Gay-Pride Assignment Did Not Violate Students’ Rights, Tenn. College Finds

Columbia State Community College, in Columbia, Tenn., has determined that a psychology professor did not violate students’ freedoms of speech or religion when she asked her classes last spring to wear gay-pride ribbons for a day and write an essay about the responses they experienced, The Daily Herald, a local newspaper, reported.

No students complained through the college’s formal grievance procedures, but the college received a letter of complaint in June from the Alliance Defending Freedom, an advocacy group that says its mission is “to gain justice for those whose faith has been unconstitutionally denied in the areas of religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.” The letter stated that the professor, Linda Brunton, had violated the students’ freedom of speech by compelling them to publicly support “views they either do not wish to advocate or find abhorrent” and had “brushed off” objections to the assignment based on religious conviction.

The letter described the ribbon assignment as mandatory, but an in-house investigation by the college determined that it was voluntary. Randy Elston, director of the college’s human-resources department, led the investigation and described its findings in a report last week. Among other things, he noted that students who objected to the assignment could choose to complete a different assignment, including one of their own design. The preponderance of evidence, he wrote, does not support a finding that Ms. Brunton violated the Bill of Rights or college policies regarding discrimination.

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