By Chris Hyser

“We will not allow the MCPS Board of Education to strip us of our rights to religious freedom, we will be the voice of every child in the county and work until we restore the opt-out option.”

As of fall 2023, parents will no longer be allowed to opt their children out of reading books that MCPS schools have added to their curriculum.

In 2022, a collection of LQBTQ illustrated chapter books was added to the MCPS curriculum. As of 2023, these books had started to be introduced to students from kindergarten all the way up to eighth grade through group reading sessions and discussions, primarily in English classes.

Until May 1st of 2023, MCPS had allowed students to opt out of the readings. If the parents had opted the child out, they would not participate in the group readings and would be given alternative instruction.

As of May first, of this year, the opt-out option was rescinded by the MCPS Board of Education, and school principals were verbally instructed to notify parents who had opted out that the policy had changed. Principals were also verbally instructed that they could choose to allow the children who had originally opted-out reprieve until the end of the school year. Parents who had opted out were sent emails explaining MCPS’s new policy without any discussion or forewarning. Many parents were caught off guard by the decision as the opt-out option was a good way for them to avoid choosing between their religious beliefs and the MCPS curriculum.

In Sec. 13a.04.18.01 of Maryland Law, a clear outline on opting out is provided to parents, this is best exemplified in line (i) “The local school system shall establish policies, guidelines, and/or procedures for student opt-out regarding instruction related to family life and human sexuality objectives.” in addition, the first amendment in the U.S constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” in accordance to both Maryland law and the supreme law, the act of prohibiting parents from opting their children out from these readings would be violating the first amendment rights of citizens, and their rights as parents in Maryland. 

Taking away the option for parents to opt out is not only a violation of these individuals' rights, but it also exposes the lack of respect and indifference that MCPS has for the closely held religious beliefs of families in the county. Montgomery County is one of the country's most diverse counties, making this haphazard approach to school policy more damaging due to the varying religious and political views of local families. Allowing MCPS to ban parents from opting out would be a dangerous violation of the U.S. Constitution and would send a message to county residents that their religious beliefs are unimportant and can be unilaterally ignored. 

Family Rights for Religious Freedom (FRRF) is a group recently organized by concerned parents who refuse to have their right to religious freedom ignored. The group is made up of individuals of many different religions and ethnicities who are united in opposing the removal of the opt-out option by the Montgomery County Board of Education and are working to restore the opt-out option through grassroots activism and legal action. FRRF uses numerous activities such as signing petitions, holding public rallies, and attending and testifying at board of education meetings to voice their concerns. 

“ We will not allow the MCPS Board of Education to strip us of our rights to religious freedom, we will be the voice of every child in the county and work until we restore the opt-out option.” 

Chris Hyser for Congress 6th Congressional District Maryland.

The reality is that the fact that they initially offered the opt-out means that it was necessary and fell under the Maryland law governing family life and human sexuality. This issue can be resolved quickly if religious beliefs are acknowledged, respected, and protected.



 Chris Hyser is running for Congress in Maryland's 6th Congressional District in 2024.

Montgomery County Republican Party