A Christian student in Tennessee who was forced to change out of her T-shirt with the slogan “Homosexuality is a Sin” or leave the school grounds in 2020 won a settlement from the school district.
The settlement marked a victory in the ongoing battle to uphold the First Amendment in a country filled with woke liberals who want to shut it down.
The Christian Post reported Monday that in the settlement agreement reached in November, the Overton County Board of Education agreed to pay Brielle Penkoski, who has since graduated from the Livingston Academy public high school, $101 plus all attorney fees and other costs associated with the litigation.
Penkoski’s father, street preacher Rich Penkoski, said he felt vindicated by the settlement.
“A lot of people don’t understand this, but when it comes to civil rights lawsuits … there’s this perception that somehow we get paid lots of money for these things. Well, it’s not true. Most of the time, it’s a dollar,” he told the Post.
“But Brielle got $100, which is way, way more than we thought she was going to get anyway out of this,” he said.
“The other part of this is all the teachers, at least from 2020, were told to start taking First Amendment courses. It was one of the things that I insisted on, that I wanted them to take First Amendment training courses,” Penkoski said.
The school did not have to formally admit it was wrong, but the settlement and the agreement to instruct teachers about the First Amendment likely will remedy the problem going forward.
Brielle’s shirt specifically said, “Homosexuality is a Sin — 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.”
Student sent home for wearing ‘homosexuality is a sin’ shirt gets payment from school district https://t.co/w7QIHAbz6a
— The Christian Post (@ChristianPost) January 2, 2024
The biblical passage reads, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Brielle’s father said regarding his daughter wearing the shirt, “She wanted to do this on her own. She wanted to go there to … express her values like all the other kids do.”
“They’ve got kids walking around with the pride symbol on their sneakers and pride clothing and nobody bats an eye,” he said.
The official reason the school gave that she needed to remove the shirt was that it had a “sexual connotation” message.
Rich Penkoski highlighted the double standard the school had in place regarding speech that has a “sexual connotation” because one of Brielle’s teachers had a gay pride sticker in her classroom.
“The sticker identified the classroom as a ‘Diverse, Inclusive, Accepting, Welcoming Safe Space For Everyone.’ Penkoski reported that the principal did not seem to have an issue with the display,” the Post reported.
Penkoski called the school’s objection to Brielle’s shirt an example of a “movement” attempting to “recruit kids” and “indoctrinate kids with liberal ideology, promoting sex and sexuality to kids.”
The irony in the attempt to censor her free speech is that she was citing the Bible and her faith in God, who is the source of inalienable rights.
James Madison — who introduced the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment, in the first Congress in 1789 — noted our rights come from God.
In his 1785 essay “Memorial and Remonstrance,” Madison wrote, on the subject of freedom of religion, “Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governour of the Universe.”
Madison argued freedom of religion “is unalienable, because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds cannot follow the dictates of other men: It is unalienable also, because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator.”
That language sounds very much like the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, which reads, in part, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” the Founders added.
The Overton school district infringed on not only Brielle’s to right to free speech but also her freedom of religion.
It has now justly conceded the error by settling a lawsuit in her favor.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.