Lawsuit Argues that Student Can 'Be Happy, Not Gay'

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  • Be Happy, Not Gay
    (Photo: Alliance Defense Fund)
    An Illinois school censored a student's shirt that read 'Be Happy, Not Gay,' altering it to simply say 'Be Happy.' Shown is the T-shirt.
By Doug Huntington, Christian Post Reporter
March 24, 2007|10:14 am

Attorneys from a legal alliance that defends the right to hear and speak the “Truth” filed a lawsuit this week, justifying an Illinois student’s entitlement to wear a T-shirt opposing homosexuality at school.

The Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) legal counsels are defending Heidi Zamecnik, a student at Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville, Ill., about 30 miles west of Chicago, whose anti-homosexuality shirt was censored by school officials, following a day when the school had allowed students to wear pro-gay T-shirts.

Besides her religious freedom of speech at school being infringed, the attorneys are also arguing that the school officials’ response was biased against Zamecnik’s Christian stance.

“Students do not lose their constitutional right to free speech when they enter the schoolhouse door,” said ADF Senior Counsel Nate Kellum in a statement. “A school cannot allow speech that promotes one viewpoint while censoring the other side of the debate. That is clear viewpoint discrimination and is in violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

On Apr. 20, 2006, Zamecnik came to school with the message “Be Happy, Not Gay” written on her clothes in opposition to the “Day of Silence” which had been observed the day before. The event – promoted by the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network – encourages students on that date to show their support for homosexuals, drawing attention to the discrimination that they face in school.

Zamecnik, who disagrees with the promotion of homosexuality, created her own shirt in an attempt to counter the effort.

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She was then called to the school’s office during lunch hour where she met with Dean Bryan Wells, who insisted that she remove the shirt or she would be sent home.

After a conversation with the student’s mother, the three agreed to change the statement to “Be Happy, Be Straight.” However, the dean later instructed a female counselor to cross out the words “Not Gay” off the outfit, so it would read “Be Happy” instead, according to ADF.

“Heidi suffered unlawful discrimination, humiliation, and punishment at the hands of school personnel for simply expressing her sincerely held views,” stated Kellum. “It’s our hope that her First Amendment rights will be quickly restored and that this type of censorship will not occur again.”

A copy of the complaint, Zamecnik v. Indian Prairie School District #204 Board of Education, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, on Wednesday and can be read by the public at the ADF website, alliancedefensefund.org.

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