Lesbian mums say son was forced to attend anti-gay sermons if he wanted to play basketball

A lesbian couple is suing a middle school gym teacher, alleging that he would only allow their son to play basketball if he attended anti-gay sermons.

The mums filed a federal lawsuit in the in the Eastern District of Tennessee against Knox County, Tennessee, and West Valley Middle School gym teacher Chuck Comer on March 4.

The lawsuit claims that Comer used the school’s basketball team to promote his Christian programme “Teens for Christ”.

The young students were allegedly told by Comer that if they wanted to attend basketball practices, they had to also attend “Teens for Christ” sessions twice per week.

The sessions were held before school, and consisted of the gym teacher reading from and interpreting the Bible for around 30 minutes in the lecture hall.

The lawsuit stated: “If the students declined to participate in the defendants’ ‘Teens for Christ’ program, the students were denied the opportunity to participate in the defendants’ school-sponsored basketball program.”

It added: “During his preaching sessions, Comer singled out LGBT+ ‘issues’ and its relations to ‘sin’.”

West Valley Middle School gym teacher Chuck Comer anti-gay sermons

West Valley Middle School gym teacher Chuck Comer. (West Valley Middle School)

The school and the county were allegedly aware that Comer had been forcing students to listen to anti-gay sermons as a precedent for the basketball programme for at least eight years.

The lawsuit claims that “by unconstitutionally proselytising to students, as a condition precedent to participating in school-sponsored activities, Comer’s actions violate the First Amendment’s free exercise clause.”

It said that the family had suffered “serious mental injury” as a result of the gym teacher’s actions, and the county’s inaction.

The middle school student and his lesbian mothers are asking for an injunction to stop the county from requiring participation in the anti-gay programme.

They are also seeking $1 million in compensatory damages and asking for up to $10 million in punitive damages.