A Florida State University student is suing the university for punishing him after he privately expressed his Catholic beliefs.
In June, FSU Student Senate president Jack Denton was removed from the senate for private messages in which he defended Catholic teachings on abortion and transgenderism. The faith-based advocacy law firm Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a lawsuit against the university on behalf of Denton after the school refused to address the "unconstitutional violation" of Denton's First Amendment rights.
"All students should be able to peacefully share their personal convictions without fear of retaliation," ADF senior counsel Tyson Langhofer said. "Students and administrators have repeatedly failed to respect Jack's constitutionally protected freedoms. That's why we're filing a federal lawsuit to defend Jack."
The lawsuit claims that FSU's student government—which is established by state law and operated by the university—discriminated against Denton for his beliefs, violating both the student body constitution and the First Amendment. Langhofer explained that Denton went through the formal appeals procedure to prove he was improperly removed, but the administration refused to respond or cooperate.
The messages in question appeared in a Catholic student union GroupMe chat. Denton said that some of the policies embraced by Black Lives Matter, Reclaim the Block, the ACLU, and other left-leaning groups "advocate for things that are explicitly anti-Catholic," such as abortion and transgenderism.
"I don't mean to anger anyone.… It is important to know what you're supporting when you're Catholic," Denton wrote in the chat. "If I stay silent while my brothers and sisters may be supporting an organization that promotes grave evils, I have sinned through my silence."
Denton was replaced in the student senate by Ahmad Daraldik, who called an Israeli a "stupid Jew" and wrote "f—k Israel" in a social media post. He also created a website comparing the "occupation of Palestine" to the Holocaust. When these comments came to light, the student government voted to keep Daraldik in office.
Denton did not respond to requests for comment.
Update 5:00 PM: This post was updated to include information about Denton's replacement in the student senate.