Thursday, May 1, 2008

'Believe homosexuality is wrong? SHUT UP!':Damages case from school's ban on student speech goes to appeals court

A case triggered by a school district's instructions to students to "shut up" if they held religious beliefs that did not support the practice of homosexuality is being appealed to the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.Officials with the Alliance Defense Fund have confirmed they are taking the case involving Timothy Morrison to the next level after a panel decided against a judicial ruling endorsing the student's First Amendment rights in the dispute with the Boyd County, Ky., Board of Education. "Christian students shouldn't be prohibited from expressing their beliefs," ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster said. "The school adopted a policy that prohibited students from sharing their beliefs that homosexual behavior was wrong simply because others might find the message insulting."If students violated this policy, they not only faced suspension, they could also be turned over to the police," Oster said. "Several students, including Timothy, chose not to speak rather than face such dire consequences. Timothy is entitled to a judicial ruling vindicating his rights."WND reported earlier when the court was critical of the school district's "gay appeasement" policy instituted as a result of a lawsuit over the establishment of a homosexual student club.The Boyd County district, in an agreement with the ACLU, then mandated a so-called "diversity" program for the students."The school district went overboard," Oster said at the time, "...with three days of mandated diversity training."Included was a rule that students not talk about homosexual behavior from a negative viewpoint, a rule provided explicitly in a video that instructed students to withhold Christian viewpoints about homosexual behavior."We all get self-centered and start to think that our way is the right way and our way is the correct way. We all want to believe that we have evidence that our way is the correct way," a clinical psychologist appearing on the video states."So … no matter where you go, no matter what you do, no matter who you meet, you are going to find people that you don't like," the psychologist says. "You're going to find people that you disagree with. You're going to find people that you don't like the way they act. It can't be avoided, not, not anywhere in the world, it can't be avoided. You're going to find people that you believe are absolutely wrong. You're going to think … That is so wrong … But here is the kicker, just because you believe, just because you don't like them, just because you disagree with them, just because you believe they are wrong, wholeheartedly, absolutely, they are wrong. Just because you believe that does not give you permission to say anything about it. It doesn't require that you do anything. You just respect, you just exist, you continue, you leave it alone. There is not permission for you to point it out to them."The Alliance Defense Fund said during the mediation of the case, the district changed its speech policies, but Morrison continued to pursue declaratory judgment and damages claims."Plaintiff refrained from sharing his views on homosexual behavior while at school because the district's policies specifically prohibited him from doing so," the petition to the full appeals court said."In both the Code of Conduct and the video, the students were told that violating the district police could result in a suspension, with 'a possibility of court referral and local law enforcement agency notified ...'" the law firm said."Thus, this case is not about a hyper-sensitive plaintiff who unreasonably feared discipline if he spoke out against homosexual behavior. No, any reasonable student would have silenced his tongue. Students were specifically told by the defendent that if they insulted a person by saying that homosexual behavior was wrong, they could face dire consequences."This case is about government policies specifically targeting speech and threatening severe punishment. Plaintiff need not subject himself to punishment before he has suffered an injury-in-fact," the firm said.The panel's earlier ruling that "chilled speech is not an injury-in-fact" is erroneous, the appeal said."Other 'circuits have held, both implicitly and explicitly, that a chill on an individual's ability to exercise his or her right to free speech is a constitutional injury-in-fact," the arguments said. "In our case, the 'government regulation' was a direct prohibition against the exercise of First Amendment rights.""Students should not be forced to subject themselves to criminal prosecution before they can seek judicial relief from unconstitutional speech policies," the law firm urged.The appeals court earlier had ruled in favor of the student, then changed its decision.The pending lawsuit was prompted by an earlier lawsuit that demanded the school allow a "gay" club at the school, which resulted in a solution that has been described as "gay appeasement." The resolution of that case included the required indoctrination for students, which banned them from expressing their religious beliefs, and Morrison's case was launched in 2005.
As in the days of Noah....

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