There’s an update on Jerry Buell, the anti-gay high school teacher who was reassigned from the classroom because of things he posted on his Facebook page, but allowed back into his classroom on Thursday.
A couple days ago, I defended his right to free speech, arguing that he should be able to post his thoughts — bigoted as they are — on his private Facebook page without it affecting his employment. If his classroom was kept free of judgment, and he was a qualified teacher who was doing his job well (and, as far as I knew, he was indeed a good teacher), then why should his personal religious beliefs be an issue for his administration? I certainly wouldn’t want someone offended by my religious views to have any impact on my career when I make sure my beliefs don’t work their way into the classroom.
The ACLU defended him as well:
“The First Amendment protects his right to share his views –- offensive or not,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, in a statement. “Even though we strongly disagree with his opinion, especially considering how hard the ACLU fought to win marriage equality in New York, Mr. Buell should not be subject to disciplinary action by his employer for expressing his views.”
Since then, however, a few developments have turned up. And I’m changing my mind.
First, there was the personal biography Buell put up on the website for Mount Dora High School in Florida.
A Google Cache of the the site (from August 10th) showed Buell’s very godly biography (click to enlarge):
First and foremost, I am a man of God. I try to teach and lead my students as if Lake Co. Schools had hired Jesus Christ himself. That doesn’t mean I give a sermon and serve communion each day…what it means is I try my very best to teach and serve and minister to my students as a teacher led by and connected to the Creator of the Universe…
Lake Co. Schools and Mt Dora HS tell me what to teach; God guides me in how I do that, and it is all done with a Servant’s heart, to the best of my abilities.
That bio has since been purged from the school’s website.
Second, it turns out Buell’s syllabus didn’t shy away from promoting his religious beliefs, either:
His syllabus also offered this warning to students: “I teach God’s truth, I make very few compromises. If you believe you may have a problem with that, get your schedule changed, ’cause I ain’t changing!” On a separate document, he also said the classroom was his “mission field.”
His syllabus, we’re told, has also since been revised.
Since they’ve defended him, I’m waiting for Liberty Counsel and the Illinois Family Institute to put out a statement saying it would be perfectly fine if my math syllabi said something like this:
I teach that God’s a myth and I make very few compromises. I’m also a Secular Humanist and I’m going to do everything I can to make you strong critical thinkers. If you believe you may have a problem with that, get your schedule changed, ’cause I ain’t changing!
I’ve seen a couple interviews with Buell and his lawyer and at no point does Buell mention that there’s anything wrong with the syllabus or the bio. (He’s also the faculty sponsor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, a fact that some people are bringing up as if it’s damning, but which I think is irrelevant to this story.)
Fighting back tears, he said: “I’m a social studies teacher, and I knew I what the heck I was doing.
“There’s a thing in this country called the First Amendment,” he told the crowd of a few hundred. “I firmly believe in the right to express my opinions passionately.”
Jerry, I tried to defend you. But it turns out you were lying to us.
Your faith isn’t something you keep confined to your private life, like you claimed. You openly bring it up in the workplace — on the syllabus, on your biography, who knows where else. It doesn’t matter if you think you treat gay students with respect — you’re still breaking the law and I can’t support you. Not to mention the fact that your lawyer would probably be in the front of the firing squad if I ever did the same things in my classroom.
Go ahead. Keep pushing your faith all you want. People are watching you and taking notice.
I hope a student in his class records him preaching in the classroom or saying something homophobic and takes it directly to the press. It shouldn’t be that hard to catch him — he doesn’t even think he’s doing anything wrong.
By the way, if anyone has a copy of the godly syllabus, please send it to me. I’ll give the first person who gets one to me a nice gift!