Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Teacher Fired For What He Refused To Say

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Last December, a few days before Christmas, high school teacher Peter Vlaming was fired from his position for choosing not to use a male pronoun in addressing a girl, who had begun "identifying" as a boy.

He sued. Now the case is going to court.

This is an important case. It will have national implications.

It reminds me of Charles Dickens' novel "Bleak House," where Dickens introduces us to Harold Skimpole--a charming parasite.

Be informed.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported last December that high school French teacher Peter Vlaming had been fired for refusing to use a transgender student's new pronouns.

The Richmond, Virginia Times explained that Vlaming's "Christian faith had prevented him from using male pronouns for a student he saw as female."

However, Vlaming agreed to use the student's new male name. But that wasn't enough.

Administrators sided with the boy, the newspaper reported, claiming "That discrimination then leads to creating a hostile learning environment, and the student has expressed that. The parent had expressed that, and West Point schools Superintendent Abel agreed."

Is this discrimination? If so, against whom?

The hearing room was packed with an overflow crowd, made up mostly of parents and students supporting a man they described as a model teacher who does extra duty as a soccer coach and bus driver. Some brought signs that read, "Justice for Mr. Vlaming," but the administration made them leave the signs at the door.

Vlaming's lawyer told the administration that even as a public employee, Vlaming has constitutional rights.

Not only did the school administration require the taxpayers to leave their signs at the door, but they are also apparently demanding Christian teachers leave their religious beliefs at the door.

The lawyer continued, "One of those rights that is not curtailed is to be free from being compelled to speak something that violates your conscience."

Speaking in his own defense, Vlaming said he loves and respects all his students and had tried to reach a solution based on "mutual tolerance." That effort was rejected, he said, putting him at risk of losing his job for having views held by "most of the world for most of human history."

Vlaming said, "That is not tolerance. That is coercion."

The newspaper article goes on and on and on, concluding that "It's not clear if Vlaming's firing will lead to a wrongful-termination lawsuit." That was last December.

Fast forward to October 2019. There is a lawsuit. And Vlaming wrote a scathing op-ed in the Washington Times.

The lawsuit.

Last month, Vlaming filed a lawsuit against the school board, seeking a permanent injunction reinstating him and a permanent injunction stopping officials from punishing staff for their views on gender identity.

The Christian law firm, Alliance Defending Freedom,  is representing Vlaming. Caleb Dalton, with ADF, says of Vlaming,
"He works hard to make his students feel welcomed. In his French class, he always calls his students by the name they choose. He just didn't want to be forced to use a pronoun that offends his conscience. That's entirely reasonable, and it's his constitutionally protected right. Tolerance after all, is a two way street."

He's right, tolerance is a two-way street---or it isn't tolerance. However, the LGBTQ activists have twisted the concept of tolerance to mean "affirm"---even "celebrate." And tolerance has become the tool of choice in the world of political correctness. It is no longer a "virtue" to be desired, it's an instrument of force used to prevail over those who hold different views.

The op-ed.

Peter Vlaming gives a brief overview of his unblemished career as a teacher, his community service within the school community, and his undying love for teaching and for his students.

The student body and their parents agree. Except for one student, and one family. And the school board.

He says,
"The pronoun issue is important to me. I am, after all, a language teacher. Pronouns mean something---they refer to a person's biological sex. I believe sex is biological, not psychological, and it cannot be changed, no matter how much physical and emotional effort a person invests to that end."

He wrote,
"I'm not looking for an official endorsement of my point of view---only the freedom to exercise my profession while maintaining my convictions---the freedom not to speak a message we don't believe."

Vlaming said, "I'm being punished for what I haven't said."


I believe this case will get significant national attention.

Monday, John Stonestreet with BreakPoint Ministries, published an article that began with this:

In the novel “Bleak House,” Charles Dickens introduces us to Harold Skimpole, a man who seems charming and reasonable but is quickly revealed to be a mooch and a parasite. Skimpole lives comfortably off of his friends. Even worse, he believes he’s entitled to the standard of living his friends provide, giving no thought at all to what it took to make his life comfortable in the first place.
Western culture is Skimpole-like. In other words, we take ideas such as freedom and human dignity for granted, without ever stopping to think about where those ideas came from in the first place.

He then tells a story of a teacher in Great Britain who, not unlike that of Peter Vlaming, could not in good conscience cooperate with the demands of the personal pronoun social agenda.

When charged with not complying, Dr. David Mackereth told his superiors that he is a Christian and in good conscience cannot use pronouns that way. He too was fired.

He was brought before an employment tribunal, of sorts. He said he couldn't comply with the demands to refer to a "six-foot-tall bearded man as a 'she' or a 'her'." He then quoted Genesis 1:27, "So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."

The employment tribunal responded with this. And this is a quote:
"Belief in Genesis 1:27, a lack of belief in transgenderism and conscientious objection to transgenderism in our judgment are incompatible with human dignity and conflict with the fundamental rights of others."

Stonestreet makes the argument that had Scripture not introduced the image of God to the world's lexicon in the first place, the notion of human dignity wouldn't exist. Even raging atheist---God is Dead---Friedrich Nietzsche admitted that much.

The history of the idea of human dignity is striking and clear, but it's also ignored by people like Dickens' Skimpole, who never think about where the blessings of life actually come from.

Christians can serve the world by "reminding it of its own history, not the least of which is because human dignity will never last if it is untethered from the one and only source that ever gave it to the world in the first place."

This is why Founding Father Patrick Henry said, "When people forget God, tyrants forge their chains."

Be Informed. Be Discerning. Be Vigilant. Be Faithful. Be Prayerful.