Ohio teacher forced to resign over Christian religious beliefs

A federal lawsuit was filed Monday on behalf of a teacher who refused to violate her religious beliefs and participate in the social transition of two students who identified as transgender and wished to be referred to by new names and pronouns.

Mia Ashton Montreal QC

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a federal lawsuit Monday on behalf of an Ohio teacher who refused to violate her religious beliefs and participate in the social transition of two students who identified as transgender and wished to be referred to by new names and pronouns.

Vivian Geraghty was forced to resign from teaching English at Jackson Memorial Middle School in August after Jackson Local School District officials tried to force her to speak in a way that would violate her sincerely held religious beliefs, an action which she believes was unconstitutional. 

According to an ADF press release, Geraghty’s sincerely held religious beliefs and scientific understanding are that a person is male or female based on sex, not personal identity, and participating in a student’s social transition violates those beliefs by forcing her to communicate messages she believes are untrue and harmful to the student.

"No school official can force a teacher to set her religious beliefs aside in order to keep her job. The school tried to force Vivian to recite as true the school’s viewpoint on issues that go to the foundation of morality and human identity, like what makes us male or female, by ordering her to personally participate in the social transition of her students. The First Amendment prohibits that abuse of power," said ADF Legal Counsel Logan Spena. "Jackson Local School District officials nonetheless forced Vivian to resign because she resisted this unconstitutional command and explained that it was her Christian faith that made her unable to participate in her students’ social transition.”

The saga began for Geraghty when two students adopted gender identities inconsistent with their biological sex, and requested that school staff participate in their social transition. Both students had adopted new names and one requested the use of pronouns that were inconsistent with the student’s biological sex. 

The school counselor emailed school staff instructing them to participate in the students’ social transition leading to Geraghty approaching the principal, seeking a solution that would allow her to continue teaching her class without personally affirming as true things that she believes are false and harmful.

Rather than reaching an agreement, however, Geraghty was told that she "would be required to put her beliefs aside as a public servant," and that her unwillingness to affirm the students’ self-declared transgender identities amounted to insubordination, and that continuing to teach in a way consistent with her beliefs would "not work in a district like Jackson." Geraghty was then told if she would not participate in the students’ social transitions, she must resign immediately.

"Jackson Local School District officials require their teachers to immediately and personally validate a child’s gender transition even if doing so violates their religious beliefs, conscience, or sound judgment," said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer. "Increasing evidence suggests that this approach may lead adolescents to unnecessarily pursue dangerous medical interventions like puberty-blocking drugs, cross-sex hormones, or life-altering surgeries. Vivian treated every student with equality and respect, and it was unlawful for school officials to terminate her employment simply because she wanted to avoid using her voice to validate ideas that violate her faith and jeopardize her students’ wellbeing."

Elsewhere in the US, legal action is being taken against teachers who facilitated the social transition of their students. In Wisconsin, parents of a girl whose teachers accommodated her change of name and pronouns against their wishes are suing the school district for violation of their parental rights, and parent rights group Parents Defending Education is suing an Iowa public school district for allowing children to socially transition without parental consent or knowledge.

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