A Christian teacher who was forced to resign for declining to use the preferred names of trans-identifying students is suing the school district, claiming it violated her free speech and religious liberty rights under the U.S. Constitution.
Vivian Geraghty served as an English teacher at Jackson Memorial Middle School in Massillon, Ohio, until two students on Aug. 26 of this year asked her to begin using new names that aligned with their new gender identities, according to the lawsuit. One of the students also asked Geraghty to use new pronouns.
Geraghty told school administrations that her Christian faith prohibited her from “lying” to the students about who they are. The school, though, forced her to resign the same day. She would have been willing to use the student’s last names, the lawsuit says.
The Constitution, the suit says, “guarantees a freedom of thought that includes a freedom to differ.”
Alliance Defending Freedom is representing Geraghty.
“The Constitution protects this freedom to differ, in part, by prohibiting the government from adopting and enforcing a set of approved views on these matters in America’s public schools,” the suit says. “... The very nature of free speech, free exercise of religion, and freedom from state-enforced orthodoxy on fundamental matters condemns the state’s attempt to purge contrary views from its schools.”
Geraghty told her school principal of her concerns at 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 26. School administrators allegedly told Geraghty she “would be required to put her beliefs aside as a public servant,” the suit says. By 11:30 a.m., she had been forced to resign and had been escorted out of the building, the suit says.
The lawsuit says she is a “professing Christian who strives to live out her faith daily.”
“Ms. Geraghty’s faith does not command her to affirmatively communicate her religious beliefs at school, and she did not seek to do so,” the suit says. “However, her faith requires her to refrain from speaking in a manner that her faith instructs is immoral, dishonest, or harmful.”
Geraghty “wants to protect children from making potentially irreversible and life-changing decisions that they may later regret,” the lawsuit says.
“Ms. Geraghty believes that because of the difficulty of assessing matters of gender identity and the long-term irreversible consequences of certain treatments for transgender-identifying people, including puberty blockers, hormone replacement therapy, and sex-reassignment surgery – children should not be encouraged to undertake social or medical transition because of their inability to assess long-term consequences,” the suit says. “... Being forced to communicate this message and participate in a student’s social transition harms Ms. Geraghty by forcing her to express something she believes is untrue and harmful to her students; and it harms her students by actively contributing to a risk of immediate, negative psychological effects and long-term irreversible physical effects.”
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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.