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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A persecuted Catholic student has been largely vindicated in court.
On Friday, a federal district court ordered Florida State University (FSU) to pay Jack Denton the salary he would have received as student senate president.
Denton was president of the Student Government Association Senate at FSU. But he was voted out of office in June, as leftist students were outraged over private comments he made in support of Church teaching on abortion and transgenderism.
Attorney Tyson Langhofer, who argued Denton's case, commented on Friday's development: "As the court found, FSU violated Jack's constitutionally protected freedom of speech and therefore cannot withhold his salary from him in his role as student senate president. We look forward to a final resolution for Jack."
The court stated in its injunction order that "the university may satisfy this injunction by paying Denton prospectively for six hours of work per week for the remainder of the current term of student senate president."
"It is no answer to say, as FSU does, that this is merely all part of the 'rough and tumble' of student politics, that Denton must develop thicker skin," the court order reads. "Denton is not here to complain about insults or hurt feelings. His claim is that he lost his job — his student government position — because he chose to exercise his First Amendment rights."
Though required to pay Denton his salary, the university is not being ordered to fully reinstate Denton as president of the student senate.
The controversy began in a group message on June 3, when Denton told fellow Catholics that left-wing organizations — namely Black Lives Matter (BLM), Reclaim the Block and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) — are opposed to Catholic teaching.
The ACLU routinely defends the so-called right to abortion. Moreover, at the time of Denton's message, BLM's website promoted transgenderism and called for the dismantling of the nuclear family.
Screenshots from Denton's messages to the group chat were shared among the student body — and even published in student publications — leading to a fierce backlash among left-wing students at FSU.
On June 3, those outraged by his comments tried to remove Denton as senate president with a vote of "no confidence" — but they fell short of the required percentage of senators' votes. But two days later, on June 5, they succeeded in voting Denton out of office.
More than 7,000 people added their names to a Change.org petition to remove Denton as senate president.
During FSU student senate proceedings on June 4, Denton said, "Those messages were simply stated as fact on the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and what we believe as Catholics."
He clarified the messages were not intended to be hurtful.
A June 4 op-ed in student-run Spire Magazine called Denton "unfit to hold the office of senate president," accusing him of "attempting to use his religious identification as a cover for bigotry."