By Tony Perkins
At a Union Township high school, you can teach free speech — you just can’t exercise it. New Jersey’s Jenye Knox found that out the hard way. Four years ago, the tenured teacher was fed up with the school’s constant flood of political correctness, including a hallway billboard celebrating Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Month. Frustrated by the liberal message, the special education teacher posted a message of her own on Facebook.
“Why parade your unnatural immoral behaviors before the rest of us?” she wrote. “I do not have to tolerate anything others wish to do. I do have to love and speak and do what’s right!” When people started commenting on the post, the African-American ordained minister spelled out her biblical beliefs on the subject. They were her own personal comments on her own personal time — but the school didn’t care. Administrators suspended Knox for three months without pay for “conduct unbecoming” — the stress of which was so great that Jenye ultimately resigned.
Angry over the way she’d been treated, Knox sued the district for violating her religious and free speech rights. Now, after a two-year legal battle against the school, Knox is finally getting a chance at vindication. U.S. District Court Judge Kevin McNulty ruled that Knox deserves a federal jury trial, where she can fight for the reinstatement, back pay, and monetary compensation she’s seeking.
“I understand a teacher is an agent of the state but she’s also an individual,” Knox’s attorney said. “This is what the country was founded on. It’s not like she was a teacher standing up in the middle of class and saying, ‘I believe in ‘this, this, and this.'”
But unfortunately, the club of educators persecuted for their beliefs keeps growing. Florida’s Teacher of the Year Jerry Buell was in an almost identical situation and won his job back in court. Professor Mike Adams converted to Christianity at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and the university denied his promotion because of it (a decision that, seven years and several appeals later, the courts reversed).
FRC’s own Teresa Wagner, who worked for us in the late 1990s, was turned down for a job at the University of Iowa Law School because of her conservative views. The 8th Circuit later ruled in her favor, proving that none of these schools’ politically-motivated decisions can withstand scrutiny. When men and women of faith fight for their beliefs, they can win. So when the time of testing comes, take heart in the words of the Apostle Paul and STAND!
Tony Perkins is president of the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council. He is a former member of the Louisiana legislature where he served for eight years, and he is recognized as a legislative pioneer for authoring measures like the nation’s first Covenant Marriage law.
(Via FRC’s Washington Update. Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.)
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