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Great News! Court Orders Florida State to Pay Jack Denton as Student Senate President

By Sarah Kramer posted on:
October 9, 2020

Have you ever shared your views on a sensitive topic with a friend via text message? How would you like to have that text conversation publicized for everyone to see?

Well, that’s what happened to Jack Denton, a student at Florida State University, when he privately shared the beliefs of the Catholic Church with other Catholic students.

The kicker is, Jack had nothing to be ashamed of. He treated everyone involved with dignity and respect.

Yet, because of his beliefs, Jack was the target of a smear campaign among his fellow students. Petitions were circulated calling on him to be removed as Student Senate President, a position he had been elected to in 2019. Jack listened to six hours of student comments berating him for his beliefs. And he was ultimately removed as Student Senate President.

All this because he dared to share his Catholic beliefs in a private conversation. Beliefs that he has the right to share under the First Amendment to our Constitution.

That’s why Alliance Defending Freedom filed a lawsuit against the university on Jack’s behalf. University officials have a duty to uphold the Constitution on campus. But that is clearly not what happened at Florida State.

Thankfully, today a court acknowledged that Jack’s free speech rights were violated and ordered Florida State to pay him as president of the Student Senate while the lawsuit continues.

To understand just how severely Jack’s constitutional rights were violated, let’s take a deeper look at the situation.

It all started with a private group chat for members of the Catholic Student Union, of which Jack is a part. In this chat, participants discussed the police shooting that caused the death of Tony McDade. One student encouraged others to watch a video link that directed ad revenue to organizations such as BlackLivesMatter.com, Reclaim the Block, and the ACLU.

Because of his Catholic beliefs, Jack had some concerns with these organizations and what they advocate for—including radical positions on abortion and transgenderism—so he responded.

Jack Denton conversation 1Jack Denton conversation 2

Even if you disagree with Jack’s beliefs, it’s clear that Jack shared his viewpoint with humility and respect.

But despite this, some of his fellow students were angry.

Without Jack’s knowledge or permission, one participant of the Catholic Student Union chat leaked the conversation to a member of the Student Senate, of which Jack was the president. This student senator took Jack’s words out of context, falsely claiming that Jack called people who identify as LGBT “grave evils.”

And you know the rest. Petitions calling for Jack’s removal as Student Senate President. Six hours of comments. And a vote resulting in Jack being stripped of his title and his job.

But Jack has the right to free speech just like all the students who spoke in favor of his removal. And the university has a duty to uphold its students’ constitutional rights. Yet, Florida State officials refused to stop this gross violation of Jack’s rights and have kept enforcing the Student Senate’s removal. The Court said today that this was wrong and told the University to stop giving any effect to the vote removing Jack and to start paying him as the rightful Student Senate President.

The bottom line is that all students should be able to peacefully share their personal convictions without fear of retaliation.

That’s why ADF will continue to advocate for Jack’s constitutional rights to be fully restored.

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Sarah Kramer

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.


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