Janet M. LaRue

Who can say “gay” isn’t okay in New Jersey? Judging by Gov. Chris Christie’s actions, teachers can't. Christie told CNN’s Piers Morgan on June 15 that he doesn’t think homosexuality is a sin even though his religion does. To be sure that the citizens of New Jersey are aware of Christie’s beliefs, the interview and transcript are posted on the official New Jersey web site. Okay, that’s his opinion. But read on.

New Jersey high school teacher Viki Knox may have been inspired by Christie’s comments to think that it was okay for a New Jersey public employee to express an opinion about homosexuality, as if the First Amendment is alive and well in New Jersey.

Knox believes homosexuality is a sin. She posted her belief, not on an official school web site, but on her personal Facebook page. The Union High School District is investigating Knox to determine if she violated school policies.

If Knox’s First Amendment rights aren’t shed at the schoolhouse gate, as the U.S. Supreme Court held in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Dist., surely her rights aren’t shed at the gate of her house:

 

“First Amendment rights, applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment, are available to teachers and students. It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.”

 

According to Jeanette Rundquist and Peggy McGlone writing for the New Jersey Star-Ledger on Oct. 18:

 

“Knox, 49, used her Facebook page to criticize a display in her Union Township school marking Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender History Month. She called homosexuality a ‘perverted spirit’ and a ‘sin’ that ‘breeds like cancer.’”

 

Christie could have seized the chance to shed his reputation as a “bully” of New Jersey teachers and educate his constituents on the First Amendment. He is a lawyer, after all. And Tinker was on the books when Christie attended law school. At a minimum, he should have declined to comment pending the outcome of the investigation.


Janet M. LaRue

Jan LaRue is Senior Legal Analyst with the American Civil Rights Union; former Chief Counsel at Concerned for Women; Legal Studies Director at Family Research Council; and Senior Counsel for the National Law Center for Children and Families. Be the first to read Janet LaRue's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.