we intend to vindicate that right."

Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, commented, "Parents are the first and foremost educators of their own children. Castro Valley's refusal to honor these parents' request for basic information reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of the school's proper role as helping—not replacing—parents."