The firing of a Christian teacher at a public high school over his “misgendering” of a student caught national attention last week, and now evangelist Franklin Graham is weighing in with strong words.
47-year-old French teacher Peter Vlaming lost his job recently after he stood his ground and refused to comply with his school district’s orders that he stop “mispronouning” a student in his class at West Point High School, about 35 miles east of Richmond, Virginia.
The female student in question was in Vlaming’s class the past two school years and identified as a female. This school year, Vlaming was told she now identified as male, but he found it difficult to refer to her as one and slipped up a couple times, according to a petition created to support Vlaming.
The student’s parents complained, leading to Vlaming being ordered by school administration to always call the student a “he.” The teacher refused, citing his Christian faith.
"I won't use male pronouns with a female student that now identifies as a male, though I did agree to use the new masculine name but avoid female pronouns,” Vlaming said, according to the petition. “Administration is requiring that I use masculine pronouns in any and every context at school. I was informed that any further instances of using female pronouns would be grounds for termination."
Despite trying to create a workable solution with the school district, Vlaming was fired after a unanimous vote from the school board. Many students and parents responded by protesting the district.
The district claims Vlaming violated a new non-discrimination policy. Vlaming hired attorney Shawn Voyles, who says that policy is vague and says nothing about the use of pronouns. He added that his client’s constitutionally protected rights are being trampled on.
“One of those rights that is not curtailed is to be free from being compelled to speak something that violates your conscience,” he said.
“Peter's lawyer is right to ask where are the teacher’s First Amendment rights in all of this,” wrote Graham in response to all this on Monday. “Why is tolerance never a two-way street?”
“These cases are cropping up more and more frequently, and just think of the ramifications,” the son of the late Rev. Billy Graham pointed out. “Just ten years ago we wouldn’t have thought this would even be possible.”
“Where is this coming from?” he asked. “The school boards and teachers’ unions are allowing this to happen.”
“This is why it is so important for Christians to run for school boards, be involved, and let your voice be heard,” Graham concluded. “Transgender policies are causing chaos and confusion, stealing privacy, and compelling speech.”