Washington D.C., May 26, 2021 / 15:00 pm
Florida State University has agreed to a settlement with a Catholic student who sued the school last year over his removal from the student senate for private religious statements.
Jack Denton, a Catholic member of the university’s class of 2021, was removed from his position as president of the student senate last June after comments he made in a private GroupMe text messaging forum were made public.
The particular discussion had focused on racism, including the May 27, 2020 shooting of Tony McDade, a 38 year-old black biological female who identified as a transgender man, by Tallahassee Police. One group member mentioned the ACLU and BlackLivesMatter.com as causes that students could financially support to advance racial justice. Denton argued that certain policy positions of those groups violated the Church’s teachings on abortion and gender issues, and cautioned students against financially supporting those groups.
A member of the Catholic Student Union messaging group sent screenshots of Denton’s texts to the student senate. CNA reported in June that Denton was accused of “transphobic and racist behavior,” and the student senate eventually removed him from office over his texts.
Denton was later reinstated to his position by the student supreme court in October, which said it agreed with him that his removal as head of the student senate was part of “unconstitutional retaliation for his private statements” and a First Amendment violation.
However, Denton sued the university on Aug. 31, 2020, alleging that his religious freedom was violated and that the university’s leadership failed to reinstate him.
This week, the university reached a settlement with Denton, agreeing to pay his lost wages from the loss of his office, as well as $10,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees.
Lawyers for Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty law firm, said the school unconstitutionally retaliated against Denton for sharing his personal religious beliefs in a private forum.