Federal Judge: Teacher Who Punished Student for Expressing Catholic Belief Against Homosexuality Violated Student’s First Amendment Rights

news_img_3584ANN ARBOR, MI – The Thomas More Law Center today announces a victory in their lawsuit against teacher Johnson McDowell of Howell High School in Howell, Michigan. Federal District Judge Patrick J. Duggan of the Eastern District of Michigan issued his opinion yesterday.

The Court declared the teacher’s actions in punishing Daniel Glowacki for expressing his beliefs against homosexuality violated “Daniel’s First Amendment rights.” In its findings of fact—the Court described how the teacher initiated a discussion about homosexuality. The teacher wore a purple t-shirt and was promoting the homosexual agenda. In response, the Plaintiff, 16 year-old Daniel Glowacki stated that homosexuality was against his Catholic beliefs. The teacher, admittedly, became angry and threw Daniel out of class because he disagreed with Daniel’s beliefs.

The teacher in the lawsuit tried to blame Daniel and claimed he caused a disturbance in the teacher’s classroom. The teacher’s claims were wholly unsupported by all of the other evidence in the case, including affidavits of students in the classroom and the teacher’s own earlier statements. The teacher also tried to argue that Daniel’s religious statement was tantamount to “bullying.” The Court dismissed that claim as well, holding that Daniel’s speech could not be silenced because the teacher did not like Daniel’s religious beliefs and viewpoint.

The Court’s opinion echoed the longstanding legal precedent that “students do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503, 506 (1969).

The teacher argued that Daniel’s speech that his religion did not approve of homosexuality was a bullying statement. However, Judge Duggan, citing several cases, disagreed (citations and quotations omitted).

While the Court certainly recognizes that schools are empowered to regulate speech to prevent students from invading the rights of other students, people do not have a legal right to prevent criticism of their beliefs or for that matter their way of life. Relatedly, a listeners’ reaction to speech is not a content-neutral basis for regulation. While a student or perhaps several students may have been upset or offended by Daniel’s remarks, Tinker straight-forwardly tells us that, in order for school officials to justify prohibition of a particular expression of opinion, they must be able to show that this action was caused by something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint. Simply put, the law does not establish a generalized hurt feelings defense to a high school’s violation of the First Amendment rights of its students.

Thomas More Law Center attorney, Erin Mersino was the lead counsel in the lawsuit. It is expected that the teacher will appeal the decision.

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center, commenting on the favorable court decision, stated:

“The purpose of our lawsuit was to protect students’ constitutional rights to free speech, defend religious liberty, and stop public schools from becoming indoctrination centers for the homosexual agenda.”

The Thomas More Law Center originally filed its federal lawsuit back on December 14, 2012 against the teacher, Johnson McDowell, and the Howell Public School District. The claims against the School District were dismissed, and the Court held that the teacher alone was the responsible party.

The ACLU appeared in the case as amicus and supported Daniel’s position against the teacher.

Courtesy of http://www.thomasmore.org/

Charge for seeking Christian roommate dismissed


© 2010 WorldNetDaily

A single woman cited for unfair discrimination by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights for posting a note on her church bulletin board that sought a “Christian roommate” has had her case dismissed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The federal government’s decision came a week after Alliance Defense Fund attorneys sent a letter urging the Michigan Department of Civil Rights to throw out what it called a frivolous complaint.

The woman, 31-year-old nursing student Tricia Rowe, was alleged to have violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against people of other faiths.

Find how what happens when the government steps over the line, in “Constitutional Chaos”

ADF Senior Legal Counsel Joel Oster called the attempt to criminalize Rowe’s effort to seek a Christian roommate “nothing short of absurd.”

“Christians shouldn’t live in fear of being punished or penalized by the government for being Christians,” he said.

Oster argued “anti-religious groups wanting to confine Christians and their beliefs within the four walls of their church or home cannot also invade those very walls by forcing their own ideas upon Christians through threats of severe punishment.”

Rowe’s card on the bulletin board began, “I am looking for a Christian roommate.”

In its Oct. 21 letter, ADF reasoned that because Rowe is not a landlord and does not own a management company or run an apartment complex, federal and state law do not prohibit her from seeking a Christian roommate.

ADF attorneys asserted any government interference would be a blatant violation of Rowe’s First Amendment rights to freedom of association.

After an investigation, HUD sent a letter formally dismissing the complaint, stating that there was no reasonable cause for the allegation and that no discriminatory housing practice had occurred.


The complaint

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights said in a statement that its probe revealed “legal issues that involved questions of federal and possibly U.S. constitutional law, which required that we coordinate with HUD to assure uniform application nationwide.”

ADF cautioned that even though the complaint was dismissed, the “anti-discrimination” housing law is still in effect.”

“The law states that a person cannot seek out renters based on gender or religion,” the non-profit legal advocacy group noted.

ADF said it is considering filing a lawsuit to strike down the law as it was applied in the church bulletin board case.

Oster pointed out the private Fair Housing Center of West Michigan, which issued the complaint, has a contract with the city of Grand Rapids stating the center will be paid for submitting a specific number of complaints reporting “discrimination.”

The ADF lawyer said there is “real concern when a special interest group like this center has a financial incentive from the city to file various complaints.”

“This complaint should have never been brought,” he said. “It is borderline frivolous to suggest that a single lady can be fined by the government simply for seeking a Christian female roommate to share her 900-square-foot house.”

ADF said neither Title VII of the U.S. Fair Housing Civil Rights Act of 1968 nor the Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act No. 453 prevents a woman like Rowe from seeking a Christian roommate.

As WND reported, the Michigan agency’s spokesman, Harold Core, defended the citation, pointing to a HUD regulation, and explained the state of Michigan agrees to enforce federal regulations.

Core said section 604C states it is a “violation to make, print or publish or cause to be made, printed or published any notice, statement or advertisement with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling that indicates any preference” for a number of nondiscrimination factors, including religious belief.

The complaint alleged the woman’s statement, “I am looking for a Christian roommate,” prevents people of “other faiths” from contacting the woman and making arrangements to share her home with her.

Courtesy of http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=224049