By Lucas Grindley
Originally published on Advocate.com August 26 2011 2:11 PM ET
Although a Florida teacher's incendiary comments on Facebook about same-sex marriage weren't enough to get him fired, he has yet another problem — his course syllabus tells students that he teaches "God's truth," and if you don't like it, then get out.
The new allegation was unveiled Thursday when social studies teacher Jerry Buell defended himself at a news conference hosted by Liberty Counsel, a group that volunteers its lawyers in religious cases across the country. Together they've maintained that Buell had a First Amendment right to react to enactment of marriage equality in New York by calling the development a "cesspool" that made him sick.
"I made a political comment, and all I did was affirm with passion the decision by 62% of the voters in the state of Florida in the constitutional amendment that they had in 2008," Buell argued, according to video from the Orlando Sentinel. "Residents of Florida do not approve of same-sex marriage."
The superintendent sided with Buell on the Facebook question earlier this week, but Orlando news outlets are reporting that Buell's syllabus, which he says he's used for years, is being questioned by school board authorities. The syllabus includes this warning to students: "I am a man of God and I try to be like Jesus every day. I teach God's truth, I make very few compromises. If you believe you may have a problem with that, get your schedule changed, 'cause I ain't changing!"
Liberty Counsel is again saying those comments are protected by Buell's First Amendment rights.
"The school district is saying that might run afoul to what they call the separation of church and state," Buell's attorney Harry Mihet told WFTV. "We are going to have to evaluate the school's position and engage them in some dialogue."
Even before the syllabus was discovered, critics had argued that Buell's statements on Facebook were enough to make gay students feel unwelcome in his classroom and should have led to his firing.