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Guidance Document Change: The guidance document "Model Policies Concerning Instructional Materials with Sexually Explicit Content" was developed in conjunction with stakeholders in order to comply with SB656 (2022).
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7/27/22  3:10 pm
Commenter: Matt Rittle, Pastor

Deep Opposition from Clergy

My name is Matt Rittle and I live and pastor in Arlington, Virginia. As a Seminary Graduate, Pastor of over 10 years, and current resident of Arlington, Virginia, I express deep opposition to this bill.

Unclear language about "sexually explicit content" has consistently been used - historically and contemporarily - as a blunt force weapon to offer wider-than-named enforcement power upon those with poor intentions. No reasonable person would object to the banning of "explicit X-rated pornography" from the classroom, though no reasonable person would assert that such material has ever been taught by teachers in classrooms either. Such would be an unnecessary law.

Instead, the vague term "sexually explicit content" will be interpreted by some to mean, instead "content that I personally disagree with." While those "disagreements" may come from a place of "deeply held beliefs," they are not from a place of well-researched science or mental health. It is the place of family and parents to teach or not teach certain content - e.g. if aliens helped build ancient Egyptian Pyramids - but it is not the place of parents or family to dictate schools teaching or not teaching basic facts about life, history, or science.

LGBTQ+ people exist. And experience higher rates of mental health concerns and attempted suicide in their teenage years than other comparable demographics.

Allowing any space for someone to misinterpret the term "sexually illicit material" to be biased in a way as to, quite plainly, ban material that could lower the of attempted suicide. This bill is not about a "culture war" or "ideals." It's impact could be that more people die. This is more than anti-LGBTQ+. It is anti-human.

We are better when we embrace the fact we are different, and that diversity is a strength. Classrooms should be a place where students are free to be their true selves, free to explore their identities, and ask questions to teachers and students freely, without stigma. Parents are, of course, free to engage with their children about those dialogues as well. But to limit a child's ability to even have that dialogue in the first place limits our exposure to the very ideas that make us who we are, as well-balanced individuals who respect people who hold ideas or identities sometimes different than our own. 

I cannot voice my support for Virginia's LGBTQ+ community strongly enough. I say this as a Christian Pastor and, more importantly, human on the planet Earth.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Matt Rittle
CommentID: 124097