A Catholic student at Florida State University who was serving as student senate president at Florida State University is suing the university and student senate officials at the school because he was forced out of his position after stating in a private group chat that “BlackLivesMatter.com, Reclaim the Block, and the ACLU all advocate for things that are explicitly anti-Catholic.”
Jack Denton, a rising senior at FSU, is a member of the Catholic Student Union, whose members participate in a group chat which discusses event information, making prayer requests, and current events. On June 3, 2020, after noting that a student had shared a link to a video on YouTube that raised advertising and donation revenue for several organizations derived in part from each time a person views the video while another student shared a list of the video’s beneficiaries, Denton wrote, “The various funds on that list are fine causes as far as I know, but everyone should be aware that BlackLivesMatter.com, Reclaim the Block, and the ACLU all advocate for things that are explicitly anti-Catholic.”
When he was asked to clarify his remarks, Denton added, “BlackLivesMatter.com fosters ‘a queer-affirming network’ and defends transgenderism. The ACLU defends laws protecting abortion facilities and sued states that restrict access to abortion. Reclaim the Block claims less police will make our communities safer and advocates for cutting PDs’ budgets. This is a little less explicit, but I think it’s contrary to the Church’s teaching on the common good.”
He added,“I don’t mean to anger anyone – I know this is a very emotional topic. However, it is important to know what you’re supporting when you’re Catholic. If I stay silent while my brothers and sisters may be supporting an organization that promotes grave evils, I have sinned through my silence. I love you all, and I want us all to be aware of the truth. As far as [whether] it’s a religious issue or not, there isn’t an aspect of our lives that isn’t religious, because God wants our whole lives and everything we do to be oriented around him!”
One of Denton’s peers took screenshots of the chat and posted them online; Denton was unaware of that fact.
The same day, during the student senate meeting, one senator made a motion of no-confidence against Denton, stating that she made the motion because she was “offended and scandalized by the rhetoric that Jack Denton used.” She accused Mr. Denton of describing some people as “grave evil” and said that she made her motion “because people who have described me and my community as ‘grave evils’ have done it with the intention to not only hurt me emotionally but to hurt me physically.” Other senators offered other criticisms of Denton for his remarks.
The vote to remove Denton failed, but on June 5, after a petition was created to remove Denton from his position that gained over 6,000 signatures and a public campaign was launched, Denton himself called for a special session to hear public statements from the student body and to allow the Senate to entertain a second motion of no-confidence. The senate voted to remove Denton from office.
In the lawsuit, the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is representing Denton, noted, “The ‘grave evils’ to which Mr. Denton referred are policies that undermine the state’s ability to fulfill its duties of protecting innocent human life and pursue the common good or that promote views of sex, marriage, and gender that are harmful to human beings. Mr. Denton’s comments do not state or imply that any human person is a ‘grave evil.’ Mr. Denton’s belief that all human beings are made in the image of God prohibits him from regarding any person as a ‘grave evil’ even if a person engages in ‘grave evils.’”
The lawsuit notes: “In accordance with his faith, Mr. Denton believes that all human lives are infinitely valuable because all human beings are made in the image of God.” It continues:
Mr. Denton believes that it is the state’s duty to protect all innocent human lives from conception until natural death. Mr. Denton believes that legal abortion is inconsistent with the state’s duty to protect innocent human lives from conception until natural death.”
Mr. Denton believes that it is also the state’s duty to use its legitimate authority to pursue the common good. Mr. Denton believes that, because human beings have sinned and broken fellowship with God, the state must use law enforcement in order to fulfil its duties to protect innocent human life and pursue the common good.
Mr. Denton believes that the state’s use of law enforcement must be fair, constrained by adequate legal processes, and evenhanded. Mr. Denton believes that unjustified use of force is a dereliction of the state’s duties to protect innocent human life and pursue the common good.
Mr. Denton believes that racially-motivated, unjustified use of force is an especially egregious violation of the state’s duties to protect innocent human life and pursue the common good. Mr. Denton also believes that the contemporary movement to defund the police would, if successful, undermine the state’s ability to fulfil its duties of protecting innocent human life and pursue the common good. Mr. Denton believes that human beings are male and female.
Mr. Denton believes that God created marriage as a gift to humanity and as a permanent, exclusive, and monogamous union between one man and one woman. Mr. Denton believes that God gave sexual intercourse as a gift to humanity to be enjoyed exclusively within marriage as God designed it.
Mr. Denton believes that honoring God’s design for sex and marriage is conducive to human flourishing, while rejecting that design is harmful. Mr. Denton believes that affirming human gender as male and female consistent with biological sex is conducive to human flourishing, while rejecting biological sex and affirming subjective gender identities is harmful.
The lawsuit points out, “The Student Senate and the University deprived Mr. Denton of the ability to seek recourse from the Student Supreme Court.Mr. Denton has tried to resolve this matter through the internal procedures of the SGA and the University, but Defendants have prevented him from doing so. On June 18, 2020, Mr. Denton filed a complaint with the Student Supreme Court alleging that the Senate’s removal violated its own procedures, the Student Body Statutes, the Student Body Constitution, and federal law. The Student Supreme Court took no notice of Mr. Denton’s appeal.”