Christian groups are leading a campaign for a voter referendum on California’s FAIR Education Act, which requires history courses and other public school classes to include lesbians and gays.
“If we get the signatures we need, then we can put a referendum on the table to have the law thrown out,” said Pastor Jeong-myung Song, the head of the U.S. offices of the Christian Council of Korea, one of a number of religious organizations opposed to the new law.
Senate Bill 48 was approved by California lawmakers and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in July. The bill allows the history of gays and lesbians to be taught in California schools.
Organizers in opposition to the bill need over 500,000 signatures of registered voters to a referendum on SB 48 on the June 2012 ballot.
“The church cannot afford to be silent on this issue as we were silent when we allowed the atheist movement to take prayer out of school, but we will hardly be silent when we have replaced prayer with a mandatory gay curriculum,” said Xavier Thompson, vice president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Southern California and senior pastor of Southern Missionary Baptist Church. He gave his remarks in an interview with the L.A. Focus.
The groups opposed to SB 48 are somewhat different than those behind Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in California. Black churches and conservative Christian groups dominated that effort, but a plethora of other organizations are gathering signatures against SB 48. Among them are the National Council of Korean Churches and the U.S. Offices of the Christian Council of Korea in Southern California.
The Courage Campaign is one grass-roots organization that supports SB 48. That group and other California organizations are running a “decline to sign” campaign to encourage voters to keep their signatures off the petitions.
The Courage Campaign defends SB 48 as requiring California schools to integrate lessons about social movements, current events and the social contributions of lesbian and gay individuals into existing social studies lessons.
Christian groups, on the other hand, say SB 48 does much more. They contend it will inappropriately expose young children to sex, infringe on parental rights and silence religious criticisms of homosexuality.
The potential ballot referendum is not the only obstacle to SB 48’s implementation. Cuts to the state’s education budget and curriculum changes could also slow it down.
In the event opposition to SB 48 is unsuccessful, the law would not practically go into full effect until 2015, when any changes to textbooks would be in place.