Monday, November 08, 2004
Freedom of religion: Some of you may recall that several months ago a student at Poway High School got pulled out of class for wearing a T-shirt with the words "I Will Not Accept What God Has Condemned" on the front and "Homosexuality Is Shameful, Romans 1:27" on the back.
He wore the T-shirt the same day some students at the school took part in a "Day of Silence" in support of LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgendered) students. School officials said the T-shirt was in violation of the school dress code because the language on the shirt was "offensive."
A judge has allowed the lawsuit against the school district alleging violations of Tyler Chase Harper's freedom of speech and religion to go forward, but has also said that it is his opinion that Harper will lose.
Safety is more important, he (Judge John Houston) said, noting that school officials were worried about problems between gay and anti-gay students. The judge said judges and juries are not the best people to decide what students should wear to school.
"School officials are in a better position, based upon their familiarity with the pulse and culture of the school setting, to decide whether restrictions on expression are appropriate," Houston wrote.
I can sympathize with the school officials' desire to keep a campus under control and prevent fights among students -- something that reportedly occured the year before at the same "Day of Silence" event.
The problem with the judge's analysis is that his solution isn't to treat speech equally, but to silence Harper's while allowing the sponsors of the "Day of Silence" to continue. If the prior year the gay-rights event prompted violence you punish those who are fighting. If you're concerned that it may occur again and truly want to avoid violence -- you cancel the "Day of Silence."
The school administration is choosing sides on an issue of free speech and it should lose -- despite the judge's questionable "opinion."