Anti-gay teachers and the limits of the First Amendment

In Union, New Jersey a teacher Viki Knox, disgusted with her school’s involvement in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender History Month took to her Facebook page to say the following:

Homosexuality is a perverted spirit that has existed from the beginning of creation. The word of God refers to it often. That’s if you believe the Word to be truly God’s intended blueprint for his people. I have friends and loved ones who are practicing/living as homosexuals. Yes I love can care about them. We hug and exchange gifts. We have family dinners. But how they live and their actions, behaviors -CHOICES are against the nature and character of God! Do I tell me so? Yes, of course. Do I treat them bad? If course not! Jesus never did that to ANYONE he meant. He spoke to them of their situation and ofered them life eternal. He didn’t say it was okay but we’ve all sinned and come short if God’s will for us daily. That’s why we Christians true followers pray, repent, and spend time with Christ daily. The Word of God instructs us to die daily to our flesh-meaning our will. What we want; what feels good to us; what we like; what we can rationalize and justify. I do not pretend to know ALL things. Nor do I pretend not to have biases, failings and faults. But I know sin and it breeds like cancer!

Union is not South Orange/Maplewood where one out of four families consist of two Mommies or daddies. (I’m exaggerating) Why parade your unnatural immoral behaviors before the rest of us? AND YOU ARE WRONG! I/WE DO NOT HAVE TO ACCEPT ANYTHING, ANYONE. ANY BEHAVIOR OR ANY CHOICES! I DO NOT HAVE TO TOLERATE ANYTHING OTHERS WISH TO DO. I DO HAVE TO LOVE AND SPEAK AND DO WHAT’S RIGHT!

When I was in the 1st grade I attended Wyoming Elementary School in Millburn, New Jersey, not more than 5 minutes from Viki Knox’s school in nearby Union. I was the only black student in my grade. A classmate asked my teacher what a ni**er was. The teacher told him “A ni**er is a black person.” The little boy proceeded to take this information he got from our teacher and he called me a ni**er for the rest of the day. I didn’t know the significance of that word at 6 years old but I knew I didn’t like it and that I was made physically uncomfortable by him calling me that.

Even though I didn’t have any idea of the historical significance of the term at 6, I knew that I didn’t want to be called a ni**er. I went home in tears and told my mother what happened. My mother had the teacher fired. Since it’s the first in my life which I vividly remember, I consider this to be my first life experience with overt bigotry and racism.

Teachers have a very unique role in our society. Teachers have the privilege of teaching and influencing young people in a profound way. There is a legal question surrounding whether or not teachers have the freedom to express their viewpoints publicly, no matter how controversial — and this becomes especially complicated in the age of social media.

The township where Knox works has chosen to suspend her and she has been appointed a union lawyer. At a recent school board meeting, there were both supporters of Knox and her detractors protesting, and a heavy police presence. Knox’s supporters believe she has the right to speak freely about her personal beliefs.

But there is no First Amendment right to say whatever you want and keep your job. The school has the right to fire this teacher for her bigotry as my school district had the right to fire my teacher for her bigotry and teaching of bigotry to my classmate. You have the right to say what you want, but you don’t have the right to work as a teacher if the school district feels your comments impede your performance or are inappropriate. Teachers elsewhere have been fired for anti-semetic comments and others have been suspended for anti-gay Facebook posts.

In this case, Viki Knox has the right to believe whatever she wants. She has the right to follow her own religion and if she feels that religion teachers her — not to love every person, but to judge them for what she calls “choices,” then so be it.

But she does not have the right to have a job as a teacher. Viki Knox should exercise her freedom to seek a different line of work.

Join the Conversation