Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The legend of the Mad Dad of Massachusetts or how to distort a situation religious-right style

I've written about the David Parker controversy a few times so allow me to regurgitate my breakdown of the situation yet again. This time, however, I want to put it in another context.

David Parker cares so deeply that he is willing to go to jail and endure a lengthy court process for the right to be a parent. In a world where a myriad of social problems can be traced back to parental abuse or indifference, it is incredible that Parker is being treated as a criminal and not as the hero he is. - Wendy McElroy, Parental Rights vs. Public Schools


Well, homosexual relationships are, by their nature, sexual. The, you know, the movement is trying to say no, it's not. But you know, there's a big elephant in the middle of the room here, and we're not recognizing it. - Brian Camenker, head of Mass Resistance

I don't want the school to determine the timing and manner when this stuff is brought up. I want him to play on the swing set and make mud pies. I don't want him thinking about same-sex unions in kindergarten. - Massachusetts parent David Parker

Both comments taken from
interview with Bill O'Reilly


Does an elementary school have the right to indoctrinate children in their view of controversial moral issues without the knowledge or consent of parents?

That is the issue that the U.S. Supreme Court may decide. Matt Barber, CWA's Policy Director for Cultural Issues, speaks with David Parker, a Lexington, Massachusetts parent, who is petitioning the high court, hoping it will accept his appeal of a First Circuit Court decision on his case.

In 2005, Parker was arrested at his son's school following a classroom lesson on same-sex marriage using the book King & King. The principal at Esterbrook Elementary School in Lexington defended the King & King lesson and denied parents the right to be informed about it and to opt their kids out. - Concerned Women for America

When a controversy happens regarding gay rights, religious right organizations are quick to jump into the situation and exploit it for their own purposes regardless of what the truth may be.
A perfect example would be the case involving Massachusetts parent David Parker.

In April 2005, Parker was arrested for trespassing when he refused to leave his son’s school, Eastabrook Elementary, in Lexington, MA. He was angry that his son, who was at the time in kindergarten, was sent home with a “diversity book bag.” He objected to a book in the package because it showed a child in a same-sex household.

Parker contended that the school was encroaching on his right as a parent to talk to his son about issues of sexuality. He met with school officials and was arrested when he refused to leave after the meeting. He claimed that any mention of same-sex parents constituted a talk of human sexuality and that Massachusetts law guaranteed that he could opt his child out of the discussion. Parker also claimed that school officials were not giving him assurances that this would happen.

At first glance, it seems that the case of David Parker was one of a concerned father attempting to be able to raise his child in the way he sees fit. As you can see, religious right groups certainly claimed that was the case. And unfortunately they were aided by folks like Wendy McElroy and Bill O'Reilly who apparently never realized journalism involves more than just writing and interviewing folks. A little investigation never hurts matters.

Which is what I did. And what I found was a case a bit more complex.

Distortion—David Parker objected to his child being exposed to homosexuality because it was an issue of sexuality and Joseph Estabrook Elementary refused to accommodate him

Truth—In a January 17, 2005 email to the school, Parker said: “There is a book included entitled, Who’s in a Family (with pictures) that include lesbian and homosexual couples with children—implicitly equating this family structure as a morally equal alternative to other family constructs. We stand firmly against this book or any other subject matter pertaining to homosexuality ever being indoctrinated to our child, discussed in school, or sent home. We don’t believe gay parents constitute a spiritually healthy family and should not be celebrated.”

Joseph Estabrook Elementary principal, Joni Jay, wrote Parker an email clearly saying homosexuality is not a part of the kindergarten curriculum. She also said she cannot control what students say to one another and that many children attending Joseph Estabrook Elementary live in same-sex households.

Point of fact: The entire controversy began because Parker’s son brought home a “diversity bookbag” with several items in it. Among them was a book showing certain types of families, including same-sex families. It was the only book in the packet that talked about anything of a homosexual nature.

Distortion—Parker was well within his rights because Massachusetts laws says parents must give permission to have their children discuss any issue involving human sexuality.

Truth—Parker was not well within his right because discussions of differing families, including gay-led households are not included in the parental notification policy. This is because it is not an issue about human sexuality. Principal Jay informed Parker of this on March 4, 2005. Jay said she confirmed this with the district assistant superintendent and the director of Health Education. She was answering an email in which Parker said that neither he nor his wife authorize any teacher or adult to “expose” his sons (Parker has two sons) to “any sexual orientation/homosexual material/same sex unions between parents.”

Point of fact: The night before Parker’s arrest, he addressed the Lexington School Committee during their public meeting. In his speech, he attempted to link gay-led households to sexual behavior:

“Children who are successfully indoctrinated that same-sex marriage is normal and correct will eventually understand that sexual intimacy is a part of this union. Let’s not be naive about the implied human sexuality aspect of same-sex unions. Let’s be honest with ourselves. When we accept same-sex unions, we accept its implied . . . sexual intimacy. These concepts are indeed inextricably linked.”

Distortion—David Parker was arrested because Joseph Estabrook Elementary did not respect his rights as a parent.

Truth—David Parker was arrested for trespassing. Even though his initial questions were answered, Parker persisted and finally received another meeting with school officials. According to a press release issued by William J. Hurley, Interim Superintendent of Schools and Christopher Casey, Chief of Police in Lexington, Parker and his wife requested that the school, in the future, ensure that teachers automatically remove their children from discussions of same-sex households, even if the issue rises spontaneously. It was explained to Parker and his wife that the policy allowing students to opt out of discussions of human sexuality was not relevant here and the Parkers’ request was “not practical” because children could discuss “such matters among themselves at school.”

When Parker and his wife were told that they could appeal the response to the Commissioner of Education, Parker did not want to. It was then that the two decided not to leave the school. The Lexington Police were called. Parker’s wife went to the couple’s car but he stayed. Two plain-clothed detectives came at 5:20 p.m. and a police lieutenant came at 6 p.m. All asked Parker to leave but he refused.

Distortion—David Parker did not intentionally get arrested. According to his lawyer, Jeffrey Denner:

“He (Parker) was invited to come in, he came in, there was a dialogue going back and forth, there were faxes sent back and forth to the school committee. His intent was not to get arrested. His intent was to establish a dialogue to protect his own children and other children as well.”—Father faces trial over school’s ‘pro-gay’ book, WorldNetDaily, August 4, 2005

Truth—According to the press release submitted by Hurley and Casey, Parker said “If I’m not under arrest, then I’m not leaving.” The press release also said Parker began calling people on his cell phone and a small group of people began arriving with cameras. Parker was finally arrested at 6:24 p.m. The group with the camera was waiting behind the police station and photographed his arrival.

Mass Resistance (Massachusetts conservative group) claimed that Parker was using his cell phone in order to keep his wife up to date with the meeting while she sat in the couple’s car.
Point of fact: There are pictures of Parker being arrested and led away by police on the Mass Resistance web page. Now how could any of this have happened by chance? For that matter, there are pictures of Parker addressing the Lexington School Committee the night before his arrest. The fact that these pictures are on the web page do give an impression of premeditation by Parker and Mass Resistance.

Distortion—David Parker got into this fight solely because of his concern for his children and what they are being exposed to in school.

Truth—Since his arrest, Parker has been speaking against gay rights in other states. On June 13 and 14 of that same year, he was the speaker in a six-town “Wake UP Maine” tour with Brian Camenker, the head of Mass Resistance. The purpose was to aid a Maine referendum against the recently passed bill outlawing discrimination against the gay community. A flyer was distributed showing Parker in handcuffs. The flyer also claimed that Parker “questioned the homosexual rights movement.”

The image of Parker in handcuffs had made its way around several web pages like some sort of bastardized picture of Che Guevera. He also appeared in a commercial in another effort to overturn the Maine anti-discrimination bill. In addition, the Family Research Council filmed an interview with Parker as a part of a successful effort to pass Proposition 8 in California. The organization referenced the Parker controversy in writings about gay marriage in California.

And then don’t forget this interesting addendum:

In May 2006, Parker’s son was involved in a fight at school with a friend over seating in the school cafeteria. His son and the other student made peace with each other and continued to be friends. They even had a play date later that week. In addition, Parker was informed as to what happened.

However, less than a month later, the Mass Resistance sent out a press release claiming that Parker’s son was set upon by eight to 10 students who did not appreciate his fight against Joseph Estabrook Elementary. The press release generated considerable buzz with the anti-gay industry, as it was either run or referenced by many so-called “pro-family” web pages, including the Traditional Values Coalition and Concerned Women for America.

Joseph Estabrook Elementary School explained the true story in a press release. However, none of the so-called “pro-family” groups, including Mass Resistance and the Traditional Values Coalition, apologized for any of their claims about a conspiracy to hurt Parker’s son nor did they correct the error.

By the way, in 2007, a federal judge dismissed Parker's case against the school and in 2008, the Supreme Court also denied his case.

However, it is clear that when controversy involving us take place, the lgbt community must be highly vigilant in getting the truth out as soon as possible.

Otherwise the situation becomes another file in the religious right cabinet of lies.

Other articles and web pages used for this post:

Arrested father had point to make, The Boston Globe, April 29, 2005

Wake UP Maine Tour announced,, June 10, 2005

Massachusetts Men Speak Against Homosexual Rights,,
June 14, 2004

Coalition for Marriage to host David Parker at Littlefi eld Baptist Church, www., November 3, 2005

Father faces trial over school’s ‘pro-gay’ book, WorldNetDaily, August 4, 2005

Report: Christian Parent Arrested After Being Denied Say-Son in Son’s Education,
Agape Press, April 28, 2005

Dad Becomes Icon in Battle over Homosexual Agenda in Schools, Agape Press,
May 18, 2005

School dispute persists after plea deal is struck, The Boston Globe, October 27, 2005

Press release, Lexington Public Schools, May 2, 2005

David Parker’s Son Beaten Up on the Playground, Traditional Values Coalition,
June 15, 2006

New liberal strategy: Assault 7-year-olds, Kevin McCullough, June 16, 2006

Press release, Lexington Public Schools, June 16, 2006

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Buffy said...

Well, homosexual relationships are, by their nature, sexual. The, you know, the movement is trying to say no, it's not.

Heterosexual relationships aren't sexual? When "opposite" couples hitch up and/or get married they don't get jiggy with it? Then how do they have all those children in the first place (the ones who need "protection" from us)?

And what is this insane notion that teaching children that some families have two mommies/daddies or that sometimes people of the same gender get married is about sex? When I went to school and heard all the classic fairy tales (Cinderella, Snow White) where couples "lived happily ever after" I never once extrapolated that they were having sex. Why do these wingnuts assume that their children are thinking OMG Heather's two mommies are having the Gay SEX. Just because the RRRW adults can't stop obsessing about gay sex doesn't mean their children's minds are fixated on it.

I'm really beginning to think they have a mental disorder.

Dave in Northridge said...

I have to tell you, I'm REALLY steamed. Wingnut and I share the same name, and I have absolutely no protection. Worse, my mother TAUGHT in Lexington.

So, David, your namesake married his male partner on the 37th anniversary of the day we met and we're still married. I think I'd rather be me than you.

Anonymous said...

This is so irritating... I can respect the family's viewpoint, even if I don't agree with it. Apparently, what they were trying to force on their children is ok by some people's standards. What I do not abide is the right wing blogs blowing up about this.

Look, I don't, nor do I have children who have, gone to Massachusetts public school. So I don't know exactly what happened. As such, I think, Alvin, even as an intelligent, clearly logical homosexual... maybe you gotta take a second to understand where they're coming from. It's wrong and it's dying, but dude, it's still here.

BlackTsunami said...

I look at it like this - If they don't like the idea of lgbt parenting being discussed, then the Parkers should either home school their children or enroll them in a private school.

It's not fair for a child in a same-sex household to be made to feel that there is something wrong with his or her family. And basically that's what this situation would have ended up displaying.

So no, I don't agree AT ALL with the Parkers' point of view. Schools bring together children of all households and they must be put on equal levels.

Merlyn said...

The insanity of the right wingnuts never fails to amaze me. Like Buffy, I fail to see how letting a child see that there are all kinds of families, not just the right-wing delusional version, has anything to do with sex. I would like to know who has the dirty mind here? I'm to the point where I believe these people are truly mentally unstable.