Last April, on Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s (GLSEN) National Day of Silence, 16-year-old Maverick Couch showed up at his southeast, Ohio school wearing a t-shirt that read: “Jesus Is Not a Homophobe.” The openly gay student was called to the office of Waynesville High School Principal Randy Gebhardt where he was instructed to wear the t-shirt inside-out for the rest of the school day.
Couch, with the support of family and friends, has complained to the district about the principal’s ruling and his right to freedom of expression. A letter from an attorney representing the school district informed Couch that his t-shirt was deemed, “sexual in nature and therefore indecent and inappropriate in a school setting.”
Oh really? Making a statement about Jesus in one’s attire is sexual and indecent? So when good conservative Christian students where a t-shirt that says: “Got Jesus?” or “Jesus is Our Greatest Hope,” they are also being told to wear their shirts inside-out? Or those statements about Jesus are fact and it’s still open to debate as to whether or not Jesus was a homophobe?
Last Tuesday, Lambda Legal, the national non-profit group that advocates for the rights of LGBT people, filed suit against Gebhardt and the school district. Lawyers for the organization also sought a restraining order to prevent Gebhardt from stopping Couch or another student from wearing the “Jesus Is Not a Homophobe” shirt.
Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network, reacted to the school districts ruling by noting:
“Schools should be places of learning and development and that includes a student’s right to express who they are and what they believe in. It seems however, the school district is engaging in the very kind of bullying that creates unsafe school climates.”
So is the First Amendment issue? Or just another example of homophobic people in authority misusing their authority to limit the rights and exposure of LGBT people in public places where their “religious values” might be challenged?
The Huffington Post is reporting that Judge Michael Barret of the U.S. District in Southern Ohio has ordered that Couch be permitted to wear the t-shirt in question on one day only while this case proceeds: the next National Day of Silence, April 20.
Here is the video: