FSU student appeals student govt. decision punishing him for privately sharing Catholic convictions

ADF attorneys ask university to address unconstitutional retaliation against student ousted from leadership for private texts sharing concerns about the ACLU, other organizations

Wednesday, Jul 22, 2020
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Alliance Defending Freedom sent a letter Wednesday to Florida State University administrators appealing the student senate’s decision to remove him from his seat as president of the FSU Student Government Association student senate for sharing his personal beliefs with other students.

In a private text conversation with fellow Catholic students, Jack Denton suggested that, Reclaim the Block, and the ACLU advocate for causes opposed to Catholic teaching and 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, communicated in private texts.

“No student should fear retaliation for peacefully sharing his personal convictions,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “Public universities should be fostering real diversity of thought, not discriminating against individuals based on their religious convictions or political beliefs. Under the guise of creating a ‘safe space,’ FSU students banded together to cancel Jack’s First Amendment freedoms and silence Jack because of his religion, in violation of the school’s SGA Ethics Code and the Student Body Constitution. A university that promotes true diversity allows students to wrestle with differing viewpoints, instead of smashing dissent. The SGA student senate has failed to respect Jack’s freedoms; that’s why we’re asking school administrators to step in and correct this constitutional violation.”

In the letter, ADF attorneys note that Denton appealed his removal to the student supreme court on June 18. However, the student senate refused to confirm a temporary chief justice prior to the conclusion of its regular session, effectively preventing Denton’s case from being heard in a timely manner. The letter also notes that student senators vetted a potential nominee with Denton’s case in mind, asking the nominee how she would have ruled as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in the cases of Obergefell v. Hodges and Bostock v. Clayton County, and expressing concern and frustration over her “limited knowledge” of the LGBTQ+ community, since there was “such a sensitive case on the docket.”

Because the student senate refused to seat a court that could hear Denton’s case, ADF attorneys request that, by July 29, the FSU Vice President for Student Affairs take notice and schedule a hearing to consider Denton’s appeal.

  • 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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