The Alliance Defense Fund, a Christian nonprofit organization, has come to the defense of Viki Knox, the New Jersey teacher whose controversial anti-homosexual Facebook comments resulted in a paid administrative leave.
ADF claims that Knox engaged in protected speech, and therefore should not be penalized for her views.
“Viki communicated her religious views on a matter of public importance… To punish her for that would be completely illegal,” said ADF Senior Counsel Byron Babione.
In their letter, the Alliance Defense Fund quoted several legal precedents, including one stating that “public employers cannot silence…their employees simply because they disapprove of the content of [their] speech.”
Conversely, a New Jersey attorney, John Paragano, insists that Knox be dismissed as an educator because, “hateful public comments from a teacher cannot be tolerated.”
Proponents of gay rights point to the state’s recent anti-bullying legislation. Under the law, schools must hold anti-bullying programs, and institutions of higher education must add anti-bullying provisions to their codes of conduct.
Steven Goldstein, the head of Garden State Equality (a gay rights group), said, “I don’t see how this teacher could possibly be effective in implementing the state’s new anti-bullying law.”
The conflict began last week Wednesday, when Knox took a picture of a LGBT History Month bulletin board at her local high school. The educator then posted it to her Facebook, along with her own anti-homosexual commentary.
It wasn’t long before other teachers, parents, alumni, and even strangers began a boisterous dispute about Knox’s rights, her faith as a Christian, and gay rights on the same Facebook page.
Other groups have come to the special education teacher’s defense, including the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, who made a public statement saying: “Although we do not agree with the sentiments expressed on Ms. Knox’s personal Facebook page, her comments are protected by the First Amendment.”
Earlier this week, Knox attended a town hall meeting with detractors and supporters alike, both trying their best to make sure their point was made. No decision was reached on the teacher’s professional future, which has come to a standstill for now.