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Catholic teenager suspended for saying there are only two genders sues school district

Exeter High School in Exeter, New Hampshire. / Austin Blake Grant via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Denver Newsroom, Nov 17, 2021 / 18:00 pm (CNA).

A Catholic teenager who was reportedly suspended for saying there are only two genders is suing his New Hampshire public school district.

The lawsuit, filed in a state court Nov. 4, said that the teen’s suspension from a football game in September breached the teen’s constitutional right to free speech, as well as the New Hampshire Bill of Rights, reported The Portsmouth Herald.

The teen, identified only as M.P., is a freshman at Exeter High School, a public high school in Exeter, New Hampshire.

The lawsuit, filed in Rockingham Superior Court through an attorney with the Christian organization Cornerstone, describes M.P. as “a believing Catholic, holding to the historic Christian doctrine that God created human beings male and female.” 

Citing the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education’s 2019 document “Male and Female He Created Them,” the suit says: “The Catholic Church’s formal teachings explicitly reject all ‘attempts to negate the male-female duality of human nature.’”

The lawsuit challenges the school district’s “Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students” policy, which states that “A student has the right to be addressed by a name and pronoun that corresponds to the student’s gender identity.”

Cornerstone argues that the policy penalizes students who, out of religious conviction, decline to address students by their preferred gender pronouns, rather than the pronouns corresponding with their biological sex.

The policy adds: “The intentional or persistent refusal to respect a student’s gender identity (for example, intentionally referring to the student by a name or pronoun that does not correspond to the student’s gender identity) is a violation of this policy.”

The lawsuit traces the suspension back to a Spanish class on Sept. 9 in which a teacher asked students to introduce themselves. A student reportedly expressed a preference for being addressed as “they.”

M.P. had no interaction with the student, the lawsuit said, but spoke with two friends on a school bus about the use of third-person pronouns in Spanish. 

The lawsuit asserts that a female student overheard the conversation and interjected: “There’s more than two genders!” 

M.P. reportedly replied: “No there isn’t: there’s only two genders.”

The young man is said to have received a text message later from the female student seeking to continue the discussion.

“The two then had a contentious exchange of texts on the issue,” the lawsuit said, which took place “outside of school hours and off school grounds.” 

The texts were given to the school administration and resulted in M.P.’s suspension, the suit says.

Exeter Superintendent David Ryan said that he was aware of the lawsuit, which seeks nominal damages and an injunction prohibiting the school district from applying the policy “to penalize, through athletic suspension or other means, mere expression of the belief that there are only two genders.”

“We are in the process of reviewing this complaint with legal counsel and will be able to share a statement once we have completed that review,” Ryan said.

The lawsuit argues that the school district policy and the chain of events leading to the suspension are not neutral towards religion.

“Instead, they compel M. P. to deny the historic tenets of his faith by affirming non-binary gender identities and/or using ideologically loaded terms such as the singular pronoun ‘they,’ it said. 

“Defendants’ policies and actions disfavor the expression of beliefs held by tens of millions of believing Catholics in the United States, as well as by countless other traditional Christians, Muslims, and Orthodox Jews.”


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