ACLU Supports Opponent of “Day of Silence”

This story deserves a mention for a few reasons:

It shows the ACLU working with the Alliance Defense Fund (a Christian group). You don’t see them on the same side of many issues.

It’s an example of the ACLU supporting something you may not like — speech promoting bigotry, but free speech nonetheless.

… and it happens to take place at my place of employment.

A sophomore at [a high school] in Naperville can wear a T-shirt with an anti-gay message to class next week to protest the school’s annual Day of Silence promoting tolerance of homosexuals, a federal appeals court has ruled.

“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,” [Nate Kellum, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund] said. The American Civil Liberties Union also filed a brief with the court supporting the student’s right to wear the shirt.

The ACLU of Illinois said this:

“The court carefully weighed these two fundamental interests in our public schools and struck the appropriate balance as to this t-shirt” said Adam Schwartz, Senior Staff Counsel for the ACLU of Illinois. “Ensuring the free exchange of ideas – even controversial ideas – while protecting students against undue harassment fosters an environment where students are best able to learn, explore new ideas and mature.”

I’m looking forward for the Christian Right to praise the ACLU for this.

Still waiting.

Nothing?

Damn.

Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune supports the ruling:

I agree with the message and the goals of the Day of Silence. I wish it weren’t controversial to say that gay people deserve equal rights and full social acceptance. But as soon as you allow ideology to creep into your attempt to separate legitimate controversy from moral truth, you’ve lost any principle that might undergird your argument.

I’m in favor of the ruling, too.

I say this as a teacher who wore a rainbow ribbon all day in class to support the Day of Silence.


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • Kate

    Thank you for wearing the ribbon.

    As for the kid…well…hmmm.

  • Anna B

    I’m a member of the Christian right and I’ll be happy to praise the ACLU for this! I don’t support the gay rights movement, but I do support the free exchange of ideas. I think gays should be able to wear all the rainbows they want, and those who don’t agree can wear whatever messages they care to.

    I do hope, for the sake of compassion, that whatever anti-gay message it was wasn’t hurtful, hateful, or rude. That’s not God’s heart towards anyone.

  • http://themousesnest.blogspot.com Mouse

    The article says that the message on the shirt was “Be Happy, Not Gay.” Not as bad as the many things I imagined before clicking over.

    This certainly creates an interesting intersection for me. Freedom of speech vs my sensitivity (as a lesbian and as an educator) to the struggles of teenagers who are trying to figure themselves out. What I hope happens is that the T-shirt gives students a vivid example of why the Day of Silence was started in the first place.

  • Amy

    OT, but check out this crazy shit out of Birmingham:

  • http://gaytheistagenda.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    The ACLU defending a Christian’s right to free speech? Impossible! Everybody knows ACLU stands for Anti-Christian Liberals Union. ;-)

    Now here’s the thing. The T-shirt said “Be Happy, Not Gay”. Would anybody support a student’s right to wear a shirt that said something like “Be rational, not religious” or one that suggested Christians are bigots? I highly doubt it.

    Sadly people can’t discern the difference between promoting tolerance (which is what the DOS does) and promoting bigotry and hatred (which is what others do under the guise of their “deeply held religious beliefs”). Of course they’re always ready with the persecution card should anybody say word one against them. The playing field simply isn’t level, nor are they willing to allow it to be.

  • Para(Saurolophus)

    Hurray for the ACLU!

    And a big (but goodnatured) BOO to Neuqua.

    -A former Waubonsie student ;-).

  • Maria

    wow, that’s big of the ACLU

  • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

    …to protest the school’s annual Day of Silence…

    I haven’t been able to keep up with this…but I’m confused…was the school officially sanctioning the DoS? If not then the school can’t really be said to be allowing one side of the issue and not the other…if the t-shirt was not normally allowed then it shouldn’t have been allowed on this day…at the same time if some student was observing the DoS to the point were they were being insubordinate (not talking when they needed to for the class, e.g., speech class) then that would also be penalized…as much as I support the idea behind the DoS.

  • Arlen

    Schools take one side of an issue and disallow dissent all the time; I’m not sure why this time should be different. What would happen if a kid wore a “Black People Suck” t-shirt every day of Black History Month?

    I’m not saying that it’s right that free speech should be restricted, but it has been in the schools for a long time now. I’m actually surprised that this time is different.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Hemant Mehta

    was the school officially sanctioning the DoS?

    No, it’s a student run event.

  • Karen

    wow, that’s big of the ACLU

    Standing for free speech is a classic mandate of the ACLU, and they’ve always represented any side of any issue.

  • I like tea

    I’m definitely with the ACLU on this. We certainly can’t fall into the neocon trap of only supporting the free speech of people who agree with us. This isn’t the first time the ACLU has defended the fundamental rights of bigots and closed-minded people, and the Christian Right (other than Anna B up there) will have no problem continuing to ignore these cases as they pretend that the ACLU has it out for Christians.

    What would happen if a kid wore a “Black People Suck” t-shirt every day of Black History Month?

    I’d support his right to do so, though I’m not sure how much pity I’d feel if he got the shit beaten out of him. (Not that I’d *allow* anyone to beat the shit out of him, mind you.)

  • Pingback: Friendly Atheist » Why Are the Muslims Sitting at a Separate Table?

  • http://aboutkitty.blogspot.com/ Cat’s Staff

    The reason I wanted to make the distinction between this being a school sponsored event or not was for consistency…I’m one who believes that if the rules are wrong they should be changed, not find ways to accommodate those who feel the rules are wrong while letting others break them. There is also the issue of this being a straw man argument… that the school is allowing one form of speech, therefore the school must allow the other form of speech…when it’s not allowing/disallowing the original form of speech. …but again, I support the idea of the DoS.

  • http://unorthodoxatheism.blogspot.com Reed Braden

    I say this as a teacher who wore a rainbow ribbon all day in class to support the Day of Silence.

    That makes me happy. Thanks!

    :-D

  • http://www.ineedtothink.com Seavee

    I am not sure if I see the ACLU’s point on this one. I am afraid people will use it to set a precedent that allows hate-messages in schools. The “Be happy, not gay” message may be offensive to those of us who disagree but it isn’t really hateful. It isn’t violent and doesn’t encourage violence. However, “I hate black people” or “Homo’s go to Hell” are hateful and could easily result in violence or at the very least, intimidation tactics.

    Schools absolutely must be safe places for all students. We can not require students go daily until age 16 to a place that puts them in danger of physical or emotional harm.

    This situation definitely asks us to reevaluate freedom of speech in schools.

    How far is too far?

  • I like tea

    We can not require students go daily until age 16 to a place that puts them in danger of physical or emotional harm.

    Many students are and have always been subjected to emotional harm at school, and nothing is done about it. I don’t think a T-shirt is going to tip the scales one way or the other.

  • http://www.ineedtothink.com Seavee

    Many students are and have always been subjected to emotional harm at school, and nothing is done about it. I don’t think a T-shirt is going to tip the scales one way or the other.

    This is true. Students are emotionally damaged by a lot of things. “emotional harm” is a vague term. It encompasses too much. I should have used something more specific.I don’t mean to imply that we need to protect students from the minor bullying and hurt feelings that are a normal part of growing up.

    I do think “safety” has to apply to more than just freedom from physical harm. My concern is that students will use this ruling as a precedent and wear/display symbols that are blatantly hateful and threatening.

    I am somewhat curious about the school’s rules. Many schools do not allow clothing with words on it at all. The school I interned at several years ago allowed only solid colored shirts and khaki pants or jeans. I wonder if this ruling will allow students to work around strict dress codes.

  • http://www.SecularDignity.net Secular Dignity

    I went to Napervoid schools from 5th grade through high school. If were not a jock, you were pretty much ignored by all the teachers.

    Most suburbanites are just hillbillies with college degrees. I do not miss the place at all.


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