Georgia School Officials Will Pay $181K, Reinstate Wrongfully Fired Teacher

The following is a press release from Alliance Defending Freedom.

SAVANNAH, Ga. – To settle a lawsuit brought by a fired Georgia substitute teacher, officials at McAllister Elementary and Bryan County Schools have agreed to reinstate her, pay $181,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees, and publicly expressed regret after violating her constitutionally protected freedoms.

Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys represent Lindsey Barr. Bryan County Schools officials fired her as a substitute teacher merely for expressing concerns as a parent over drawings in a picture book being presented to students, including her own young children, at McAllister Elementary School during a library read-aloud program. The book, “All Are Welcome,” contains several illustrations of same-sex couples parenting and expecting children.

“Lindsey spoke out as a Christian, a mother, and a private citizen on an important issue—namely, the content and age-appropriateness of a picture book that the school planned to read to her kids and other elementary-aged children that conflicted with her family’s values and faith. Yet school officials immediately retaliated against her for expressing those views and fired her from a job at which she excelled,” said ADF Senior Counsel Philip A. Sechler. “We commend the school district for finally doing the right thing and understanding that the First Amendment protects the right of Lindsey—and all public employees—to express their concerns about what schools are teaching children without the government cancelling them.”

As part of the settlement agreement, the Bryan County Schools superintendent issued a letter to Barr announcing the reinstatement of her teaching position: “Upon returning, we encourage you as a parent to raise concerns about material being taught to your children,” the superintendent wrote. “Raising such concerns does not preclude employment in our district. For the future, we are focused on the value you add for children across the district as a substitute teacher. We sincerely regret that your separation from the school district caused any distress.”

“Terminating a teacher for engaging in First Amendment protected expression creates an atmosphere of fear and sends a message to the teacher and others in the community that, if they criticize the school’s approach to cultural or political issues or express viewpoints contrary to the school’s preferred viewpoints, they will face consequences,” said ADF Senior Counsel Tyson Langhofer, director of the ADF Center for Academic Freedom. “That’s unlawful and why we had to file suit in Lindsey’s situation. The settlement the school district agreed to is a victory for Lindsey, the families of Bryan County Schools, and every parent’s fundamental right to speak out concerning their children.”

Barr’s situation highlights the need for the new Georgia law, the Parents’ Bill of Rights, that recognizes the “fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their minor children” and affords them the “right to review all instructional material intended for use in the classroom of his or her minor child.” This law directs each board of education, including the Bryan County Board of Education, to adopt “procedures for a parent to object to instructional material intended for use in his or her minor child’s classroom or recommended by his or her minor child’s teacher.”

In light of the settlement in the lawsuit, Barr v. Tucker, ADF attorneys filed a stipulated dismissal Monday.

Keri M. Martin, one of more than 4,700 attorneys in the ADF Attorney Network, served as local counsel on behalf of Barr.

  • Pronunciation guide: Sechler (SECK-lur); Langhofer (LANG’-hoff-ur)

Alliance Defending Freedom is an alliance-building, non-profit legal organization committed to protecting religious freedom, free speech, parental rights, and the sanctity of life.

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Upholding Religious Liberty: A Timeless Principle

This is part of Family Council’s ongoing series outlining the importance of traditional family values in society. Today’s installment focuses on the value of religious liberty.

Religious liberty is a core value woven into the fabric of our nation.

Below are a few points to consider.

Religious Liberty is a Fundamental Human Right

The free exercise of religion is a fundamental human right secured by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Religious liberty lets individuals practice their faith without fear of persecution or discrimination.

Protecting the free exercise of religion helps ensure people are able to live out their deeply held convictions in everyday life.

The Free Exercise of Religion Promotes Morality and Ethics

On August 23, 1984, President Ronald Reagan delivered a speech at the Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast in Dallas, Texas. During the speech he commented,

“Without God, there is no virtue, because there’s no prompting of the conscience. Without God, we’re mired in the material, that flat world that tells us only what the senses perceive. Without God, there is a coarsening of the society.”

Faith and religion help shape moral values and principles. Religious freedom ensures we’re able to follow our beliefs and pass them on to future generations.

Religion and Charity Benefit All of Society

In 2016 researchers writing in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research and Religion published a study examining economic contributions of religious institutions. Researchers estimated “religion” in America contributes at least $378 billion to the U.S. economy annually — and possibly as much as $1.2 trillion or more.

Religious freedom allows individuals to provide a source of support and comfort in their communities. It lets people and groups engage in charity and service motivated by their faith.

Religious liberty also helps build a healthy society, because it lets people of different faiths live out their beliefs peacefully and respectfully without government interference.

Arkansas Legislature Passes Religious Freedom Law

On Thursday the Arkansas Legislature passed what could be the strongest religious freedom protection law in the country.

H.B. 1615, the Conscience Protection Act by Rep. Robin Lundstrum (R — Elm Springs) and Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R — Branch), makes important clarifications to the state Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The bill also helps prohibit religious discrimination against individuals, business owners, and organizations that want to follow their deeply held religious convictions.

In 2015 Gov. Hutchinson signed Arkansas’ Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law. That good law has been on the books for the past eight years — but it needs to be improved upon.

Over the past decade, we have seen wedding venuesbakeriesphotography studios, and florist shops come under fire, because their owners wanted to operate according to their deeply held convictions.

Our laws must protect religious liberty as much as possible. H.B. 1615 improves on good state law to help prevent the government from burdening the free exercise of religion in Arkansas.

H.B. 1615 has already passed in the Arkansas House of Representatives, where it received very strong support. The bill now goes to Gov. Sanders to become law.

The Following Senators Voted For H.B. 1615

  • J. Boyd
  • J. Bryant
  • A. Clark
  • Crowell
  • B. Davis
  • Dees
  • J. Dismang
  • J. Dotson
  • J. English
  • Flippo
  • Gilmore
  • K. Hammer
  • Hester
  • Hickey
  • Hill
  • Irvin
  • B. Johnson
  • M. Johnson
  • B. King
  • M. McKee
  • J. Payton
  • C. Penzo
  • J. Petty
  • Rice
  • Stone
  • G. Stubblefield
  • D. Sullivan
  • D. Wallace

The Following Senators Voted Against H.B. 1615

  • G. Leding
  • F. Love
  • R. Murdock
  • C. Tucker

The Following Senator Did Not Vote

  • L. Chesterfield

The Following Senators Were Excused From Voting

  • Caldwell
  • S. Flowers