A moved bill in the Senate Education Committee this morning sparked a fierce debate, with Republican
members expressing fear about a sexual agenda creeping into the public bloodstream and the committee’s chair firing back with an emotional closing speech.
Senator Dick Codey (D-27) sponsored S-2781, which requires school districts to provide instruction on diversity and inclusion as part of the implementation of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education for students in grades 9 through 12. The instruction is to:
- highlight and promote diversity, equity, inclusion, tolerance and belonging on topics including: gender and sexual orientation; race and ethnicity; disabilities; religious tolerance; and unconscious bias; and
- encourage safe, welcoming, and inclusive environments for all students regardless of race or ethnicity, sexual and gender identities, mental and physical disabilities, and religious beliefs.
Under the bill, the Commissioner of Education will provide school districts with sample learning activities and resources designed to promote diversity and inclusion.
Opponents of the bill said they detect an effort by the forces of secular humanism to undermine Christianity.
Senator M. Teresa Ruiz (D-29) was not an opponent, and on the heels of a statement by Senator Mike Doherty (R-23) opposing the bill, said, “I want to thank [Senator Codey] for joining us today and consider adding me as a third sponsor on the bill.”
Objecting to the chair’s use of the word “hate” to characterize critics, Doherty made a comment toward the tail end of Ruiz’s remarks prompting the chair to tell staff, “Mute his microphone.”
That provoked one of the bill’s opponents to call out, “We just experienced tyranny.”
Another voice added, “Censorship! Censorship!”
Ruiz said she had respected Doherty when he made his comments.
“I would at bare minimum expect that same respect in return,” Ruiz said.
“I thought that was very presumptuous and a poor choice of words to use the word hate to label the opponents of the bill. The opponents of the bill were motivated by love for their families and protecting the innocence of children. Not hate, as characterized by Sen. Ruiz. For someone who preaches tolerance, the words she chose when labeling the opponents of the bill were not very tolerant.”
The collision followed a stream of anti’s expressing their opposition to the bill.
“You guys don’t have the right to teach homosexuality,” said Louis Albo. “I’m frustrated by how the government is trying to control every aspect of our lives. The LGBT comes in there and gives you their bills, and you do it. Yous are looking to ridicule a Christian or a catholic. I know yous all are in cahoots with each other.”
Rafael Franco of the Family Advocate Network likewise expressed his opposition.
“My rights are being threatened when you plan to educate my children on gender identity,’ said Franco. “This is not about bullying. It is a bill that will undermine the basis of reality.”
John Hanna, a former Ramsey School Board candidate and native of Egypt, said if the bill moved, “You’d be advancing conformity, exclusion and intolerance.”
Shawn Hyland director of advocacy for Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey, said, “When this bill is going to be applied, that’s when it becomes very troubling; forcing students to agree with the sexual beliefs of state government. Government does not have a right to impose a sexual framework.”
Kathy Kirk said “our children need education on the basics.”
The rollcall produced the following results, along party lines, with majority Democrats prevailing to move the bill:
Senator Sam Thompson: No.
“My friend Governor Codey who sponsored the bill in his opening remarks said his social mores were engendered through his family. I think that’s an appropriate approach. I vote no.”
Doherty spent some time detailing his opposition.
“The idea that we’re going to expose four and five year old’s to some of these teachings,” said the Republican senator. “You’re going to destroy these children. The idea that we’re going to expose innocent children to these concepts. We were [once] proud about what brought us together as American citizens. This bill is highlighting and exacerbating our differences. These folks have an agenda. We’re going to make people of religious faith second class citizens. We need to bring people together. I vote no.”