Florida State University settled a case with a former student who alleged he had been removed from his student government leadership position because of his religious beliefs.
Jack Denton settled with FSU on Tuesday, nearly one year after he was ousted as student senate president for criticizing progressive groups like Black Lives Matter, his lawyers told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
FSU agreed to pay Denton $10,000 in damages and $1,050 in back pay which he would’ve earned if he hadn’t been removed.
“If you stand against cancel culture, you can win,” Alliance Defending Freedom senior counsel Tyson Langhofer told the DCNF. “Cancel culture is scary and it’s very active, but Jack shows that if you stand, you can win.”
“I hope that’s the message students across the country see when they hear about Jack’s case,” he said.
Denton, who has since graduated, said he felt blessed to have been able to defend truth and justice alongside ADF. The settlement brought him great relief, he added.
“I hope that my case will embolden other students to not be afraid to speak their mind and to share their religious convictions with others,” Denton told the DCNF.
“When we engage in free speech, we make society better.”
In the wake of George Floyd’s death last year, Denton advised friends in a private Roman Catholic student group text message not to donate money to Black Lives Matter or the American Civil Liberties Union. He argued the groups promote causes like transgenderism and abortion that violate Roman Catholic teaching.
Denton was then voted out of his leadership position after the texts were leaked to other student senators. Denton was accused of “dehumanizing” others and being “explicitly racist.”
ADF filed a federal lawsuit against FSU administrators in August, arguing that Denton’s removal was “unconstitutional retaliation” in violation of his First Amendment rights. Denton only sued after attempting to resolve the issue via internal school procedures, Langhofer said.
“The policies were clear,” Langhofer told the DCNF. “[The lawsuit] could have been avoided if the university had the courage to stand up and say this was not right.”
After Judge Allen Winsor of the Northern District Court of Florida ruled in favor of Denton in October, ADF entered negotiations with the school over a settlement.
FSU must issue a statement affirming that it is committed to protecting the rights of all students “no matter their religion” under the settlement.
The university must also correct its webpage listing former student government leaders and mention that Denton was reinstated per court order.
“The First Amendment is universal and extends to people of all beliefs,” Denton said. “This victory is a victory for all religious students.”
The settlement affirmed that students cannot be punished for their religious beliefs, ADF legal counsel Logan Spena said in a statement.
“We are pleased that Florida State has finally affirmed its commitment to students’ First Amendment rights on campus,” Spena said. “All students should be able to peacefully share their personal convictions without fear of retaliation.”
FSU didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
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