Ohio school pays $20,000 in “Jesus Is Not a Homophobe” T-shirt lawsuit

Photo: Maverick Couch and his family wear the "Jesus is not a homophobe" T-shirts with a rainbow Jesus fish on them that were banned from Waynesville High School. Photo source: ThinkProgress, Google Images

Maverick Couch (center) with family | Google Images

A Cincinnati federal court yesterday ruled in favor of a gay student who sued Waynesville High School for prohibiting him from wearing a “Jesus Is Not A Homophobe” T-shirt.

For the April 2011 Day of Silence, Maverick Couch wore the shirt to school, but Waynesville High School Principal Randy Gebhardt ordered him to turn the shirt inside out. When Maverick asked to wear it again this past fall, Gebhardt threatened him with suspension.

When asked why he should be allowed to wear the shirt, Couch cited his First Amendment right to freedom of speech saying, “When I can’t walk into school expressing my views, I don’t think that’s right,” to WCPO.

Lambda Legal sued the school district on Maverick’s behalf, accusing the district of violating Couch’s freedom of expression rights.

The case recalls two famous Supreme Court decisions from the Vietnam War era:

  1. Cohen v. California (1971): Overturned a disturbing the peace conviction of a man who wore a jacket with an explicit phrase condemning the war
  2. Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (1969): Established the constitutional rights of students in public schools

Although subsequent cases have limited the application of Tinker, it remains a viable test of whether a school’s actions violate the First Amendment.

The judgment, agreed to by Maverick Couch and the Waynesville Local School District, allows the student to wear the “Jesus Is Not A Homophobe” T-shirt and requires the district to pay $20,000 in damages and court costs.

School officials were glad to put the incident behind them. “We’re just happy that we’re able to move forward,” Superintendent Patrick Dubbs said to the Daytona Daily News.

Although Couch is set to graduate this weekend, he said the shirt is a statement of pride and he hopes other students now know they can feel pride, too.

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6 thoughts on “Ohio school pays $20,000 in “Jesus Is Not a Homophobe” T-shirt lawsuit

  1. Pingback: Ohio school pays $20,000 in “Jesus Is Not a Homophobe” T-shirt lawsuit « In Our Words

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