The Virginia governor, who ran as a “parents’ rights” candidate, has unpardonably pardoned a father who violently disrupted a school board’s discussion of trans inclusive bathroom policies.
Scott Smith, who was convicted of two misdemeanors related to the incident, claimed a “boy wearing a skirt” allegedly assaulted his teenage daughter in the girl’s restroom. Smith had been scheduled to appear in an appeal of his disorderly conduct charge on Sept. 25 before Gov. Glenn Youngkin stepped in. Youngkin has previously caught the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s attention for improperly inserting religious content in a mandatory diversity training for state employees. He claims that “God” called him to run for governor, says he walks daily “with the Lord,” and that his faith informs his role as a public servant. “Most of all, every one of us is made in the image of our creator,” he has claimed in an executive order.
Youngkin loudly asserts that Smith had been “wrongfully prosecuted” and notes that his own passion for “parents’ rights” motivated the pardon. The reality of the case is far more complex than the “trans bathroom predator” myth that has been presented. In testimony given under oath by one of the victims, she noted that she and the assailant had agreed to meet in the girl’s bathroom where they had previously met, and not because of any transgender inclusive bathroom policies. The assault also took place before the Loudon County School District had ever considered instituting a transgender inclusive bathroom policy. There is no evidence that suggests that the attacker regularly used bathrooms as a site for sexual assault, as the second victim was assaulted in an empty classroom, according to the Washington Post.
“The myth of a plague of men claiming to be transgender in order to enter women’s restrooms and commit sexual assault has been debunked and discredited by sexual assault and domestic violence advocates for years,” notes FFRF Equal Justice Works Fellow Kat Grant, whose fellowship focuses on the intersection of LGBTQ-plus rights and state-church issues.
“There is no data to suggest that trans people are inherently dangerous to their cisgender peers, and this myth harms victims of sexual assault across the gender spectrum,” says Grant. “By focusing on an imagined threat, these individuals and organizations are intentionally distracting the public from the very real sexual assault crisis happening as a result of misogynistic control theology in their churches.”
It’s deplorable that this 2021 incident sparked much of the anti-LGBTQ-plus “parental rights” movement. In the two years since the incident, many right-wing religious groups have jumped on Smith’s case, blatantly manipulating the facts and painting Smith as a martyr fighting against the threat of evil trans people despite his outburst escalating to the point of putting other meeting attendees in danger.
“There is no doubt that what happened to the two girls in this school district was horrific and traumatic,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It is also reprehensible that Gov. Youngkin and other Christian nationalists have co-opted the trauma experienced by these girls in order to fan the flames of transphobia.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with 40,000 members across the country, including almost 1,000 members in Virginia. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.