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Pro-Family Groups Call
"Hate Speech" Ruling A Victory

(CHARISMA) -- Pro-family groups say Christians who express their faith in public have gained a major victory with the striking down of a Pennsylvania hate speech code.

In a 3-0 ruling last week, a federal appeals court ruled that the State College area school district's anti-harassment policy was overbroad and violated the rights of two Christian students who sought to speak out against homosexuality because of their beliefs, "The Washington Times" reported. The court said there was no "harassment exemption" to the First Amendment's free-speech clause. The decision is binding on federal judges in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

An attorney for plaintiff David Saxe called the decision "a tremendous blow against the political correctness movement." Bryan Brown, of the American Family Association's (AFA) Center for Law and Policy, said: "This is a resounding bell of freedom ringing in Philadelphia reaffirming that, indeed, students do not leave their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gate." He added: "It's hard to get more Orwellian than the speech code that was struck down."

The case started in the fall of 1999 when Saxe, a Penn State University education professor, and two public school students challenged the constitutionality of a recently enacted "hate speech" code. It had banned "unwelcome verbal, written or physical conduct which offends, denigrates or belittles an individual." The school district called the speech code an "anti-harassment policy." A federal judge declared the policy constitutional, but Saxe appealed the case.

Experts said last week's ruling could affect public schools throughout the nation. "I don't know how many school districts have policies as broad as State College's, but it is probably a significant number," Michael Levin, a lawyer for the Pennsylvania school board, told "The Philadelphia Inquirer."

Stephen Crampton, the AFA's chief lawyer, said the "important decision will, in fact, result in the striking down of hate speech codes the nation over, even well beyond the context of the public schools."

Brown said: "There are a lot of them like State College, and a lot of them are going to fall." He added that the decision will help other Christian causes. "This sends a message to schools across the country that students, staff and teachers cannot be muzzled in their bid to share their Christian values. This is a breath of fresh air for Christians."

Peter LaBarbera, director of the Newport News, Va.-based Americans for Truth project of Kerusso Ministries, a pro-family group, agreed.

"We know that Christians are politically incorrect in a number of issues in our society. This decision sends the message that they have a right to express their viewpoint in schools. Hopefully, it will open up a much more free speech atmosphere in the schools because of the danger of political correctness. Hopefully, this will open up the way for the kids to witness to other kids who wanted to get an abortion, and [speak on] other controversial subjects."

© 2001 charismanews.com

(Post date: February 20, 2001)

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