A federal judge recently ruled that Florida State University must continue to pay wages to Jack Denton, former Student Senate president, who was removed from his position after he discouraged fellow students from donating to organizations that do not align with his Catholic beliefs, according to a Oct. 8 court order filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida.
In June, Denton texted in a private group chat with other Catholic students that BlackLivesMatter.com, Reclaim the Block and the American Civil Liberties Union do not align with Catholic teaching because of their support for LGBTQ people and abortion, the order said. The texts went viral on campus and Denton was removed from his senate president position with a vote of no confidence by other senators. He then appealed the decision to a university administrator, who declined to reinstate him, the order said.
The Alliance Defending Freedom a nonprofit legal organization that advocates for religious liberty, sued the university on behalf of Denton, according to a press release from ADF. Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel and director of the organization’s Center for Academic Freedom, argued the court case on Sept. 29.
Allen Winsor, a judge for the Florida district court who wrote the order, determined that due to the student government’s funding and oversight by the university, the administrator should have taken steps to reinstate Denton and protect his First Amendment rights to free speech and religion. The order does not mandate that Denton be reinstated as president, but the university must pay him a senate president wage for six hours of work per week until November, which would be the end of his term.
“All students should be able to peacefully share their personal convictions without fear of retaliation,” Langhofer said. “As the court found, FSU violated Jack’s constitutionally protected freedom of speech and therefore cannot withhold his salary from him in his role as Student Senate president.”