The Family Foundation is an organization in Virginia that has been one of the main drivers of the unconstitutional abortion clinic shutdown restrictions in Virginia. Another top issue for them is preventing trans children and teachers from using the bathroom they want to use. In both cases, they troll on the issue of safety for women and girls when their true motive is actually control and punishment for people who don’t fit their gender or sexual ideals. Reproaction has previously affirmed that justice for trans people is reproductive justice, and meaningful abortion advocacy work must include affirmative advocacy for the rights of trans people.
So here’s the deal. In a petition asking people to support a “bathroom bill”, which is a name for a law that polices which bathrooms trans people use, the Family Foundation pleads “Don’t politicize children in Virginia.” This is an interesting request from a group that is actively politicizing children’s gender identity, so we figured we’d look at some ways that the Family Foundation politicizes children. Here’s what we found:
1. “Virginia has a reputation for having good public schools, but parents in Virginia still want the freedom to attend a school other than the one to which they are assigned/a conventional public school. Momentum for education freedom continues to grow, and The Family Foundation plans to build on our school choice successes.”
Listed on their initiatives page, the Family Foundation supports “education freedom” for students in Virginia. Such freedom typically manifests as voucher programs for education and diminish educational equity and particularly harm low-income children. These programs cannot be looked at without interrogating the racist history of using access to public accommodations as a means to discriminate against Black and brown children. Charter schools and voucher programs are direct descendants of white segregationist movements and resistance to school integration preceding Brown v. Board of Education. By supporting such a program, the Family Foundation is politicizing children by supporting an initiative that would benefit economically advantaged and white children and prevent low-income children, children of color, and children with disabilities from equally accessing good schools.
As Americans United for Separation of Church and State notes, vouchers take away funding for public schools that benefit all children, and divert the funding to religious education that sometimes promotes theories that go against modern science. All children deserve education that is comprehensive and accurate.
2. “Virginia’s no-fault divorce laws make unilateral divorce too easy. These laws need to be tightened to encourage marriage counseling and to protect the best interest of children.”
Researchers in Pennsylvania found that no-fault divorce leads to between 8 and 16 percent fewer suicides by wives’ and decreases domestic violence by 30 percent. Domestic violence, of course, also impacts children, whether it is children witnessing violence or being subjected to it. Tightening divorce laws in Virginia, for the “best interest of the children”, politicizes these children’s needs and does not serve their best interests at all. Further, studies show that children are psychologically damaged when parents fight, causing children as young as three to become withdrawn and depressed. Encouraging parents to stay together by making divorce difficult to access actually causes harm to children and does not benefit them.
3. “Of course you and I know that biological realities and objective truth do matter. It matters in marriage. It matters for unborn children. It matters with our kids when they go to school and have to share a locker room, bathroom or communal shower with other kids. It matters all the time and in every place.”
So much for not politicizing children. The entire argument that it is not safe for cisgender students to use the same restrooms and locker rooms as trans students is deeply rooted in right-wing politics and bigotry. The Family Foundation wants to remove the political implications of their support for bathroom bills by basing their argument in “biological realities” and “objective truth.”
In fact, both sex and gender are social constructs, and therefore the “objective truth” is that their focus on preventing transgender students and staff from using the bathrooms they are most comfortable in is nothing more than a political crusade, the genesis of which is maintaining oppressive power structures. And as Cole Parke asserts in an article at Political Research Associates, the fact that trans people exist refutes the Family Foundation’s argument that the sex and gender children are assigned at birth are “objective truth.”
4. “I hope you’ll encourage your kids, grand kids, friends, neighbors, and church youth groups to bring their Bibles to school with them on Thursday.”
On their blog, the Family Foundation encouraged people to have their children bring Bibles to school for “Bring Your Bible to School” day. The issue with this, of course, is not children bringing their desired reading material, even when it is religious, to school. Children reading the Bible at school for pleasure is not wrong, nor is it a violation of the separation of church and state. However, using children as pawns to advocate for increased religiosity in schools is politicizing children. Further, while the intention of this action is to demonstrate the supposed lack of support for Christianity and Christian students in schools, the issue with religion in schools is what is forcibly being taught in classrooms (like the bunk science mentioned above) not the books students are choosing to read.
5. “At issue was a study initiated to consider whether the religious exemption in the law for mandatory childhood vaccinations should be removed. If the crowd was any indication, a good number of parents believe it should stay – citing any number of reasons including parental authority, bona fide religious objections, and the risk of serious complications and even death to the child.”
Finally, the Family Foundation supports an exemption to the law for mandatory childhood vaccines that would allow parents’ to not vaccinate their children on the basis of their religion. As we know, vaccines are the reason that we no longer worry about polio in the U.S. Research that vaccines cause autism was falsified, and that argument is rooted in ableist ideas where people would rather expose children to disease then have them be disabled or neuroatypical. Herd immunity is crucial for children with chronic illnesses, including cancer, who may not be able to get vaccinations but are more susceptible to disease than others.
Further, many religions do not actually hold anti-vaccine beliefs. It is notable that in an area where one of two actively anti-vaccination religions exists, in the Bible Belt of the Netherlands, there was a measles outbreak in 2013 where nearly 1,300 people contracted the measles. Most of the individuals who were sick were between four and 12 years old.
By placing exemptions for only two religions above children’s health and safety, the Family Foundation is demonstrating that they value political gain over the health and well-being of children in Virginia, and that is a serious issue.
The Family Foundation, an affiliate of the Family Research Council which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, cannot be allowed to continue their campaign of using children to support regressive and harmful policy agendas. Their disregard for the health and well-being of all children in Virginia, their incessant targeting of LGBTQ people, and their continued support for unconstitutional anti-abortion restrictions endangers people who live in Virginia, and they must be stopped.