Court to consider whether Florida university violated student’s right to free speech

ADF attorney available to media following hearing in federal district court

Monday, Sep 28, 2020
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer will be available for interviews Tuesday following a hearing in federal district court in an ADF lawsuit challenging the unjust removal of former Florida State University student senate president Jack Denton.

ADF attorneys represent Denton, who was removed from his position for sharing his personal religious beliefs in a private text conversation with other students. ADF attorneys filed a motion, which will be considered at the hearing, for Denton to be reinstated to his position while the lawsuit proceeds.

“All students should be able to peacefully share their personal convictions without fear of punishment or retaliation,” said Langhofer, who directs the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “We are hopeful that the judge will reinstate Jack to his position and hold Florida State officials accountable for failing to address the unconstitutional and discriminatory actions against him. Universities should be fostering real diversity of thought, not punishing individuals based on their religious convictions or political beliefs. While FSU students claim they’re creating a ‘safe space,’ they’ve tried to cancel Jack’s freedoms and discriminate against him because they don’t like his beliefs, in direct violation of the school’s SGA Ethics Code, the Student Body Constitution, and—most importantly—the First Amendment.”

In a private text conversation with fellow Catholic students, Denton suggested that, Reclaim the Block, and the ACLU advocate for causes opposed to Catholic teaching, so Catholic students may wish to avoid supporting them financially. After one student took screenshots of Denton’s private messages and shared them publicly on social media, students mocked and misrepresented his remarks and demanded his removal from leadership as the SGA’s student senate president. After a failed vote of no-confidence on June 3, student senators approved Denton’s removal two days later. Students who supported the motion stated that they sought to remove Denton because of his beliefs, as communicated in the private texts.

ADF attorneys filed the lawsuit on Aug. 31 after receiving no response to a letter they sent to university officials on July 22, advising them to address the unconstitutional violation of Denton’s First Amendment freedoms. Mark Welton, one of more than 3,400 attorneys allied with ADF, is serving as local counsel in the case.

  • One-page summaryDenton v. Thrasher
  • Pronunciation guide: Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-uhr)
The ADF Center for Academic Freedom is dedicated to ensuring freedom of speech and association for students and faculty so that everyone can freely participate in the marketplace of ideas without fear of government censorship.
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