Faithandthelaw's Blog

The law as it relates to Christians and their free exercise of religion

ACLU lawsuit challenges Bible Belt traditions

Posted by faithandthelaw on March 13, 2010

An attorney says a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against a North Mississippi school district is an attempt to try and keep officials there from recognizing traditional morality.

Earlier this week, administrators at the Itawamba Agricultural High School opted to cancel its upcoming prom. That action was taken after 18-year-old Constance McMillen, a senior at the school, was told she could not arrive at the prom with her girlfriend, a sophomore at the school. Officials also informed McMillen she would not be allowed to wear a tuxedo to the event.

The ACLU told school officials that McMillen’s rights were violated because same-sex dates were banned, and when administrators cancelled the prom, the ACLU filed its lawsuit. That legal group argues that cancellation of the event violates McMillen’s right to freedom of expression — and is an attempt by school officials to turn the young lesbian into “the villian who called the whole thing off.”

Steve Crampton, vice president of legal affairs at Liberty Counsel, says the ACLU’s lawsuit is an extreme move.

“There really aren’t that many cases on similar facts. Although the ACLU and a lot of the media has presumed they have this constitutional right that’s somehow well-established, I don’t think that’s really the case,” Crampton comments. “A school normally has a right to establish a dress code. They have a right to impose reasonable regulations in an event that the school itself is sponsoring, and they have a right to enforce reasonable regulations and restrictions on conduct.”

The attorney adds that Liberty Counsel has offered its legal services to school officials, but as yet has received no response.

Lesbian ‘Christian’

In an interview with the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, McMillen says she experienced “tension and hostility” from fellow students when she returned to school on Thursday — students who she says blame her for canceling the prom. According to that report, she left school mid-morning yesterday.

The professed lesbian claims to be a Christian. “God has helped me, and I’ve been praying a lot,” she told the newspaper. “Regardless of what you believe, I’m a Christian. Sexual orientation doesn’t make a religion.”

The Daily Journal also reports that students at IAHS are displaying mixed emotions about the legal spat, some saying it has been blown out of proportion while others are grateful the district is standing up for what it believes is right.

Courtest of one news now at

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