College Professor Accused of Religious Intolerance After Teaching Diversity Lesson

One Christian legal group is claiming a teacher broke the law because she assigned students to wear a rainbow ribbon supporting gay rights and then write a paper about the reactions they received.

BY Jase Peeples

June 20 2013 7:39 PM ET

A professor at Columbia State Community College in Tennessee is being accused of religious intolerance for wanting to teach her students about LGBT people, reports The Tennessean.

Lawyers representing the Christian legal group Alliance Defending Liberty are claiming psychology professor Linda Brunton broke the law when she assigned students to write a paper about the reactions they received after they wore a rainbow ribbon and publicly stated they supported LGBT rights.

“Dr. Brunton’s assignment violates decades [of] clearly established law by compelling students to support in public views they either do not wish to advocate or find abhorrent,” Alliance Defending Liberty attorney Travis Barham wrote in a letter to Columbia State.

However, Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project says the accusations against Brunton are unfounded, as the assignment, a standard lesson used in numerous psychology classes, was voluntary.

“Students were allowed to opt out, and some did,” Sanders told The Tennessean. “And students were told that if they felt uncomfortable, they could take off the ribbons.”

The lesson was designed to encourage empathy for LGBT people, and a teaching guide for the assignment, titled “Promoting Increased Understanding of Sexual Diversity Through Experience Learning,” states the assignment is voluntary.

However, Barham’s letter also claims the professor called opponents of LGBT rights “uneducated bigots,” offending several students and members of the Collegevue Church of Christ, which is located across the street from the college.

On Wednesday a sign in front of the church was changed to read, “CSCC: God Is Not an ‘Uneducated Bigot’ Rom 1: 26,27.”

“I am increasingly disgusted by the intolerance of those who claim to promote tolerance,” said Greg Gwin, the minister at Collegevue Church.

College officials are currently looking into the matter. 

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