A middle school in a small Minnesota town could face a federal lawsuit after placing an LGBT pride flag in the cafeteria and refusing to hang other flags offered by students.
The controversy over the rainbow-colored flag at Marshall Middle School led to a packed school board meeting last week in Marshall, Minn.
The Thomas More Society is considering a lawsuit.
“At the very least, it’s divisive and insensitive,” said Thomas More Society special counsel Erick Kaardal. “It makes it appear that the school supports one group’s beliefs at the expense of others.”
The flag was hung in the middle school cafeteria this winter alongside a U.S. flag and international flags.
An eighth-grade student told the school board that a teacher removed flags from lockers that represented other viewpoints, including a traditional marriage flag with a father, mother and child, and the Gadsden flag (“Don’t Tread on Me”), the Marshall Independent newspaper reported.
The Thomas More Society is urging the school district to endorse a “viewpoint neutral” policy on flags.
“School buildings are funded by public tax dollars,” Kaardal said. “A viewpoint-neutral policy toward flags and other displays will assure taxpayers that their money does not go to promote symbols of beliefs they may not agree with. If a federal lawsuit is needed to make this happen, we are equipped to pursue that action.”
Don LeClere, senior pastor at Marshall Evangelical Free Church, also encouraged the school board to remain neutral.
“The debate in our midst tonight is proof enough that this is, in fact, a contested issue. There are two sides to this issue,” LeClere told the school board, according to the Independent. “We are not haters nor are we against individuals in the LGBTQ plus community. But you can also truly love an individual and hold a different viewpoint from them.
“... Either erect other lifestyle flags, like the two we submitted, to represent all students, or remove the one lifestyle flag, choosing to remain viewpoint neutral and truly communicating a concern for all students.”
Anne Veldhuisen, pastor at Christ United Presbyterian Church in Marshall, said the flag represents an identity.
“It’s not a lifestyle flag,” she said.
Karrie Alberts, a teacher, spoke out in support of students who identify as LGBT.
“I want them to know they are OK, they are supported,” Alberts said. “Quit equating their identity to something controversial.”
The flag has sparked a series of letters to the editor in the Independent. One recent letter urged the school board to permit a flag with a “cross and resurrection of Jesus.”
“That way the kids at MMS who are in Christ, would feel safe, OK, and supported,” the letter said.
Photo courtesy: Delia Giandeini/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.