CULTURE DIGEST: Student punished for expressing beliefs about homosexuality
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- A high school freshman in Texas was suspended for expressing a religious belief to a classmate while his teacher was allowed to force a disturbing personal viewpoint upon students.
During German class in a Fort Worth school, the teacher was leading a discussion about religious beliefs in Germany when the topic of homosexuality arose. Dakota Ary told one of his classmates, "I'm a Christian and, to me, being homosexual is wrong," according to Liberty Counsel, which is representing Ary.
The teacher overheard Ary, wrote an infraction charging him with "possible bullying" and sent him to the principal's office. The teacher indicated on the infraction, "It is wrong to make such a statement in public school." Ary was sentenced to in-school suspension and two days' suspension.
Meanwhile, the teacher was allowed to display a picture of two men kissing on what he called a "world wall" in the classroom, and when students were offended, he told them that homosexuality is becoming more prevalent in the world and they should accept it, Liberty Counsel said.
Ary's mother, Holly Pope, told Fox News Radio Sept. 22 that her son is a well-grounded 14-year-old who is an honors student, plays on the school football team and is active in his church youth group.
"He's been in church his whole life, and he's been taught to stand up for what he believes," Pope said.
After a meeting with Pope and her attorney, the school rescinded the two-day suspension and allowed Ary to play in an upcoming football game.
"Just because you walk through the schoolhouse doors doesn't mean you shed your First Amendment rights," Matthew Krause of Liberty Counsel said. "Dakota wasn't disrupting class. He wasn't bullying or harassing anybody. He was just stating his personal opinion on a topic somebody else brought up and in a civil and respectful manner."
The teacher was placed on administrative leave.
"We are pleased with the school's response thus far," said Mathew D. Staver, chairman of Liberty Counsel. "The teacher clearly crossed the line and should apologize publically to Dakota. It is intolerable for the teacher to ridicule the religious beliefs of students in front of class. This teacher should not force his views about homosexuality upon students. Teachers cannot use their position to bully students and humiliate them in front of their peers."
SUPERINTENDENT GIVES IN TO ATHEISTS -- A school superintendent in Alabama is complying with a demand from an atheist group rather than leading the school system to incur hefty legal fines.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to superintendent John Mullins of the Arab City Schools on behalf of a parent who claimed the practice of allowing football games to start with prayer violated First Amendment rights.
Mullins reversed the decade-old policy, and now the games will begin with a moment of silence instead of a student leading prayer over a loudspeaker. Though several parents were upset at his decision, Mullins said the issue was not worth a legal battle.
"Yes, in our personal lives in Arab we are Christian, but our priority is to serve the students of this school system and provide them education," Mullins told WAAY-TV. "And we at this time can't commit the energy and time and financial resources to battle a case we most likely will not win.
"So we are going to return to what we were doing before we started praying and we're going to do a moment of silence at our football games," Mullins said. "We wish we could continue praying, but we can't."
The community is divided on Mullins' decision, with one resident telling the television station, "We should be able to pray for our children to be protected and not hurt."
COFFEE SHOP IS 'FOR BENEFIT' -- Though classified as a nonprofit, a California coffee shop is "for benefit" -- giving its proceeds exclusively to halting the massive sex trafficking industry.
Origin Coffee & Tea, based in a Sacramento suburb and founded by a pastor, is "like a continuous bake sale," using volunteer workers to run a coffee shop with a singular goal of combating sex trafficking.
As many as 4 million girls are enslaved each day by sex trafficking, Origin says, and it has become the third largest and fastest growing criminal industry in the world.
"At Origin Coffee & Tea, we simply can't go another day without waking up to the cries of these girls for rescue. We must fight for them as they cannot fight for themselves. This is not just another cause -- this is an emergency."
The coffee shop fights sex trafficking in three ways, according to its website, origincoffee.org. First, all funds beyond overhead costs go directly to nonprofits such as International Justice Mission.
"We can't go and raid the brothels ourselves, but IJM can," the website says.
Second, Origin helps resource homes where victims can be safe and can begin the healing process. And third, the coffee shop is working to change the culture in countries where sex trafficking is prevalent.
"In several countries, for generations, the sex trade has become such a cultural norm that to find a family where a girl has not been prostituted or made to work the brothels is rare," the website says. "The crime of dehumanization is so pervasive that it is often not necessary for perpetrators to hold these young girls against their will -- they mistakenly believe that trading their own bodies for a little money is simply a fact of life.
"We know that we cannot permanently end human sex trafficking without resourcing the people who live in cities where this is being done to their own people."
Leaflets on sex trafficking are on hand at the coffee shop, and workers are expected to know the issue and be prepared to speak about it, according to The Sacramento Bee.
Origin encourages people to become abolitionists in the fight against sex slavery by drinking Origin coffees and teas, buying their whole beans for home and gifts or working at the coffee shop for free.
"We want to be a place where you can come in and relax, meet your neighbors and share in something meaningful with people from all walks of life."
Erin Roach is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.