Speaking Truth to Trans-Captured Public School Boards

Editor's Note: This is a descriptive essay to help Christians to understand what is happening in our public schools and how to do something constructive about it at the school board level. The authors have included a link to the Wake County School Board meeting they attended near the end of this article. It begins with Andrew's comments and Rosaria's pick up at 1:25:25. 

Speaking Truth to Trans-Captured Public School Boards

by Andrew Branch & Rosaria Butterfield  

The meeting opened with reverent silence and ended in plaintive wails and heaving sobs.

No, this was not the funeral of a dignitary.

This was a school board meeting in Durham, North Carolina, where residents shared opinions about a newly passed parental rights law. The new state law prohibits the county school system’s current posture of concealing a child’s transgender identity from parents.

And tonight, the only place we heard the word "perverted" was from a school board member—about Christians.

The Triangle Reformation Banner & Record

 Our journey to that night in Durham began months earlier as Andrew learned firsthand that local votes addressing the foundation of reality could come up without much warning. An ordinance that bans you from acting as if male and female are real distinctions is no longer controversial enough to make headlines. Andrew realized if you want to know what’s being discussed, you have to read the local agendas yourself.

So Andrew messed around with a free version of WordPress to make accessing local government agendas and public comment rules less daunting. The Triangle Reformation Banner & Record exists to “facilitate Reformed Christian awareness and witness to the civil magistrate.” How can a family stay in the loop of the town council, county commission, and school board in an age when the very definitions of “male” and “female” are now political?  Could such a website be a diaconal tool facilitating Christians to proclaim the gospel to the civil magistrate? We began to talk about what he was learning.

In May, Kent Butterfield, pastor of First Reformed Presbyterian Church of Durham, Rosaria, and Andrew prepared speeches to testify before the state legislature in defense of bills that took the LGBTQ+ lobby head-on.[1] When those bills became law in August—including a parental rights measure—Andrew surmised that upcoming local school board meetings could be a spiritual battlefield.

What if Christians went?

Durham Public Schools Board of Education Monthly Meeting, August 24, 2023.

In a room bursting with rainbow pride, we prepared speeches to deliver to the monthly school board meeting. We signed up on a sheet of notebook paper held to a clipboard on the front table.

The meeting opened with a moment of silence for those “targeted” by the state legislature’s actions.

The first speech supported LGBTQ values and spoke against parental rights, thanking the public schools for the emotionally healthy queer children they are churning out. The supportive crowd cheered, clapped, and celebrated being on the right side of history. Later, a man with the pronouns “he” and “they” reiterated his defiant rejection of the law and celebrated the Biden administration’s support of “transgender girls” (boys)  playing sports with girls as part of Title IX.  All of these speakers were in uniform agreement on a matter that requires a giant leap of faith: that there is such a thing as a “trans kid.” In truth, the “trans kid” is an invention of an evil age.[2]

Rosaria was called up.

She shared her history as a retired, tenured professor of English, Women’s Studies, and Queer Theory from Syracuse University. She told the room that she lived as a lesbian activist for a decade and understood this community's challenges. To all of this, the school board nodded and smiled. But when she shared that, no longer a lesbian, she was grateful she made no irreparable medical decisions that caused harm to her physical body during her decade of lesbian confusion, a sense of tension—and opposition—rose from the board and audience.

Rosaria explained that children who experience either the medical condition of gender dysphoria or the ideological, social contagion of transgenderism need guidance from their parents—the people who know them best, love them most and can help them heal. She said the transgender movement’s rejection of the stable biological categories of male and female renders it junk science.

When she said, “junk science,” someone gasped.

When the red light on the podium flashed, indicating her time was up, she left the podium and returned to her seat. The rainbow room looked grey, like they were all seasick. The LGBTQ+ movement demands affirmation. Betrayal from one of its own is too much to bear.

A mom spoke next. She talked about how the public school had attempted to socially transition her child without her knowledge or consent. Socially transitioning a child means that teachers and administrators addressed this woman’s daughter by a boy’s name, celebrated her “trans identity,” and encouraged her to wear boy’s clothing and write her boy-pseudonym on tests and papers. The girl was 12 when this grooming started, including hours of TikTok during school hours on devices this mother did not provide. With humility, the mom painstakingly walked us through public schools “sowing gender confusion into my daughter.” She spoke as an eye-witness of the crime. In terms of LGBTQ+ ideology, this mother’s lived experience should have rendered her authentic. She then told the school board that her daughter is not a boy and never was and that she would never use false pronouns. That this charade was going on during the school day without her consent or knowledge is now illegal, she said boldly. 

Both the audience and school board shook their heads and looked away.

The room went from rainbow pride to seasick grey to a ghostly ashen.

Speaking next[3] was Mr. Caleb Goodnight, a local father and churchman.  He introduced himself to the board with courage and clarity as a Christian. The confidence with which he calmly said “Christian” riveted the room. He closed his speech with Psalm 2:10-12:

Now, therefore, judges, be wise;

Be warned, O rulers of the earth.

Serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,

For his wrath is quickly kindled.

Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

Caleb proclaimed that the school board was in dangerous sin and had incurred the wrath of God. He called them to repent of their sin and kiss the Son before it was too late, for "if anyone would corrupt a little child, it would be better for them to be drowned in the sea."

When the audience and the board heard Christ was King of the Nations, they turned red with rage.

But the meeting was not over.

One remaining speaker gave a performance that has become an iconic display at school board meetings nationwide, replayed thousands of times on YouTube.

The speaker stood at the podium and sobbed.

When her screams softened into words, she identified herself as a member of the rainbow community and a Durham public school teacher.  She offered only one complete thought: an apology to the school board that the speakers that night were more or less white, educated, and articulate.

She lamented and sought for "BIPOC LGBTQ folks in this moment," "black, trans" voices for her to pay her obeisance.   

With the public comments finished, a board member who had leapt from the stage and fled to this teacher with a Kleenex box asked for a point of personal privilege. She referred directly to the three defenders of the new law. We had “perverted” faith, she said, calling into question how we could be Christian and believe in the judgment of God.  She told us that the school board was comprised of “women of faith,” good people who will try to protect kids from their parents and this parental rights law, citing “rights under federal law that supersede state law.”[4]

With those fireworks, the public comment portion of the meeting was called to an end. We gathered on the building steps and prayed to God for our nation to bend the knee to Christ and for Christ to save the people in that room. We thanked God for His holiness, glory, perfection, Word, and salvation. 

Rosaria met up with the screaming schoolteacher as she walked to her car. She scribbled her cell phone number and placed it in the woman’s hands. Rosaria told the teacher that while she couldn’t interpret screaming, she could listen quietly to her concerns in a future private meeting if the teacher was willing to use her words. The school teacher’s eyes softened, and Rosaria saw the madness, lies, and the sense of victimhood she remembered well from her lesbian past.

Why Should We Care about Public Schools When Our Kids Don’t Attend Them?

Addressing LGBTQ+ lies carries obvious pragmatic benefits. These lies have victims, and government systems that promote lies[5] have generational effects. Rosaria herself addresses the necessity of godly confrontation in the introduction of her new book Five Lies of our Anti-Christian Age: “Lies cannot be tamed. Lies do not coexist with truth but rather corrupt it” (24). 

But there’s something deeper here for the Reformed Christian. The Reformed Church takes the mediatorial kingship of Christ seriously.

We pray that civil servants advocate as those who know the Law Giver and the full implications of a risen Christ who said, “all authority is given to me in heaven and on earth.”

We pray that the wider Church remembers and learns how to do the same.

When Rosaria speaks at school boards and legislative meetings and sees the angry LGBTQ+ mob, she remembers that she was once on that side of this conversation. She recognizes the lies she promoted 30 years ago. In repentance, she sees her fingerprints are all over this madness.

We praise God for His salvation and for the Christians who were “not ashamed of the gospel,” knowing that it is “the power of God for salvation…for in it the righteousness of God is revealed” (Romans 1:16-17). We praise God that Christians were not afraid to tell Rosaria the truth but instead knew that only God’s truth would set her free (John 8:32).

And when you have a faithful team of fellow Christians representing the local church, fear of man is put to death.  Why? Because witnessing to the government dispels the fear of man because it honors the proper fear of God.

Since our Durham escapades, we’ve learned further lessons speaking in nearby Wake County. This center-left but more cordial school board has members who might actually reach out to you afterward—Christian members who tell you they notice those who speak as Christians, not just conservative populists.

This is about Truth. This is about God’s law and gospel, which calls school board members to repentance—not just in their personal lives but also in their offices. Civil servants are to repent in their offices because of Christ and His office.

Psalm 119:46-47 reads,

Your testimonies kings will hear,

I’ll speak them unashamed.

Yes, I delight in Your commands;

For they my love have claimed.[6]

Andrew Branch, a freelance writer, journalist, and graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute, and Rosaria Butterfield, pastor's wife and author of Five Lies of our Anti-Christian Age (Crossway, 2023), are members of the First Reformed Presbyterian Church of Durham, Durham, NC.

[1] The three bills banned so-called “gender-affirming” medical interventions for minors, protected women’s sports, and affirmed parental rights in education. These laws passed via veto-override on August 16.

[2] See Christopher Rufo, “’Trans Kids’ Are the New Totem of the American Left,” March 16, 2023, The Manhattan Institute.

[3] 19th century Reformed Presbyterian and Scottish pastor, William Symington, offers the most helpful articulation of the Mediatorial Kingship of Christ, which is a distinctive of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America and embraced by other Reformed and Presbyterian denominations. It maintains the church’s responsibility to call the civil magistrate to recognize Christ as the “prince of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:5).  Helpful articulations of this doctrine can be found in William Symington’s Messiah the Prince: The Mediatorial Dominion of Jesus Christ (Pittsburgh: Crown and Covenant Publications, 2012); JK Wall’s, Messiah the Prince Revisited: A Modernized Abridgment (Pittsburgh: Crown and Covenant Publications, 2014); “Jesus is King: An Introduction to the Biblical Doctrine of Christ’s Kingship”, authored by members of the RPCNA Synod’s Special Committee on the Mediatorial Kingship of Christ, and available at Crown and Covenant Publications (crownandcovenant.com).

[4] This common language is a hat-tip to efforts from the Biden administration and others to expand a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court decision. In short, Bostock vs. Clayton (2020) rewrote LGBTQ categories into the “1964 Civil Rights Act.” Government schools and agencies have adapted to spread and enforce this as their highest calling. 

[5] State governments in both New Jersey and California  in recent weeks sued dissident school districts, seeking explicitly to force the districts to favor hiding gender transitions from parents.

[6] Book of Psalms for Worship. Crown and Covenant Publications, 2009.