ANN ARBOR, MI – The Thomas More Law Center, a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, today announces a victory in their lawsuit against teacher Johnson McDowell of Howell High School in Howell, Michigan. Federal District Judge Patrick J. Duggan of the Eastern District of Michigan issued his opinion yesterday.
While the Court certainly recognizes that schools are empowered to regulate speech to prevent students from invading the rights of other students, people do not have a legal right to prevent criticism of their beliefs or for that matter their way of life. Relatedly, a listeners’ reaction to speech is not a content-neutral basis for regulation. While a student or perhaps several students may have been upset or offended by Daniel’s remarks, Tinker straight-forwardly tells us that, in order for school officials to justify prohibition of a particular expression of opinion, they must be able to show that this action was caused by something more than a mere desire to avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint. Simply put, the law does not establish a generalized hurt feelings defense to a high school’s violation of the First Amendment rights of its students.
“The purpose of our lawsuit was to protect students’ constitutional rights to free speech, defend religious liberty, and stop public schools from becoming indoctrination centers for the homosexual agenda.”