NJ Teacher’s Facebook Comments Spark Gay Rights Protest


Mon, Oct. 17, 2011 Posted: 04:07 PM EDT

Gay rights activists plan to protest at a New Jersey board of education meeting on Tuesday after a school teacher described homosexuality as a sin on her Facebook account. Though supporters of the teacher, Viki Knox, say her First Amendment rights should be protected, her opponents are calling on the school board to take away her job.

According to the Facebook page for Garden State Equality, an organization dedicated to supporting gay rights, the protest is being organized to tell the school board in Union Township that “it is wrong for a teacher to spew anti-LGBT hatred on Facebook in her official capacity as a teacher.”

“Ms. Knox went out of her way several times in her vicious tirade to identify herself as a teacher and to communicate as a teacher, not as a private citizen,” said Steven Goldstein, the chair and CEO of GSE, in a comment posted on GSE’s Facebook page. “And in the role of teacher on Facebook, she communicated her bile to students. That is the line she crossed here – that is why the school should take action.”

The controversy began when Knox, a special education teacher at Union High School, posted an image to her personal Facebook account of a display at the school which promotes the month of October as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month. She said she was “pitching a fit” over the display, and eventually sparked a debate for taking a stance against homosexuality.

In her comments Knox describes homosexuality a “perverted spirit” and a sinful lifestyle, saying, “I know sin and it breeds like cancer!”

A parent saw her comments and contacted local attorney John Paragano, who told the school’s administrators he wants Knox fired for her “hateful public comments,” according to NJ.com. Knox’s Facebook page was eventually taken down, but Paragano obtained a copy of the debate and submitted it to the school board for further examination.

Chief School Administrator for the Township of Union Public School District, Patrick Martin, said the district is investigating the incident.

While many are quick to label Knox’s position on homosexuality as hateful, she claimed she doesn’t hate anyone.

“I love my family members and friends that practice alternate lifestyles but I do not condone or support their lifestyle,” she wrote, according to a copy of the Facebook debate posted on GSE’s website.

“I do not deny them access to me or my home. Christ draws us all through a love so vast and encompassing that our human minds continue to fail to comprehend but it was still LOVE! I have no idea how the ADULTS saw my pic, read something I wrote and concluded I was hating and bashing.”

Kim Colby, senior legal counsel for the Christian Legal Society, told The Christian Post via email on Monday that Knox has a right to comment on the issue without being punished.

“Unfortunately some groups have decided that their political agenda is more important than the First Amendment,” Colby said. “The First Amendment must protect everyone’s right to express personal beliefs on controversial topics, or we all lose freedom of speech.”

Knox could not be reached for further comment concerning this issue.

Jeff Schapiro
Christian Post Reporter

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29 Comments

Filed under Bible, Christianity, Misc, Politics, Religion

29 responses to “NJ Teacher’s Facebook Comments Spark Gay Rights Protest

  1. This is one stupid teacher. Under their code of conduct and professional ethics, it is made absolutely clear that while speaking or engaging in any activity on or off the job but in the role of a teacher, one must uphold one’s professional standards and ethical regulations first and foremost. Personal opinions and faith-based beliefs have exactly zero place in these standards so this teacher has no professional ethical support for breaking this rule. Any teacher who doesn’t understand this professional obligation of proper conduct deserves to be fired from the board, brought up on charges from the College for unprofessional conduct, and stripped of the license to teach.

    There is usually zero tolerance within the professional regulatory body for those teachers who think that their private beliefs outweigh or excuse opinions contrary to those ethical regulations and board policies of accountability. This is not a free speech issue whatsoever and this line of defense is just a red herring.

    Someday people are going to have to realize that their private faith-based beliefs should be imposed only on themselves and have no merit imposed on anyone else.

  2. But is saying that as a teacher they see certain things or behaviors in children operating in the role of a teacher or just reflect an area from which they base their opinions?

    • I don’t clearly follow what you’re asking here.

      This teacher is trying to teach a bigoted opinion under the banner of being a teacher when that opinion itself is deemed bigoted by the profession. You may think the opinion to be true, but you cannot teach it as if it were true when professional standards clearly states you may not do so (discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation) and still be a teacher in good standing. Because the teacher merely believes same sex behaviour is sinful does not give license to teaching that it is so. In the view of the teaching profession, the behaviour is legal. Personal opinions about sin have no place or bearing in the profession.

      • Is she saying: I am a teacher, and as a teacher, I am telling you my subject/students Homosexuality is a sin; or is she saying : I am a teacher and what i’ve seen… gosh i’m telling you homosexuality is a sin.

    • I think I agree with Xander

  3. The teacher was making comments on her Facebook page and in the comment she was referencing the fact that she was a teacher. I would agree with you if this happened in the classroom or during a school function.

  4. @tildeb If the woman is fired, then the school has committed an error. look at it this way: The parties calling for her dismissal are drawing upon their right to have an opinion, and have that opinion protected by law. yet these people are calling for the removal of a woman who has also stated her opinion. If we can take the first part of her statement that she does not condone alternate lifestyles, as true, why can’t we also take the second part that she loves those practicing those lifestyles, but hates the lifestyles themselves?

    • jf, you are assuming it is right and proper for a teacher to enunciate these opinions. It is not. It is contrary to her professional code.

      Think of it this way: Bob is a police officer. He holds the opinion that religious folk should be arrested for working on a Sunday and posts this opinion as a police officer on his facebook page. If he enunciates this opinion as a police officer then he has confused the personal with the public and is inserting his beliefs as if they represented the way the law ought to be. He has falsely represented the opinion as the way the law ought to be and this raises significant doubt that he can carry out his professional obligations in an unbiased way. Would you trust Bob as a police officer to enforce the law on a call to your place of employment on a Sunday? Of course not. Neither would I trust this teacher to be able to demonstrate and successfully teach to students acceptance, tolerance, and respect for the differences of others on the basis of sexual orientation as demanded by the curriculum. This teacher, so poisoned against those she does not understand on the basis of her religious bigotry, will never be able to teach her charges how to celebrate our differences… a key understanding held and exercised by any good teacher involved in LGBT curriculum outcomes.

      • If he categorically stated that his beliefs would not prevent him from carrying out his duty (the way the teacher says that she loves and accepts lesbians as people, but does not accept their lifestyles), and If I trust Bob enough to take his opinion as true and real, I should also trust him that he would be true to his word and not allow his beliefs interfere with his work

      • And yes, I’m assuming it is right and proper for a teacher to have those opinions, she is not a robot. If you believe so much in diversity, why does your culture fight those who are different? The people complaining are making those complaints as PARENTS, and she was making those statements as a TEACHER.

      • BTW, Why isn’t it right for a teacher to have these opinions. After all, she is first a person, then a teacher.

      • Why isn’t it right for a teacher to have these opinions. After all, she is first a person, then a teacher.

        This role confusion between the personal and the professional seems to be a tremendous problem that many people simply can’t wrap their minds around. Yet it is simple: when acting as a professional, leave the personal behind and uphold, enact, and discharge to the best of your abilities your professional obligations (this teacher should have asked herself, “Would any of the best teachers do or say what I’m doing or saying as a representative of this profession?). Don’t confuse that role thinking the status of being a professional allows you to insert your own personal preferences and beliefs and biases. It doesn’t. When acting as an individual, by all means uphold, enact, and discharge whatever behaviours and opinions turns your crank… as long as they doesn’t infringe on the same rights, freedoms, and respect for dignity of others you would presume for yourself. But don’t for a moment think the two – the professional and the personal – are naturally interchangeable. They are separate and distinct (which is why we usually show this difference by means of a uniform).

      • Sorry. Sloppy of me. I meant to close the italics at the end of that bracket.

  5. So if a police officer said, in his/her professional opinion that something should be a law and enforced, but is not due to a lack of support among the community, you would not trust them to properly enforce the law?

    So if he said that people should worship God and not work on Sunday, he is biased and untrustworthy? If he said that african-americans or lgbt people should have fair treatment then he should be trusted? So he is not bigoted, if you agree with his positions is what I am hearing.

    • In my analogy, I am pointing out that an opinion by an enforcer of the law contrary to the law he is to enforce is grounds for professional misconduct. And it is grounds because it undermines our trust in that person to act in the professional capacity he has willingly undertaken.

  6. Look, far too many gay teens are killing themselves. This is the fact to which our schools have been asked by governments to respond because a common factor is that these kids suffer from school bullying and social intolerance.

    As the Prime Minister’s pitbull in Canada said in the House of Commons yesterday, “”Bullying, homophobia, intolerance and incivility have no place in our schools. It underlies the real challenge of depression, mental health, especially among young people.”

    Teachers that continue to ignore this sea change in public policy and insist that their religious bigotry has a home in the profession of teaching need to leave. They are part of the problem… a problem that is killing and continues to kill our children.

    Think about that.

    In the name of piousness, you want a person’s negative beliefs about the morality of sexual orientation (for that in sum total is ALL that informs this sick and perverted notion that same sex attraction is morally wrong… a belief) to have a place of safety in our public schools. The professional colleges for teachers have unanimously made it clear that there is no professional room for this belief.

    It wasn’t that long ago that the moral zeitgeist assumed children of colour were intellectually inferior to the children of god’s favoured white race. But that belief – like the belief that same sex attraction is morally wrong – must make way for reality. And the reality is that there is nothing inherently wrong with same sex attraction that plays out in some reduction to one’s moral character. Nothing. A person’s sexual orientation does not affect this. It is this fact the religiously bigoted cannot grasp because it stands contrary to their belief.

    Well, guess what? The profession of teaching has no room to accommodate those who wish to maintain their bigotry when compared to making the public policy changes necessary to begin to address and alter the school setting that continues to make victims out of kids whose only ‘crime’ is to be wired in a way – like those born with more skin pigmentation – that pious bigots believe is a moral deformity… not on the basis of evidence in reality, from which there is no corroboration in fact, but wholly from an assumption that it is so because a two thousand year old book says as much.

    • Well tildeb, listening to you, you sound as much as a bigot as I am. BTW all christians are exclusivists i.e One way to God, One God, One saviour, One heaven, One hell etc. One is as much wired to be a homosexual (I do not say this as an insult) as I am wired to be a Christian. It is a choice. One you make everyday consciously. I do NOT hate lesbians. I have friends that are lesbians, but, I do not embrace those lifestyles as good. Even if she is a teacher, she must still have some sort of moral compass that guides her, things that help her determine what she sees as right and wrong. If your father was an alcoholic, hooked on drugs, and a wife beater, you would love him as a person, but you would hate his lifestyle so badly that the hatred may even spread to the man himself. When you become a christian, you will understand. The view you are proposing is asking us to blur those lines, and make them indistinct

      • Your presumption is immense that same sex interactions are equivalent in some way to substance abuse and violence. I say it is absolutely natural and in no way negatively influences a person’s moral character. Please, prove me wrong!

        As for your insistence that same sex attraction is a choice, try to recall exactly when you made this choice. If you are honest, I sincerely doubt you weighed your options first and then decided to become heterosexual. You see, js, your neurons fire in physiological arousal because of your biology and not because you choose to be aroused by this or that. And there is ample evidence to suggest that this claim is true. Your claim about choosing one’s sexuality has no equivalent evidence. You hold it to be true simply because you have decided to hold it as if it were true. It’s demonstrably wrong, yet you continue to hold it and do your part to tell others that their biology is wrong, that unlike you, they shouldn’t express their arousal because it is never moral.

        You damn other people for that which they cannot control which is why I call it bigotry no different in quality than blaming others for choosing their skin pigmentation or their gender. And this is why so many kids who are attracted to the same sex prefer to kill themselves rather than be subjected to the never-ending judgement of people like you. That should read like a slap across your moral face when you see yourself as loving. And yet it’s true, expressed over and over by kids who leave messages explaining why they have to kill themselves. You need to wake up.

        As long as you side with the bigots and think yourself pious, you are very much a central part of the problem and stand opposed to supporting the solution, which is to stop practicing this unreasonable and ill-informed hostility and rejection of what other people are. Your glib suggestion that you can ‘hate the sin but love the sinner’ is a lie in the eyes of those who are gay because you are telling them that you cannot love them when they express who and what they are. You try to deny people their biological identity and you have no right to do so on the basis of your belief for which there is zero evidence in reality. You compound your crime by insisting that who people are if expressed, if demonstrated, is actually immoral… not just to you but by god. The oft-repeated question by those who kill themselves is: Why did god make me this way if my feelings are such an abomination if expressed? Whatever your answer to this is empty of value, empty enough for hundreds of kids this year to kill themselves because of the bleakness of their lives living under what you believe is a loving god-sanctioned curse.

        You are the one that needs to change, and you need to make your beliefs secondary to respecting the rights, freedoms, and dignity of your fellow citizens. If you don’t, then you are telling me that it is okay – in fact, moral – to reduce your own rights, freedoms, and dignity in the face of nothing more than my beliefs. That’s why your opinion in this is detrimental to everyone including yourself in the name of piousness that has no merit in fact.

      • The kids killing themselves; every teenager has felt those things before. The issue is when teenagers are not taught that emotions, though very important, are fickle, and cannot be used to make a decision as huge as ending one’s life. As for letters asking God why they were made to feel those emotions, its nothing new. I ask God all the time why I still struggle with lust. As for sexuality being a choice, I think I can say so with confidence. Perhaps as one was growing up, circumstances, and maybe even biology shaped one’s mind into attraction to the same sex, when we become cognitive, and able to make decisions for ourselves, everything we do is a choice. After all, those who do not get married as a choice, and do not have sex till they die make that decision consciously, no matter their sexuality. Heterosexuals who eventually become homosexuals make that choice themselves. I am not saying that heterosexuals are superior to homosexuals, (In fact, I believe that sexual relations of any kind outside marriage is wrong) I would prefer a homosexual who doesn’t act on those emotions, to a heterosexual who abuses sex. Please understand that I am looking at this, as I look at everything else, through the Bible. The same way i do not fault your way of thinking because you are more liberal is the same way you shouldn’t fault mine, isn’t that your message?
        As Xander said:
        “Now as for bigotry, if I think that someone with a different skin color is inferior then yes, I am a bigot. If I think that someone is less morally acceptable because of a sexual orientation, then I would say I am being a bigot as well. If I am saying that I disagree with the sexual orientation for a specific reason, even if you do not agree with that reason, but continue to interact with that person in all areas, unless it crosses my line of faith, then I am not being a bigot. I am operating under my beleifs in which I am justified to do so. I wish all christians would act this way, but they do not so I get grouped in to the bigotry claim.”

    • I agree that too many kids are killing themselves, but not all of them are GLBT teens. I think bullying should be addressed for all kids in that it is not acceptable to harm or intimidate someone because their norm is not the same norm as for the kids around them. I think we are on the same page here. I do not think verbal threats or jeers should be lobbed at the kids either as those do far more damage then the physical sometimes.

      That being said, not condoning homosexuality is not bullying. The teacher can and should be able to disagree with the homosexuality, but still say it is wrong for anyone to harm these kids. As a christian, people should not use their words to hurt and I know that saying that homosexuality is wrong to people does in fact hurt them. As a rule, they should not go up to them and say this, but in private or when asked the christian should not shy away from what they feel.

      The problem is that most who claim christianity do not follow this and thus damage is done. We are not here to preach morality and that is lost on people. Morality is not the result of christianity or the bible, but is a reflection of society and what it finds acceptable.

      Now as for bigotry, if I think that someone with a different skin color is inferior then yes, I am a bigot. If I think that someone is less morally acceptable because of a sexual orientation, then I would say I am being a bigot as well. If I am saying that I disagree with the sexual orientation for a specific reason, even if you do not agree with that reason, but continue to interact with that person in all areas, unless it crosses my line of faith, then I am not being a bigot. I am operating under my beleifs in which I am justified to do so. I wish all christians would act this way, but they do not so I get grouped in to the bigotry claim.

      • You write The teacher can and should be able to disagree with the homosexuality.

        Here’s where you go off the rails of what’s true i n fact and into the wilderness of belief. That’s why it’s bigotry. Tell me why you have any right to ‘disagree’ with homosexuality that doesn’t involve some belief of how specifically the behaviour is harmful to moral character.

      • Xander, you suggest that not condoning homosexuality is not bullying. I think it is. This stark disapproval of how someone is – to my way of thinking – is a rather insidious form of passive aggressive bullying in that it gives the appearance of tolerance for another while at the same time condemning them for the way they are. The basis for this condemnation is without merit or justification outside of a personal belief. Because same sex attraction is not voluntary, your condemnation really is equivalent to condemning someone for something that they cannot change, which is bigotry. I know you don’t like the term and try to pretend that you can respect and love another who is gay and still condemn homosexuality, but this is empty of honesty. You are not respecting someone when you condemn them for who they are. It is a misrepresentation to suggest that a person and the person’s identity are somehow separated only by action that you condemn. You are condemning the action BECAUSE you condemn the identity itself. That’s not ‘love the sinner but hate the sin’; that’s bigotry in action.

  7. @tildeb tell me why you have any right to agree with homosexuality that doesn’t involve some belief of how specifically the behavior is not harmful to moral character

    • It’s not my place to agree or disagree with another person’s sexual attraction if there are no victims. Gays are. Lesbians are. Transexuals and transgendered are. Bisexuals are. So what? Who appointed me to judge and condemn them because our sexual attractions may be different? Who appointed you? No one. You simply assume that your religious belief grants you the privilege, that god himself ordains you (through scripture) as his licensed agent in the matter. Yet I don’t see you stoning your neighbours who pick up sticks on the sabbath. Do you condemn them in the same way you condemn homosexuality? I sincerely doubt your god-granted license to condemn extends into the communities of people with whom you feel an identity… regardless of their ‘sinful’ activities.

      What is deeply ironic is that this teacher is female, yet pays no mind to Paul’s admonishment about suffering no woman to teach. How does that hypocrisy taste, I wonder?

      • In other words, you do not have an opinion? (BTW I understand where you are coming from, and I think you are right. Her professional code of conduct does not permit her to say such opinions. I am still engaged in this debate because I’ve never really had the chance to test my belief on Homosexuality against a coherent opposition). I believe that as a christian, I shouldn’t go around clobbering people with the law. The only people Jesus ever clobbered with the law were the pharisees, never the prostitutes. He offered the prostitutes forgiveness, and love, and grace without condoning their sinful habits. However, if I am asked on my opinion in private, it is that homosexuality is wrong, and is a sin. Controversy arises when Christians do not know what to say in public, and what to say in private.

      • I have a very strong opinion about the importance of secular rights based on excellent Enlightenment reasons to recognize such rights in secular law. I also have a very strong opinion about the importance of confronting bad reasons especially when they are privileged by respect for religious faith. Such is the case of people assigning same sex attraction to be immoral when there are no good reasons to do so. To then privilege this notion of immorality in secular law to deny equal rights to same sex couples as opposite sex couples is bigotry.

        In addition, there is a toll in human lives derived from this common bigotry. Dozens and dozens of young people this month have and will commit suicide because they were made to feel dirty and flawed and broken and guilty and ashamed not because of who they are and the same sex attraction their neurology bestows on them but because others are convinced that they are so. And the only thing doing that convincing is a bigotry ensconced in religion which is granted an unearned respect by otherwise reasonable people who honestly think themselves pious for doing so. The problem here is this faith-based belief that same sex attraction is immoral. It isn’t. That truth claim is a lie.

        There is no evidence from reality that suggests same sex attraction when expressed between consenting adults causes in any way a reduction or impairment of one’s moral character. One’s religious belief doesn’t change this brute fact, although many religious believers think it does. That’s the thinking that is a prime example of bad reasoning that has a negative effect. Nothing positive comes from holding respect for such bigotry, and its exercise – played out a thousand ways a day in the eyes of a person who lives with this same sex attraction – helps to convince these beautiful and talented young people that their pain filled lives are hopeless in the face of this intentional never-ending negative judgement.

        Put another way, do you honestly think that so many young people would intentionally choose to be attracted to another of the same sex to the extent of finding suicide preferable to living in such misery if the option to change one’s choice – presumably as easily as one chose to become attracted – were readily – or even remotely – available?

        It never ceases to amaze me how poorly thought out are the excuses used by people to maintain their belief that their pious bigotry is actually true and moral when such strong evidence stands against it.

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