Updated: Jul 11
I have been told by some that I’m a little too obsessed or a little too extreme in my position on the recent issues in Murray’s (Utah) public schools. I have been told by some that I need to be careful about what I say or how I say it, because there are powerful people who might organize against me. I have been told that it’s too divisive or contentious to boldly state how I feel and why, and that I need to take a softer approach and try to “bridge the gap” between opposing views.
I try to be understanding of other people’s viewpoints, and I respect their feelings. But ultimately I have to stand and speak as I feel directed for what I know to be true. There are times when it’s okay to remain silent - to live and let live. But there are times when speaking up is crucial, and now is one of those times. I consider it imperative to stand up and speak out on these issues, because remaining silent will have destructive results to our religious freedom, our freedom of speech, and our legal parental rights.
I prefer to speak directly and honestly. My communication may offend others at times, but I try to be direct and honest, especially in weighty matters.
I speak firmly for my position because my most cherished values are at stake. There is nothing that matters more to me than my faith, my freedom, and my family.
I have seen firsthand how all three of these values are under direct and relentless attack in our public schools. (See attached pictures to get an idea of what I’m talking about.)
FAITH: Faith is under attack in the public school system through the teaching and promotion of gender and sexual identity ideologies. As I stated in a previous post on identity, I believe these ideologies are, in and of themselves, a religion. They are not based on science, academics, logic, or facts. They are belief systems based on feelings. But in addition to being their own religion, Gender/Sexual ideologies are a direct attack on my religion. My religion teaches the belief that God created human beings as either male or female (binary), and as children of God, gender is an essential, unchangeable, and eternal characteristic of our identity. When I send my children to public school and they are taught the opposite belief as “truth” (that gender is a spectrum, not a binary), that’s an attack on my religion. It’s an attack on my parental rights to teach my children my religion — and what I believe is their most important identity. I believe it’s also a violation of the separation of Church and State, which Thomas Jefferson mentioned in reference to the US Constitution’s First Amendment.
FREEDOM: Freedom is under attack in the public school system through the requirement that students and employees give up their freedom of religion and freedom of speech in order to affirm LGBTQ ideologies, often in the name of “safety and inclusion.” Though these ideologies may violate their religious beliefs, students and employees are required to affirm gender identity and alternate names and pronouns of those who consider themselves “gender non-conforming.” I have spoken with a parent in Murray City School District whose child was kicked out of the Murray High Drama program because he did not use another student’s preferred pronouns. This parent took the issue to the teacher, the principal, the district, the school board, and the superintendent, and at every level he was essentially told, “To show respect it is necessary to use the preferred pronouns of those who are gender-nonconforming.” This parent pushed back, asking directly, “Are you saying then that my child can be kicked out of Murray High School’s drama program simply because he did not refer to a person as they/them?” He was told yes. (These conversations were recorded and I have listened to them firsthand.) In forcing this student out of Murray High’s drama club, did the school system consider his “safety” or feelings? Because of his religious beliefs about identity (and, ironically, in the name of inclusion), he was excluded. Why is it acceptable to exclude one student based on his personal beliefs about identity, but in the same breath require affirmation of another student’s personal beliefs about identity? It’s not acceptable. Not only is this clearly illegal discrimination, it’s also COMPELLED SPEECH. I believe this is a violation of both freedom of religion and freedom of speech.
FAMILY: Family is under attack in the public school system through activist public school teachers, social workers, and educators who promote and teach that family and traditional Christian religious values should be “inter-generationally disrupted.” They do not hide this as their goal. They call traditional values “violence” against the LGBTQ community. (See attached pictures.) They read books telling little children that their parents made a mistake in basing their gender on biology. They promote dishonesty with parents in the name of safety and inclusion for students. They are told to ask students their preferred name and pronouns and then give students the option to keep their new name and pronouns a secret from their parents. Actively seeking to keep secrets from parents creates a division between familial generations, which is no surprise since that is one of their stated goals. Of all people, who more than parents would seek the safety and inclusion of their own children? To imply that parents would not be safe or inclusive is simply a guise to sidestep and usurp parental authority and legal rights in order to advance activist goals. Parents love their children. Activists love their cause. This is clearly an attack on the family and on legal parental rights.
I could list many more examples as support for my position. These issues are everywhere and on all grade levels in our schools.
Some say it’s our job to simply love, and God will take care of the rest. While to some extent this is true, it’s also true that loving God means striving to do His will. I believe God expects us to be the instruments in His hands. God performs miracles through our faith and our action. So I’ve stopped expecting God alone to take care of these issues for me. I have started doing what I can, hoping that through me, God will make a difference. I’m so grateful for those who’ve stood with me and spoken out. It’s not easy to do when in response we often receive anger, criticism, and ridicule. But when we realize that what we stand to lose matters so much more than being liked, we take the harder road and accept being disliked for it.
I will continue to stand firmly and speak boldly on these issues because what I cherish most is at stake. I’m not interested in taking a softer approach when those attacking my values are coming at me and my children so hard. We NEED people to stand firmly for our faith, our freedom, and our families.
As a school board member, I will do that.
April Wilde Despain