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Federal Court Rejects Appeal By Teacher Told Not To Hand Out Anti-Gay Material

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Federal Court Rejects Appeal By Teacher Told Not To Hand Out Anti-Gay Material

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

September 26, 2006 - 12:01 am ET

(Galesburg, Illinois) A federal appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit by a teacher who claimed her constitutional rights were violated when the college she worked for said she could not hand out pamphlets to students condemning homosexuality and advocating Christianity.

A Jewish student at Carl Sandburg College, in Galesburg, about 180 miles southwest of Chicago, complained in 2002 when cosmetology teacher Martha Louise Piggee gave him the tracts which called homosexuality a sin and called for people to read the Bible and be baptized.

Piggee was told she could not hand out the material and that her action qualified as sexual harassment. She was neither fired nor disciplined.

Nevertheless Piggee went to court accusing the college, the board of trustees and five college administrators of violating her due process rights and her constitutional rights to free speech. The suit said that the college's sexual harassment policy was not clear.

Piggee's attorney Brian Heller called the college's restrictions a "gag order."

A lower court ruled against her and in February the case was appealed to the 7th Circuit. Arguments were heard by a three-member panel of the court.

Writing for the panel Judge Diane P. Wood said that the college had a right to insist Piggee refrain from proselytizing while serving as an instructor because her expression of religious beliefs had nothing to do with her job of teaching cosmetology.

Heller said he will ask the full appellate court to reconsider. In an interview with the Register-mail Heller said that Piggee's classroom was in fact a beauty salon at the college and noted that in privately owned salons there frequently are "free-wheeling discussions" on topics from sports to religion.

Heller also said that Piggee is prepared to fight the case all the way to the US Supreme Court.

"She wants to be told the college can't censor her speech," Heller told the Register-Mail.

©365Gay.com 2006

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