Lynch mobs don’t care about facts. And lynch mobs made up of politicians and pressure groups really, really don’t care about facts. What they care about is manufacturing rage to advance political agendas. And that brings us to the story of a gay teacher and one of his students in a Fort Worth high school.
Last week a Fort Worth mother charged that her 14-year-old son had been sent to the principal’s office and assigned to in-school suspension for simply telling a classmate that he’s a Christian and that “being a homosexual is wrong.” According to a Fox News story, the mother asked for help from Liberty Counsel, a right-wing litigation group the Southern Poverty Law Center says focuses heavily on anti-gay activism.
The Fox story repeats claims that the student’s comment came when a discussion in German language class somehow shifted to religion and homosexuality in Germany. The student said his side comment to a classmate got him in trouble with the teacher:
“It wasn’t directed to anyone except my friend who was sitting behind me. I guess [the teacher] heard me. He started yelling. He told me he was going to write me an infraction and send me to the office.”
Matt Krause, the Liberty Counsel attorney helping the student and his mother, protested the suspension (a punishment that the principal reversed). The student “should never have been suspended for exercising his constitutional rights,” Krause said.
Liberty Institute, the Plano-based Texas affiliate of Focus on the Family, also weighed in. The group’s director of litigation, Hiram Sasser, claimed the student was simply exercising his First Amendment rights: “All the kid did is leaned over and said that that kind of lifestyle was against the Bible.”
David Barton, head of Texas-based WallBuilders (which argues against separation of church and state), got in on the act, pushing the story on his Twitter account: “Texas Boy Punishes Student for Opposing Homosexuality.”
And, predictably, notorious anti-gay hater Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association rejoiced when the school district suspended the student’s teacher with pay while it investigated the incident: “Great news: teacher who got student suspended for biblical view of homosexuality has been suspended by school. You agree?”
But is this really a case of a public school trying to silence a student’s free speech? Or is it, rather, a textbook case of a lynch-mob strategy in which far-right groups manufacture a controversy to inflame passions and promote a political agenda?