When a government-run public school requires its teachers to be unwilling participants in a student’s “social transition” to another “gender” by using pronouns and names that don’t correlate to the student’s sex, that is what is known as “government-compelled speech.”
It’s also a violation of the First Amendment’s free speech clause.
That’s the situation an English teacher named Vivian Geraghty found herself in recently when she was forced to resign from her position at Jackson Memorial Middle School in Massillon, Ohio. She’s now suing her school district for violating her constitutional rights.
Geraghty, a Christian, objects to calling a student by anything other than their legal name and pronouns that correlate with their birth sex. Her school officials, however, following a policy the local school board had adopted, ordered her to call two of her students by different names and pronouns to signify that they had “transitioned” to a gender that was inconsistent with their sex.
When Geraghty approached school officials to notify them of her religious and scientific objections to those instructions and to seek some sort of accommodation that would allow her to move forward consistent with her conscience and her professional obligations she was, within two hours, “ejected from her school,” according to the allegations in a federal lawsuit initiated by Geraghty, who is represented by attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).
“Ms. Geraghty’s faith teaches her that God immutably creates each person as male or female; these two distinct, complementary sexes reflect the image of God; and rejection of one’s biological sex is a rejection of the image of God within that person,” her official Complaint filed in a U.S. district court states.
“Ms. Geraghty also believes she cannot affirm as true those ideas and concepts that she believes are not true. Doing so, she believes, would violate biblical commands against dishonesty and lying.”
When school officials told her she would be “required to put her beliefs aside,” Geraghty explained that she couldn’t. She was then ordered to resign, effective immediately.
ADF Legal Counsel Logan Spena explained the basis for Geraghty’s lawsuit in a press release.
“No school official can force a teacher to set her religious beliefs aside in order to keep her job,” Spena said. “The school tried to force Vivian to recite as true the school’s viewpoint on issues that go to the foundation of morality and human identity, like what makes us male or female, by ordering her to personally participate in the social transition of her students.
“The First Amendment prohibits that abuse of power. Jackson Local School District officials nonetheless forced Vivian to resign because she resisted this unconstitutional command and explained that it was her Christian faith that made her unable to participate in her students’ social transition.”
Apart from the constitutional basis for the lawsuit, the school district’s policy encouraging “social transitions” is not based on solid scientific evidence, but rather endangers vulnerable children, according to ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer.
“Increasing evidence suggests that this approach may lead adolescents to unnecessarily pursue dangerous medical interventions like puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, or life-altering surgeries,” Langhofer stated.
“Vivian treated every student with equality and respect, and it was unlawful for school officials to terminate her employment simply because she wanted to avoid using her voice to validate ideas that violate her faith and jeopardize her students’ wellbeing.”
Geraghty alleges not only that the school violated her free speech rights, but also the religious freedom guarantee of the First Amendment because school officials targeted her religious beliefs as a basis for punishing her.
And her situation is nothing new, unfortunately. The Left’s attempt to impose inaccurate pronouns in Ohio is reminiscent of the battles that famed psychology professor and speaker Dr. Jordan Peterson fought on the campus of the University of Toronto in 2016.
“I’ve studied authoritarianism for a very long time – for 40 years – and they’re started by people’s attempts to control the ideological and linguistic territory,” Peterson told the BBC at the time.
“There’s no way I’m going to use words made up by people who are doing that – not a chance.”
Geraghty is asking the court to declare the school district’s policy unconstitutional and for an order requiring the district to reinstate her.
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