October 2, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – A high school French teacher fired late last year for respectfully refusing to refer to a female student as male has filed a lawsuit against the school for violating his conscience rights and infringing on his religious beliefs.
Peter Vlaming taught at West Point High School in Virginia, where one of his female students returned from summer break having “transitioned” to living as a boy, and wanted to be recognized as such. Vlaming agreed to use the masculine name she had chosen and attempted to avoid referring to her with female pronouns, but said his Christian faith prevented him from calling a girl “he” or “him.”
The girl said the compromise made her feel “singled out” and her family complained to the administration, which placed him on administrative leave. The West Point School Board held a four-hour hearing earlier this month to consider the matter, where they voted unanimously to fire him despite an outpouring of support for Vlaming from parents and students.
Vlaming filed a lawsuit Monday against various West Point officials in King William County, NBC News reported. It seeks $1 million in damages for violating Vlaming’s free speech and conscience rights, as well as attempting to force him to violate his religious convictions.
“Mr. Vlaming's conscience and religious practice prohibits him from intentionally lying, and he sincerely believes that referring to a female as a male by using an objectively male pronoun is telling a lie,” the suit argues. It says Vlaming repeatedly explained his position to school administrators, but his pleas fell on deaf ears.
The school “did not have any written policy regarding using pronouns,” the suit maintains. “Defendants made up an uncompromising interpretation of their policies to compel Mr. Vlaming to take sides in an ongoing public debate regarding gender dysphoria and use pronouns that express an objectively untrue ideological message.”
“Peter went out of his way to accommodate this student as he does all his students; his school fired him because he wouldn’t contradict his core beliefs,” said attorney Caleb Dalton of Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), which is representing Vlaming. “The school board didn’t care how well Peter treated this student. It was on a crusade to compel conformity. He works hard to make his students feel welcomed.” Tolerance,” Dalton added, “is a two-way street.”
A GoFundMe page established last December to support Vlaming and his family has raised over $50,000 of a $55,000 goal.
The West Point School Board told NBC News simply that it “denies any liability” and intends to defend itself against the lawsuit.