Posted by Charles S on March 23rd, 2007

“Be happy, not gay”. This simple phrase printed on a T-shirt was enough to trigger a lawsuit in Illinois, after a student was told she could not wear the shirt because it may “upset” other students. Heidi Zamecnik of Neuqua Valley High, is now asking the courts to intervene on her behalf, claiming her First Amendment rights would be violated if the school were allowed to prevent her from wearing the shirt. World Net Daily is reporting:

According to the lawsuit filed on behalf of Zamecnik and a freshman student, the “Day of Silence” “encourages students to show visible support for homosexual lifestyle by refusing to speak during the school day, while conveying written messages in the form of T-shirts, buttons, and stickers, all of which promote homosexual behavior.” The Sun-Times reported Zamecnik did not outwardly object to the event during her first two years of high school, but in her junior year she wore a shirt after the “Day of Silence” that read, in part, “Be happy, not gay.” The suit claims Dean of Students Bryan Wells told Zamecnik the shirt offended others and she had to remove it or go home. Her mother, Linda Zamecnik, was called when she refused. Wells and Linda Zamecnik agreed the shirt’s message could be altered to read “Be Happy. Be Straight.” The lawsuit, however, contends the agreement was breached when a school counselor crossed out “not gay” in black marker, but did not replace it with the agreed phrase. The principal and superintendent, the suit states, told Linda Zamecnik their staff did nothing wrong.

At issue in this case is what constitutes offensive language, and to what degree does the school system have a right to censor such language. There is currently a case before the Supreme Court which has received plenty of media attention Morse v. Frederick, also known as the “Bong Hits 4 Jeses” case. In this case the ACLU issued a press release recently urging the Supreme Court not to abandon landmark student free speech case.

The American Civil Liberties Union today urged the U.S. Supreme Court not to abandon its famous 1969 ruling that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

The “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case is one of the few times I am in agreement with the ACLU’s position, however I do not expect them to speak out on behalf of Heidi Zamecnik in this case. Based on the Supreme Courts ruling in 1969, it is clear that Heidi Zamecnik does indeed have a constitutionally protected right to wear a t-shirt that says “Be happy, not gay”. By allowing students to wear pro-homosexual shirts one day, while denying students to wear anti homosexual shirts the following day, the school is censoring speech based on its disagreement with the message. The school system will arguee the t-shirt is offensive to some students and therefore against school policy. However there is another side to that argument, one which very rarely will be brought up in a court of law. There are those who find pro-homosexuality t-shirts and buttons to be offensive as well. School systems throughout this country have gone out of their way to promote homosexuality to children as being a normal and accepted way of life. They do this in the name of “tolerance” and “equality”, arguing it is necessary to teach young children pro-homosexual ideas in order to prevent them from being prejudiced to homosexuals as they grow older. If our school system truly wishes to teach our children tolerance, they must realize it is a two way street. By allowing one side to express their views while preventing the other side from doing the same, the school is not teaching tolerance, it is teaching censorship

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