Court Rules Unanimously: Illinois School Must Allow “Be Happy, Not Gay” T-shirt
CHICAGO, April 24, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit reversed a lower court’s ruling against an Illinois student Wednesday, saying the district court must order a Naperville high school to suspend its ban on a T-shirt that reads "Be Happy, Not Gay" while the student’s lawsuit proceeds. School officials prohibited student Alex Nuxoll, who is represented by Alliance Defense Fund attorneys, from wearing the clothing.
"Christian students shouldn’t be discriminated against for expressing their beliefs," said ADF Senior Counsel Nate Kellum. "Public school officials cannot censor a message expressing one viewpoint on homosexual behavior and then at the same time allow messages that express another viewpoint. The court’s ruling is a victory for all students seeking to protect their First Amendment rights on a school campus."
Nuxoll, a student at Neuqua Valley High School, desires to express his perspective at various times throughout the year, including the next school day after the "Day of Silence." Other students at the school are permitted to wear shirts with messages supporting homosexual behavior as part of the "Day of Silence," which is sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network. The 7th Circuit ruling prevents school officials from singling out Nuxoll’s message for censorship.
ADF attorneys appealed to the 7th Circuit after the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, refused to stop school officials from silencing Nuxoll while the lawsuit proceeds (www.telladf.org/news/story.aspx?cid=4349). ADF attorneys had originally filed the lawsuit on behalf of another student, Heidi Zamecnik.
In its opinion, the 7th Circuit stated that "people do not have a legal right to prevent criticism of their beliefs or for that matter their way of life." The court also said the school district does not appear to be justified in suppressing Nuxoll’s message on the grounds it might provoke "incidents of harassment."
"It is highly speculative that allowing the plaintiff to wear a T-shirt that says ‘Be Happy, Not Gay’ would have even a slight tendency to provoke such incidents, or for that matter to poison the educational atmosphere," the court wrote.
The full text of the opinion issued by the 7th Circuit in Nuxoll v. Indian Prairie School District #204 Board of Education granting the motion for preliminary injunction requested by ADF attorneys is available at www.telladf.org/UserDocs/NuxollPIWin.pdf.