April 21, 2017
Making a fashion statement wasn't the point of a ninth grader's cross necklace in Florida. Making a statement of faith was. And to her LGBT activist teacher, that was the problem. At Riverview High School in Hillsborough, a freshman girl barely set down her books on her desk when Ms. Lora Riedas pointed to her small cross pendant and said, "I need you to take your necklace off." Stunned, the girl asked why. The teacher refused to answer and instead barked that it was "disrespectful" and repeated her demand. Not wanting to seem disrespectful, the teenager did what she was told.
Upset, her parents contacted our friends at Liberty Counsel who sent a letter to the superintendent explaining that it was the teacher who was disrespectful. "In banning cross necklaces from three different students in her classroom, Ms. Riedas has "intentionally violate[d] or den[ied] a student's legal rights." The right to wear a cross necklace is clearly established. There is no question that students have the right to wear religious jewelry, despite any specious claim of 'gang affiliation' by Ms. Riedas. Subsequent to her cross ban, Ms. Reidas has subjected at least one of the students 'to unnecessary embarrassment or disparagement,' in singling the student out for false allegations of student behavior violations."
This is exactly the kind of anti-faith hostility that flourished under the Obama administration. Of course, one look at Ms. Riedas's classroom and it's obvious where that hostility stems from. Plastered with rainbow flags, buttons, and propaganda, the teacher is a forceful LGBT advocate. At the beginning of the year, Liberty Counsel points out, she even put rainbow stickers on her students' folders without their permission. When one student peeled hers off, she noticed that she was treated with more hostility than her peers. Talk about hypocrisy! This teacher is banning crosses on one hand and engaging in "wholesale LGBT activism" on the other. If anything's offensive, it's that! "Ms. Riedas has further engaged in impermissible LGBT political activism in the classroom, and has indicated her intent to further do so during instructional time," the letter claims. "Ms. Riedas is planning to promote GLSEN's 'Day of Silence' coercive political activities during instructional time in her classroom this April 21, 2017."
None of this is a surprise to Ms. Riedas's Twitter followers. The teacher's feed is full of advice about "how to talk to kids about what it means to be an LGBT ally" and how to engage on the transgender bathroom issue. And according to school policy, posting these things isn't the problem -- posting them during class hours is. As Liberty Counsel reminds Riverview High, "It is the policy of the Board that students, staff members, and District facilities not be used for promoting the interests of any non-school agency or organization, public or private, without the approval of the superintendent."
Together with her attorneys, this brave ninth grader is asking for the right to express her faith, which is already guaranteed to her by the Constitution. Students should never have to check their beliefs at the school house door -- or anywhere else for that matter.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.