Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Catholic Student Sues After He Is Removed As University Student Senate President Because of His Views

Suit was filed this week in Florida federal district court claiming that plaintiff's free speech and free exercise rights were infringed when he was removed as president of Florida State University's Student Senate.  The complaint (full text) in Denton v. Thrasher, (ND FL, filed 8/31/2020), alleges in part:

Mr. Denton is a devout Catholic, and he expressed basic Catholic teachings to other Catholic students in a private group chat. But, because Catholic teachings have implications for some social issues that some consider offensive, those messages were shared, student outrage was fomented, and the Student Senate implemented an ad hoc religious test for office: no one with Mr. Denton’s beliefs can hold a leadership position in our Student Senate (even if they only talk about those beliefs in private)....

The complaint describes the contents of plaintiff's group chat with members of the Catholic Student Union:

One student shared a link to a video on YouTube that raised advertising and donation revenue for several organizations.... Mr. Denton observed that, “The various funds on that list are fine causes as far as I know, but everyone should be aware that, Reclaim the Block, and the ACLU all advocate for things that are explicitly anti-Catholic.” ... “ fosters ‘a queer-affirming network’ and defends transgenderism. The ACLU defends laws protecting abortion facilities and sued states that restrict access to abortion. Reclaim the Block claims less police will make our communities safer and advocates for cutting PDs’ budgets. This is a little less explicit, but I think it’s contrary to the Church’s teaching on the common good.”

ADF issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit.