Catholic Student Files Suit

News: US News
by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  September 1, 2020   

Jack Denton faced 'retaliation for private religious speech,' says attorney

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A student smeared for being a faithful Catholic is filing suit.

Jack Denton was president of the Student Government Association Senate at Florida State University (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.

Now Denton is suing the university for failing to protect his religious freedom.

Conservative Christian nonprofit Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed the lawsuit on Monday in a U.S. district court in Tallahassee.

The suit argues, "The Student Senate at Florida State University has failed its pedagogical purpose and breached its constitutional obligations by removing its presiding officer, Jack Denton, in retaliation for his private religious speech."


Attorney Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel at ADF, commented in a press release Tuesday, "All students should be able to peacefully share their personal convictions without fear of retaliation."

Langhofer also said, "Florida State should be fostering real diversity of thought, not punishing individuals based on their religious convictions or political beliefs."

He went on to say, "While FSU students claim they're creating a 'safe space,' they've tried to cancel Jack's freedoms and discriminate against him because they don't like his beliefs, in direct violation of the school's SGA Ethics Code, the Student Body Constitution and — most importantly — the First Amendment."

Florida State should be fostering real diversity of thought, not punishing individuals based on their religious convictions or political beliefs.

This lawsuit comes after attorneys sent a letter to FSU officials in late July, complaining of stonewalling by student government leaders.

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.

Denton pointed out BLM's website promotes transgenderism and dismantling the nuclear family, while the ACLU routinely defends abortion.

Another student in the group chat took screenshots of Denton's comments and shared them with others. The screenshots were widely circulated — even published in student publications — leading to 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 fell short of the required 66% of senators' votes. But two days later, on June 5, they succeeded in voting Denton out of office.

During FSU Senate proceedings on June 4, Benton 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 hurt anyone.

Denton pointed out BLM's website promotes transgenderism and dismantling the nuclear family.

A June 4 op-ed in FSU student-run periodical 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."

More than 7,000 people added their names to a Change.org petition to remove Denton as Senate president.

FSView & Florida Flambeau, which covers news at FSU, referred to Denton's comments as "transphobia and exclusionary speech" in a headline on June 5.

Monday's suit lists a number of comments from student senators during proceedings to remove Denton as Senate president.

For example, student senator Kundhavi Gnanam — who made the motion for a vote of no confidence — stated she was "offended and scandalized by the rhetoric that Jack Denton used."

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