Religion, Homosexuality and Free Speech in High School
The Alliance Defense Fund, which was involved in the "Homosexuality is Shameful" t-shirt suit mentioned in my previous post, is at it again.
Three Pennsylvania high school students backed by a conservative legal group have sued their school district, claiming they were prevented from quoting Biblical verses in school and expressing opposition to homosexuality, their lawyers said on Friday.
In their lawsuit, the students say they believe homosexuality is a sin and that they have the right to speak out about "the harmful effects of homosexuality."
The students ... are being represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, which argues their free-speech rights have been violated.
Comments at the bottom of a later Philadelphia Inquirer article, indicate that the students' primary concern was to be able to call their club the "Bible Club," mention they were a Christian group (although any student is welcome to join), and to quote Bible passages in the posters they are allowed to put up advertising their club as all extra curricular after school hours clubs are allowed to do.
This would appear to fit in with the Supreme Court finding that any school that allows other extra curricular clubs must allow religious orientated clubs, such as a Bible Study club as well. Guidelines ensure that clubs will be organized and run by students to make it clear that they are not representing an official school position. A teacher may be assigned, but for administrative purposes only, not as a participant.
The Downingtown School District has a policy which prohibits students from expressing opinions that seek "to establish the supremacy of a particular religious denomination, sect or point of view."
What??? It looks like they have taken a policy which correctly applies to school personnel who cannot promote religion in their offical capacity, and try to apply this to students, who are not government employees, as well. Sorry. While limiting discussion of religion (and politics?) may lead to a more tranquil environment, restricting student speech in this area is not something the school is allowed to do. In fact, I've never heard of such a thing before, have you?
A further Downingtown policy assures protection from "sexual, racial, religious, age, marital status, ethnic, political beliefs, disability status, ancestral, cultural, sexual orientation or gender harassment." It forbids "the dissemination of materials that attempt to diminish the worth of any individual or group."
OK. As part of the US Dept of Education "Safe and Drug Free Schools" program, schools have established anti-bullying programs to ensure that students will not be picked on for one reason or several. Students deserve a safe environment free from harassment which promotes learning. What constitutes bullying or harassment is subject to interpretation, of course, as the previous post shows.
From the Inquirer:
The lawsuit says that East High School Prayer Club members Stephanie Styer, Steven Styer and Kim Kowalski want to express their belief "that there is a superior religious point of view to other competing views that would, for example, affirm a homosexual lifestyle."
Well, it seems to me that how they say this has everything to do with whether it's acceptable or not. If they say, "We have good news for gays. Come to our 3:15 meeting on Wednesday and find out about it." This would be fine with me. If a gay goes there and doesn't like what he's hearing, he can always leave.
In contrast, if they put out the "usual" quotes from Leviticus and Romans, which are highly derogatory in nature, then that would amount to harassment and should not be permitted.
It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.