On Wednesday, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts denied seventh grade student Liam Morrison’s request that he be allowed to immediately express his views on gender identity after the school he attends banned him from wearing a t-shirt that read: “There are only two genders.”
Morrison, who attends Nichols Middle School (NMS) in Middleborough, Massachusetts, garnered national headlines after the school told him he had to change his shirt. Morrison refused and his dad had to pick him up from school. When NMS told Morrison and his family that he would be prohibited from wearing the shirt, he instead wore a shirt with the message, “There are censored genders.” He was told to remove that shirt as well.
Morrison said he wore the shirt because “everyone has a right to their opinions and I wanted to be able to voice mine on a subject that a lot of people were talking about.”
The 12-year-old spoke during a school committee meeting on April 13, saying,
“What did my shirt say? Five simple words, ‘There are only two genders.’ Nothing harmful, nothing threatening, just a statement I believe to be a fact. I have been told that my shirt was targeting a protected class. Who is this protected class? Are their feelings more important than my rights? I don’t complain when I see pride flags and diversity posters hung throughout the school. Do you know why? Because others have a right to their beliefs just as I do.”
The Massachusetts Family Institute (MFI) and Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed suit on Morrison’s behalf. They claim that the school has “adopted one particular view on the subject of sex and gender: that a person’s subjective identity determines whether a person is male or female, not a person’s sex.” They also argue that NMS has “expressed this view through their own speech; instituted annual, school-wide events celebrating their view; and encouraged students to engage in their own speech on this subject—so long as the students express the school’s favored viewpoint.”
NMS claims the shirt was banned because the dress code prohibits clothing that expresses messages that “state, imply, or depict hate speech or imagery that target groups based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, or any other classification.”
On Wednesday, Morrison’s attorneys asked for a preliminary injunction that would stop NMS from enforcing its ban on Morrison’s shirt while the court considers the case. The court denied the request, but there will be another hearing on June 13.
ADF Legal Counsel Logan Spena said in a statement,
“This isn’t about a T-shirt; this is about a public school telling a 7th grader that he isn’t allowed to hold a view that differs from the school’s preferred orthodoxy. Public school officials can’t censor Liam’s speech by forcing him to remove a shirt that states a scientific fact. Doing so is a gross violation of the First Amendment that we’re urging the court to rectify.”
When asked what advice he would give to other people, Morrison replied: “Always fight for what you believe in and never let anyone stop you from believing…In the place that we live or in the time that we live there are a lot of people that try and make it so that you’re not allowed to believe what you can but it’s being taken away from us and being able to speak up not just about…your own opinion but for everybody else is a thing that we should all be doing.”
This is an obvious case of a government institution silencing a citizen because it disagrees with his views. The school argues that his shirt was somehow hate speech or targeting a group, despite the fact that the shirt’s message was not threatening. The school’s intent was made transparent when it prohibited Morrison’s shirt pointing out the school’s censorship.
The real story is not that Morrison was somehow hateful, but that a public school has been celebrating a particular view on sexual orientation and gender identity, essentially advocating for a religious and philosophical viewpoint, a clear violation of the Establishment Clause. The school takes its violations further by attempting to silence a student’s opposing views, views that are actually in keeping with the biological fact that the school should relay to its students — dispelling the gender identity delusion. That shows the state of education: Empirical truth is shunned as hate while ideological propaganda is lauded.
This court should rectify this violation of Morrison’s rights and should issue a strong ruling to guard against further violations. We should all take this brave young student’s advice seriously and defend the right of free speech for all.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14 states,
“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”
There is much pressure to stay quiet on LGBT matters. Yet God’s Word calls us to keep the faith. We must remember that the loving thing to do in this situation is to tell the truth, not a lie, and to withstand the outrage of those who say our beliefs are hateful. The country would be a better place if more Christians were like Liam: courageous, thoughtful, and persistent in speaking the truth — no matter the cost.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.