Free to Believe

Jerry Buell

Mount Dora High School: Florida

In July 2011, Mount Dora High School American history teacher Jerry Buell was suspended from the classroom and reassigned to an administrative role after controversial comments he made about same-sex unions on Facebook. The central Florida 2010-11 Teacher of the Year had posted the comment on his personal Facebook page, in response to New York State's decision to allow court-created same-sex marriage on July 25, 2011. His comment read, "I almost threw up ... Now they showed two guys kissing. If they want to call it a union, go ahead. But don't insult a man and woman's marriage by throwing it in the same cesspool... God will not be mocked. When did this sin become acceptable?"

In an interview with Fox News Radio, Buell said "It was my own personal comment on my own personal time on my own personal computer in my own personal house, exercising what I believed as a social studies teacher to be my First Amendment rights."

On August 25, 2011, Mount Dora High School reinstated him as a teacher. While the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) neither represented him or supported what he had to say, they published a statement supporting his right to say it: "Given our belief that Mr. Buell's off-campus Facebook post, though offensive, was protected by the First Amendment, we are satisfied to see that the school board has taken no further disciplinary action."

Three years later, however, Buell was in the news defending religious liberty again—this time, on behalf of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) at Mount Dora High School, for which he served as faculty advisor. In April 2014, the Christian legal advocacy organization Liberty Counsel sued the Lake County School Board on behalf of the FCA and Buell, charging that the school had discriminated against FCA by not granting them the same privileges as other, non-religious student groups. Fortunately, a month later the school entered into a consent decree under which they agreed to equal access for the FCA club.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Jerry Buell