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ADF attorneys file lawsuit against school district’s censorship of Illinois student’s T-shirt

School official crosses out message on student’s T-shirt worn in response to school’s allowance of event promoting homosexual behavior   

CHICAGO — Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund filed a lawsuit Wednesday on behalf of a student whose T-shirt expressing opposition to homosexual behavior was censored by school officials who allowed other students to wear T-shirts in support of homosexual behavior on the previous day.

“Students do not lose their constitutional right to free speech when they enter the schoolhouse door,” said ADF Senior Counsel Nate Kellum.  “A school cannot allow speech that promotes one viewpoint while censoring the other side of the debate.  That is clear viewpoint discrimination and is in violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

On April 20, Heidi Zamecnik, a student at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville wore a T-shirt to school with the message, “Be Happy, Not Gay.”  She chose to wear the shirt since other students were permitted by the school to wear shirts the previous day to show their support for homosexual behavior as part of the “Day of Silence,” promoted by the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network.

While some students expressed disagreement with Zamecnik’s shirt, there were no altercations.  During lunch hour, a school official summoned Zamecnik to the office of Dean Bryan Wells, who demanded that she 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, the dean did not abide by the agreement and instead had a female counselor cross the words “Not Gay” off Zamecnik’s shirt so it simply read “Be Happy.”

“Heidi suffered unlawful discrimination, humiliation, and punishment at the hands of school personnel for simply expressing her sincerely held views,” said Kellum.  “It’s our hope that her First Amendment rights will be quickly restored and that this type of censorship will not occur again.”

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.