CNA Staff, Oct 26, 2020 / 16:00 pm
Florida State University’s Student Supreme Court has reinstated Jack Denton as president of the Student Senate. Denton was removed from his post in June over comments in a private chat group for Catholic students which were subsequently circulated to a member of the senate.
In a decision issued Monday, the university court wrote that Denton “contends that his removal as Senate President was improper because the vote of no-confidence was based on unconstitutional retaliation for his private statements in the Catholic Student Union group chat, expressing his religious beliefs, and thus was in violation of his First Amendment rights to Freedom of Speech and Expression.”
“We agree,” the court found.
In the group chat, Denton had expressed concerns that policy positions of certain groups, such as the ACLU and BlackLivesMatter.com, contradicted Church teaching on abortion, marriage, sexuality, and policing, and cautioned students to be aware of those positions before they donated to the groups.
He was subsequently accused of transphobia and racism by fellow students and, after a first vote of no-confidence in him failed, he was removed in another vote of the student senate June 5. Denton filed suit against the student senate’s decision in both the university court and in federal court.
The student court found Oct. 26 that “the discussion did not mention the Senate or Student Government Association once, but, in contrast, mentioned religion and God a number of times. As a private citizen, [Denton] was endowed the privileges guaranteed by the Constitution and thus is not barred from bringing this claim under the First Amendment,” the court said.
The court ruled that “the Student Government Association at Florida State University, with its robust network of student advocates and their vast knowledge of public policy and the ever-changing mores of society, [declared that it] possesses such authority as to decide in which cases the United States Constitution is to apply, and in which cases it is not. Unfortunately, for Jack Denton, his case was one in which the Senate felt these rights did not apply.”
Tyson Langhofer, Senior Counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been representing Denton in his claims, responded to the announcement on Monday, calling it “commendable.”