CHICAGO — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund asked a federal appellate court Monday to reverse a district court’s ruling that upheld an Illinois high school official’s decision to censor a message opposing homosexual behavior on a student’s T-shirt. School officials allowed other students to wear T-shirts in support of homosexual behavior on the previous day.
“As the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, students do not lose their constitutional right to free speech when they enter the schoolhouse gate,” said ADF Senior Counsel Nate Kellum. “Officials at Neuqua Valley High School have engaged in viewpoint discrimination against a student, singling out her viewpoint for censorship while allowing other students to express an opposing point of view.”
On March 21, ADF attorneys filed a motion for preliminary injunction that would have allowed the student, Heidi Zamecnik, to wear her shirt while the lawsuit involving her free speech rights moved forward in court. Last week, the district court denied that motion, prompting ADF attorneys to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit.
Zamecnik, a student at the Naperville school, wore a T-shirt to school that expressed the message, “Be Happy, Not Gay.” She chose to wear the shirt in response to school officials who allowed other students to wear shirts the previous day with messages supporting homosexual behavior as part of the “Day of Silence,” an event promoted by the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network.
Zamecnik was sent to the office of Dean Bryan Wells, who demanded Zamecnik remove the shirt or be sent home for the day. After a phone conversation with Zamecnik’s mother, all agreed to change the shirt to read, “Be Happy, Be Straight.” However, Wells did not abide by the agreement and instead had a female counselor cross off the words “Not Gay” from Zamecnik’s shirt so it simply read, “Be Happy.”
Another student at the school, freshman Alex Nuxoll, also wants to wear a “Be Happy, Not Gay” T-shirt and is a plaintiff in the case as well.
ADF is a legal alliance of Christian attorneys and like-minded organizations defending the right of people to freely live out their faith. Launched in 1994, ADF employs a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.