Court Upholds School Ban on “Homosexuality is Shameful” T-Shirt



by Hilary White

SAN FRANCISCO, April 21, 2006 ( – A US federal appeals court, the notorious 9th circuit court, has ruled in a 2-1 decision, that a t-shirt with the words, “Be Ashamed, Our School Embraced What God Has Condemned” on the front and “Homosexuality Is Shameful” on the back can be banned from public schools because it is “denigrating” to homosexuals and their lifestyle. The shirts, the ruling read, are “injurious to gay and lesbian students and interfered with their right to learn.”

The court’s decision is that the shirts can be banned in public schools without violating the 1st Amendment that guarantees freedom of speech.

We conclude that’’ Poway High School student Tyler Harper’s wearing of his T-shirt ” ‘collides with the rights of other students’ in the most fundamental way,’’ wrote 9th Circuit Judge Stephen Reinhardt.

Poway School District’s dress code should be enforced pending the outcome of the lawsuit filed by 16 year-old student Tyler Chase Harper who said the school had violated his free speech rights when it told him he could not wear the shirt to school. The 9th Circuit court’s decision upholds a November 2004 ruling by U.S. District Judge John Houston in San Diego.

Tyler had worn the shirt to school on the annual “Day of Silence,” a school-based campaign put in place by homosexual activists to raise awareness of “homophobia.”

Harper’s case was being pursued by the Alliance Defense Fund, an Arizona-based lawfirm that specializes in freedom of speech and religious freedom cases.

“Being secure involves not only the freedom from physical assaults but from psychological attacks that cause young people to question their self-worth and their rightful place in society.” Reinhardt wrote.

Judge Alex Kozinski, issued a strong dissent. He wrote, “While I find this a difficult and troubling case,” the Poway Unified School District has “offered no lawful justification for banning Harper’s T-shirt.”

There was no evidence that gay students were harmed by derogatory messages of the type conveyed on Harper’s T-shirt, Kozinski said. “While words were exchanged, the students managed the situation well and without intervention from the school authorities. No doubt, everyone learned an important civics lesson about dealing with others who hold sharply divergent views.”

Harper’s lawyers with the social justice firm, the Alliance Defense Fund, said they would be appealing the ruling. ADF Senior Legal Counsel Kevin Theriot said “This panel has upheld school censorship of student expression if it is the Christian view of homosexual behavior. They have essentially determined that student quotation of Scripture can be prohibited. This case will proceed at the district court level, but we intend to appeal today’s extremely poor ruling to the full 9th Circuit.”

Reinhardt has a long history as one of the most left-leaning of the US activist judges. In November, 2005, Reinhardt ruled that parents should have no say in the kind of sex education given to their children in schools. Reinhardt also has the reputation as one of the most overturned judges in US judicial history. By 1997, the Supreme Court had unanimously overturned seven of his rulings, including one in which he said there is a constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide.

In 2002, the 9th Circuit Court ruled, with a 2-1 majority, that the mention of God in the Pledge of Allegiance was unconstitutional because of its identification of the US as a country “under God.” The Court also blocked US Attorney General John Ashcroft’s attempt to stop legalized assisted suicide in Oregon. On the day of the confirmation of Justice Samuel Alito, the 9th Circuit Court ruled unanimously that an attempt to ban partial-birth abortion was unconstitutional.Â

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