Let me outline a situation for you:
A high school student speaks up in class to declare that his religious beliefs tell him homosexuality is wrong and prevent him from supporting gay rights. The gay teacher makes the student leave class. The student’s mom brings in a right-wing lawyer to raise a ruckus and claims the student is being punished and discriminated against simply for speaking out about his religious beliefs. The teacher says things didn’t go quite the way the student claims. The teacher is suspended, but that suspension is eventually lifted.
Sounds a lot like what happened recently at Western Hills High School in Fort Worth, right? You remember the story, with gay teacher Kris Franks sending freshman Dakota Ary to the principal’s office after Ary said in class that he is a Christian and therefore believes homosexuality is wrong. Ary said he was simply making a comment to a friend in relation to a discussion going on in class. Franks said Ary was being belligerent, that there was no discussion going on about gays and that Ary’s comment had been just the latest in a string of anti-gay bullying behaviors targeting Franks. Ary was suspended; his mom called in right-wing Liberty Counsel lawyer Matt Krause who got the suspension lifted. The Franks was suspended on “unrelated” accusations of “inappropriate” behavior, but was soon cleared of the charges.
You remember that story, right? Well, good, but that’s not the story I am talking about here. This is a different one.
This week, the Thomas More Law Center, a conservative Christian legal foundation, filed suit in federal court on behalf of Sandra Glowacki, a Catholic, who claims that the Howell Public School District in Howell, Mich., and teacher Johnson “Jay” McDowell violated the constitutional rights of her son, 16-year-old Daniel Glowacki, when McDowell kicked him out of class on Oct. 20, 2010 — when the school district was observing anti-bullying day and Spirit Day — because Daniel Glowacki told McDowell that as a Catholic, his religion prevented him from supporting gay rights.
The lawsuit claims that McDowell wore a “Tyler’s Army” T-shirt that day in memory of gay college student Tyler Clementi, who had committed suicide after being bullied, and that McDowell had used his class all day to “promote homosexuality.” The lawsuit says McDowell had told a female student to remove a Confederate flag belt buckle because he was offended by it. Then when Daniel Glowacki asked why it was OK to display a rainbow flag promoting LGBT rights, McDowell asked whether Glowacki supported gay rights. When Glowacki said his religion prohibited him from doing so, McDowell made him and another student with similar views leave the class.
McDowell was suspended for violating school district policy, but the suspension was later lifted to settle the grievance complaint Johnson filed.
Robert Muise, a lawyer with the Thomas More Center, is representing the Glowackis. He says that the school district and McDowell were trying to “indoctrinate” Daniel Glowacki into believing that homosexuality is normal, and that Glowacki was bullied by the teacher and the school district because of his religious beliefs. Muise wants the judge to rule that McDowell and the school district violated Glowacki’s constitutional rights, to enjoin the district and the teacher from “favoring homosexuality” over opposing religious views, and to award the Glowackis damages in the case.