TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A former Florida State University student Senate president has settled with the university after he was ousted from his role in student government for expressing religious objections to the ACLU and the Black Lives Matter organization.
The agreement comes as legislation looking to protect freedom of speech and viewpoints is awaiting Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature.
“I never imagined I would be fired for being a Christian,” said former FSU Student Senate President Jack Denton in a new video put out by the Alliance Defending Freedom.
Denton found himself the center of controversy after he expressed concerns in a private Catholic student group text.
“One member of the group chat asked us to financially support organizations that advanced causes that were contrary to our Catholic faith,” Denton said in the video.
Denton told students in the chat that BLM’s advocacy for transgender issues and the ACLU’s advocacy for abortion rights were at odds with the Catholic faith. When the texts were leaked, they went viral on campus.
Denton was removed from his position in student government last June after a vote of no confidence.
Logan Spena, with Alliance Defending Freedom, helped Denton sue the university.
“They effectively created and enforced a religious test for office,” Spena said. “The Constitution protects the right of every person, regardless of religion or expression, to participate in government this way.”
State Rep. Spencer Roach, R-Fort Myers, said the incident highlights what he described as an assault on the diversity of thought on college campuses.
“There really does exist this sort of thought police and cancel culture,” Roach said.
Roach sponsored legislation passed this year that would guarantee due process to student government officers like Denton.
“To ensure that he gets fair and equitable treatment when he’s being canceled or silenced,” he said.
A late October decision by the Student Supreme Court reinstated Denton’s role as Senate President, which he held until his graduation in fall of 2020.
Ultimately, Denton settled with the university in Federal Court for $10,000 in damages and just over $1,000 in back pay.
In a statement, the university said it “remains committed to protecting the right of its students to hold and practice their religious beliefs free of persecution. Every student, no matter their religion, has the right to participate in student organizations and hold positions in student government.”