Was Jesus a Homophobe?

A high school principal in Waynesville, Ohio would like you to know that it is "indecent" to say that Jesus is not a homophobe. That's right. Somehow, standing up for Jesus and defending him against charges that he fears and hates people is "inappropriate." And this comes to light during Holy Week, no less. How many indignities does Jesus have to suffer?

It all began when Maverick Couch, a high school student in Waynesville, Ohio, wore a T-shirt that says "Jesus Is Not a Homophobe" to observe the annual National Day of Silence last April, a day sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Eduction Network (GLSEN) in which thousands of schools participate to bring attention to bullying in schools.

The school principal at Waynesville High School, Randy Gebhardt, summoned the young man to his office and ordered him to turn the T-shirt inside out. Couch did so, but after doing some research that night, he concluded that he had a First Amendment right to wear the T-shirt. So, he put it on the next day. He was told by the principal that he'd be suspended if he didn't take off.

Couch complied again but didn't let the issue rest. He eventually contacted Lambda Legal, the LGBT legal group, which sent a letter to the principal explaining the student's First Amendment rights. And that's when the school sent Lambda (which has now filed a federal lawsuit on Couch's behalf) its reasoning for banning the T-shirt: "[T]he message communicated by the student's T-shirt is sexual in nature and therefore indecent and inappropriate in a school setting."

So it's "sexual in nature" to say that Jesus doesn't condemn people? It's "indecent" to stand up for Jesus and defend his honor? And it's "inappropriate" to point to his values of love and brotherhood on a day focused on bringing attention to bullying?

Back in 2006, anti-gay groups were livid, screaming that their religious freedoms were trampled on, when evangelical Christian students at a Sacramento high school were sent home after they wore T-shirts that said, "Homosexuality is sin. Jesus can set you free." And they were apoplectic when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that year stating that a San Diego student didn't have the right to wear a T-shirt to school that said, "Homosexuality is shameful," because it is "injurious to gay and lesbian students and interfered with their right to learn."

The court was right, of course. Schools should foster free speech but must make sure no student's speech creates a hostile atmosphere in the learning environment. And there's nothing injurious to anyone about Maverick Couch's T-shirt. So will we see the so-called "pro-family" evangelical Christian groups coming out in full force to defend Couch's religious freedom and laud him for defending Jesus during this sacred week when Christians reflect on his teachings? Don't hold your breath.