Students sue for religious right to condemn homosexuality

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Two religious students are taking their college to court over the right to speak out against homosexuality.

Orit Sklar and Ruth Malhorta, a Jew and a Christian, are suing the Georgia Institute of Technology, claiming their religious freedom is limited by a ban on criticising gay issues.

Their main aim is to make university give more recognition to religious viewpoints.

Ms Malhotra claims to have been told off by the college for expressing religious views after sending a letter to the school’s gay group Pride Alliance, calling it a “ludicrous… sex club . . . that can’t even manage to be tasteful.”

She criticised openly gay students, saying they are subjected to “a constant barrage of homosexuality.”

“If gays want to be tolerated, they should knock off the political propaganda,” the letter said.

Felix Hu received the letter, he described it as “rude, unfair, presumptuous” and gave it to a college official.

Ms Malhorta said: “Whenever I’ve spoken out against a certain lifestyle, the first thing I’m told is, ‘You’re being intolerant, you’re being negative, you’re creating a hostile campus environment.”‘

Students can be expelled for expressing intolerant views on campus.

The lawsuit is being brought by the Alliance Defence Fund (ADF) in a series of cases demanding a right to protest homosexuality.

ADF lawyers have filed a federal lawsuit and are seeking a preliminary injunction to defend the First Amendment rights of Christian students at Downingtown High School East Campus. The Downingtown Area School District’s policy of lumping religious points of view and profanity into the same category of prohibited speech is unconstitutional, according to the complaint.

“To consider religious speech, including the word ‘Bible.’ in the same class of speech as profanity is outlandish,” said ADF-allied attorney Randall Wenger of the Lancaster law firm Clymer Musser, P.C. “If this weren’t such a serious offence, you’d think it was a joke.”

In one example among many cited in the complaint, the Downingtown Prayer Club was censored by school officials when one of the members submitted for official approval posters for “See You at the Pole,” an annual event when Christian students and teachers gather around the school’s flagpole at the beginning of the school day to pray for their school and nation. One such poster included a Bible verse from Jeremiah 33, which addresses the subject of prayer. The school’s principal told the member of the Prayer Club that the Bible verse and picture of a cross would need to be omitted, as well as any reference to God.

“It’s ridiculous for school officials to tell students that they can only have a poster inviting people to pray as long as the poster omits ‘God,'” said Mr Wenger. “To whom exactly are school officials proposing that students pray?”

“The First Amendment of the Constitution absolutely guarantees the right of students to hold and express their viewpoint,” he added.

“The sad truth is, on campuses across the nation, Christian students are facing harassment by school administrators who use their position as a bully pulpit.”