T-shirt case decided: “Be happy, not gay” allowed in school

We may see more of these t-shirts around on Monday since the

7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals instructed the district court to order the Neuqua Valley High School to suspend its ban on the “Be Happy, Not Gay” T-shirt while a civil rights lawsuit in the case proceeds.

Given the ingenuity of adolescents, we will see this envelope pushed further and further (“Be smart, not Christian” is sure to come).

I have seen this issue less of a free-speech matter (you can go outside and say, “Be happy, not gay” and no one will arrest you), but how much school administrators can limit speech in the service of school order. I have not seen this as a religious free speech issue since there is nothing inherently religious about that t-shirt. I think schools will have more of these kind of issues to adjudicate and some may just throw up their hands and let anything in. Some will perhaps let nothing in. I don’t know but as much as I am a defender of free speech and religious liberty, I am not happy about this outcome. I figured the court might decide that the boy had a right to wear the shirt, but I do not believe it would be right to wear it.

I think our Golden Rulers should keep passing out the cards on Monday.

14 thoughts on “T-shirt case decided: “Be happy, not gay” allowed in school”

  1. It’s the usual generational clash thing. If the flood is coming, you can prepare for it, but you can’t really stop it. Life is unstoppable. And, as someone who is close to what’s going on in the budding culture right now, I say the status quo will be shaken in a way that will leave both Christians and gays standing. Hm, there was a quote from a movie: Resistence is futile. 🙂

    But, yeah, hate is a waste of time because is not cool at all.

    ”Be smart, not Christian”

    Neah, it doesn’t sound good. Being smart can make one rather stupid sometimes. I’m not a Christian, but – as the saying goes – ‘I think Jesus is a pretty cool guy. He loves everyone and doesn’t afraid of anything.’ 😀

  2. I used to get sent home, forced to change, turn my shirt inside, rinse the color out of my hair out etc, all the time in high-school, under the so called “class order / causing a disturbance” policy.

    But was anything ever done to the kid with the huge afro that blocked people’s vision of the blackboard? Did anyone ever say anything to the kid who smelled so bad that it was impossible to concentrate when sitting near him? Talk about creating a disturbance!

    Uniforms are the only alternative to anarchy — and uniform enforcement (send the smelly kid home, make mr. afro cut his hair) is the only alternative to blatantly racist/classist/sexist hypocrisy.

  3. I know we’re not there yet but it won’t be long until you’ll start seeing ‘hidden’ graphic sexual images.

    Eddy, hate to break it to you, but we’re there. Ever been to an Abercrombie & Fitch store, lately? Shirts full of innuendo (let along political or ideological messages) are very popular. That’s why a lot of schools are taking a hard line on dress code. It’s not just about short skirts anymore (oh, how we wish for the days that it was!)

  4. I was on our high school’s dress code revision committee back umpteen years ago (turns out I was their token male liberal). Anyway, back then, we fought for the right to wear jeans and shirts other than your standard button front. But it seems the boundaries keep getting pushed. I agree that the best policy would be for schools not to allow shirts with words or graphics (perhaps a little leniency towards a typical concert t-shirt). And schools do have better things to do than play ‘thought police’ with every t-shirt slogan or graphic. (I know we’re not there yet but it won’t be long until you’ll start seeing ‘hidden’ graphic sexual images.) IMHO, the US Court of Appeals made a major mistake here.

    I find that the negative message of this particular t-shirt far outweighs its attempt at clever word play. Maybe we need a SHOTS Every Day. (SHunOffensiveTShirts.) Remind kids that when they are seen in the company of someone wearing that shirt, many will assume they feel the same way. Explain to them some of the other messages that the wearing of that t-shirt conveys. (LOL! My friends never wore their marijuana t-shirts in front of my mom! It would get me into trouble!)

    By the way, anyone old enough to remember the Anita Bryant political mess? A gay group organizing an anti-Anita protest launched a radio ad with a recording of Anita singing “When Johnny Comes March Home”. And when it got to the part where she sang “and we’ll all be gay” they turned the echo on. “And we’ll all be gay..gay..gay..gay..gay”. Now that was a successful attempt at clever word play.

  5. “Christian love” – talk about an oxymoron.

    I guess we gay Christians are just doubly screwed.

  6. Jay,

    I used to think that uniforms were really restrictive, but I’m beginning to think there might be something to them 🙂

  7. Jay,

    After reading what you wrote I see that perhaps my idea about the t-shirts is not a very good one at all. I think what you just said could perhaps solve the current and future issues about this.

  8. Michael – Well, that one can get in line with hundreds of others that will now be on the edge enough to withstand court scrutiny. Not having read the case yet, I an inclined to see this as a defeat for local school control.

  9. Well, I was once a private school administrator and board member and I fought uniforms to the death. But…

    I do believe in restricting message t-shirts for the reasons you suggest Jay. School admins have much more to do than try to decide the meanings of sayings.

  10. As a future public school educator, can I just go ahead and say that I think uniforms are the best policy? You don’t have to deal with all this mess. Not only that, but t-shirts with provocative (and often inappropriate) sayings are “in” these days, and most schools are adopting a policy to either use uniforms or ban shirts with writing on them (save for name brand logos, of course) to avoid having to deal with the drama. It’s not a free-speech issue if the t-shirt is a cause for disruption in the classroom.

  11. (”Be smart, not Christian” is sure to come)? I don’t think intelligence is the right comparison. Maybe it should read “Be tolerant and loving, not Christian”.

  12. Next year, in addition to the cards, perhaps the students can have t-shirts printed with the Day of Silence on the front and the golden rule on the back and wear them on the DOS. It would also be great to see the Golden Rule printed on t-shirts for students to wear throughout the year as often as they want to.

  13. Warren,

    I agree about the cards and the t-shirt issue? If these kids are allowed to wear this shirt than the floodgates, in my opinion, have been opened and many other shirts will follow.

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