In this day and age, gender identity has become a rather significant and widely discussed issue. However, that doesn’t mean it should take precedence over our legal or religious freedoms and rights. And one teacher in Virginia is fighting to prove this.
In December of 2018, Peter Vlaming, a French teacher at West Point High School, was fired for saying the wrong pronoun when referring to a female student who had recently begun to identify as a male. Vlaming told both the district and CNN that, according to his religious beliefs, he could not refer to the student as male in “good conscience.”
The lawsuit filed against the district states, “Mr. Vlaming’s conscience and religious practice prohibit him from intentionally lying, and he sincerely believes that referring to a female as a male by using an objectively male pronoun is telling a lie.”
While he does claim to use the student’s new male name and avoid all gender-specific pronouns such as him/her and he/she altogether, this apparently was not good enough either for the school district or the student, who demanded that Vlaming “respect who I am.”
As Vlaming said on Fox News last year, “I use the new name, I avoided feminine pronouns, but male pronouns were a bridge too far. But I did everything in my power to accommodate and show respect towards this student and this student’s choices.”
The situation came to a head one day while engaging the class in a virtual reality exercise. The student in question was walking in a particular direction and headed straight for a wall. Mr. Vlaming obviously wanted to prevent the student from running into the said wall and, therefore, advised the students, saying, “Don’t let her hit the wall.”
According to the suit, the student waited until after the class ended to speak to Vlaming about his mistake, during which time the student said, “Mr. Vlaming, you may have your religion, but you need to respect who I am.”
Vlaming insists that the use of the female pronoun was unintentional and was not meant to offend the student. He said that in the heat of the moment, he merely reacted. And apparently, wrongly.
However, he doesn’t believe that he should have been fired over the issue.
He told the school board, “My religious faith dictates that I am to love and respect everyone, whether I agree with them or not. Because we are made in God’s image.” However, this did little to sway them.
They voted unanimously 5-0 that Vlaming should be fired for “intolerance,” which we find ironic based on the violations of his religious freedoms. They said, “We do not and cannot tolerate discrimination in any form, or actions that create a hostile environment or any member of our school family.”
And they continued, saying, “West Point Public Schools’ primary focus is on the students, staff, and instruction. We will continue to direct our energy toward maintaining a high-quality learning environment in our schools.”
And so a lawsuit has now been filed against the school district. According to CNN, “The former teacher is now suing the school district officials, saying they breached his contract and discriminated against him, violating his right to speak freely and his religious freedom.”
“He is seeking $500,000 in lost wages ad benefits, plus $500,000 for loss reputation, pain, suffering, and emotional distress. He is asking to get his job back or another position at equal or higher pay.”
Tyson Langhofer, director of the Alliance Defending Freedom’s Center for Academic Freedom, says, “This is just about a pronoun; it’s about what that pronoun means. This was never about anything Peter said or did; only about what the school was demanding he says. Nobody should be forced to contradict his core beliefs just to keep a job.”
Gender identity is significant, and we should respect others as much as we possibly can, but that shouldn’t mean that we have to sacrifice our values and religious beliefs just to keep someone happy. The simple fact is that you can’t make everyone else happy. And sometimes, no matter how hard you try, it’s just not going to happen. You’ll run yourself into an early grave trying to do so.
The question is: What is more important? You living out your personal and religious convictions, or giving up to make someone else who doesn’t respect you for you happy?
Peter made the right choice.