- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 13, 2021

A prominent Catholic watchdog group is urging COVID-19-weary parents to flee public schools that indoctrinate their children in anti-religious ideologies and refuse to allow in-person learning.

The Cardinal Newman Society said Wednesday that ongoing pandemic restrictions have highlighted the damaging ideological drift of public schools from kindergarten to college, exposing instructors who refuse to teach in person and exhibit hostility to Catholic values.

Combined with the growing popularity of alternatives to public schooling, the group said the ideal moment for parents to leave has come.

“Catholics especially have every reason to want to get out of public schools, and it is getting easier with less expensive homeschooling, lay-run schools and school choice programs,” Newman Society President Patrick Reilly said. “Also, many parochial schools are restoring a more faithful, liberal arts formation, after 50 years of attempting to mimic public education and disappointing faithful Catholics.”

Catholic scholars Mary Rice Hasson and Theresa Farnan, co-authors of “Get Out Now: Why You Should Pull Your Child from Public School Before It’s Too Late,” contend in a current editorial for Newman’s fall magazine that “public-school curricula and programs view the person through the lenses of atheism and materialism, often distorted even further by gender ideology.”

Their article recalls the story of Laura Morris, a fifth-grade public schoolteacher in Loudoun County, Virginia, who quit her job in August after telling the school board that mandated transgender policies and racial equity trainings had advanced “political ideologies that do not square with who I am as a believer in Christ.”

On Wednesday, Ms. Hasson and Ms. Farnan said the same issues have gradually made it intolerable for many Catholic parents to maintain ties with public schools, which threaten them with public shaming if they do not refer to kids by their self-defined gender pronouns regardless of biological sex.

Ms. Farnan is a moral philosopher who has held professorships at several Catholic universities and seminaries, and has served as a consultant on family issues to the U.S. Catholic bishops. She said it’s “increasingly difficult for Catholic children to navigate the ordinary public school day.”

“When a teacher tells a kid to refer to a boy as a girl, it undermines a foundational belief of Christian teaching based on reason that goes back to the Book of Genesis,” she said. “Also, to ask a Catholic girl to change her clothes in the presence of a biological male violates Christian teachings on modesty and chastity.”

Ms. Hasson, an attorney and fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said many Catholic families feel increasingly powerless to speak up about gender ideology with the Biden administration’s threat to treat them like “domestic terrorists” if they object too strongly at public school board meetings.

Last week, Attorney General Merrick Garland said he would investigate “a disturbing spike in harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence against school administrators, board members, teachers, and staff.”

“This is old-fashioned intimidation, dressed up in 2021 political maneuvering, to keep parents from speaking up,” Ms. Hasson said. “Local law enforcement can handle problems at a school board meeting, but this is an attempt by the National School Boards Association to lobby the power of the federal government to silence parents or intimidate them so they will not show up.”

She added that while parents should remain respectful at meetings, they also have a right to be heard.

“Public school parents perceive, rightly in my view, that they’re not being heard and that their natural parental authority protected by law is not being respected,” Ms. Hasson said.

Although cost remains a barrier for many Catholic families seeking alternatives to public schooling, the two women said that many parish homeschooling associations and small, independent Catholic schools have sprung up in recent years, making the need for school vouchers more imperative.

“The educational options for Catholics have never been better,” said Ms. Farnan, whose 10 children attend Catholic schools in Pittsburgh. “But Catholics and all Christians need to step up. It’s a significant investment and a communal responsibility to make a Catholic education more affordable for families, so that no kid ever gets denied.”

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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