A married interracial lesbian couple in Tennessee has filed a federal lawsuit against a local gym teacher, alleging that he forced their son to take part in regular Bible study sessions that included being subjected to anti-gay sermons in order to take part in a school-sponsored basketball program.
The parents, referred to as K.K. and K.K. in the lawsuit — which was filed in the Eastern District of Tennessee on March 4 — also claim that Knox County and West Valley Middle School, which their son, A.K., attends, have known about gym teacher Chuck Comer’s “Teens for Christ” program for the past eight years and done nothing to stop his recruiting efforts.
According to the lawsuit, the students were allegedly told by Comer that if they wanted to play basketball, they had to attend the twice-a-week Bible study sessions, each lasting for 30 minutes, before school.
As part of the program, Comer would read from the Bible, and in particular, share his religious beliefs on homosexuality, which he considers a sin and has repeatedly spoken out against.
K.K. and K.K. claim that, by requiring youth to participate in the Bible study in order to join the team, Comer is violating the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause by proselytizing to students.
They are seeking $1 million in compensatory damages, and $10 million in punitive damages, for the violations of their rights, which caused them to suffer “serious mental injury and damages.”
K.K. allege that Knox County is guilty of “deliberate indifference” by refusing to take action to stop Comer from attempting to indoctrinate the basketball players according to his personal religious beliefs, thus condoning his behavior.
They also claim the county has failed to rein in Comer, and potentially other school officials, by failing to provide them with training or supervision that would prevent them from proselytizing to students.
They are asking the court for an injunction to stop Comer and the county from requiring basketball players to participate in the “Teens for Christ” program.
Carly Harrington, a spokeswoman for Knox County Schools, said the system doesn’t comment on pending litigation, but told the Knoxville-based NBC affiliate WBIR that students are “not required to attend Bible study as a prerequisite to playing basketball at West Valley Middle School or any other Knox County school.”
As a free LGBTQ publication, Metro Weekly relies on advertising in order to bring you unique, high quality journalism, both online and in our weekly edition. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has forced many of our incredible advertisers to temporarily close their doors to protect staff and customers, and so we’re asking you, our readers, to help support Metro Weekly during this trying period. We appreciate anything you can do, and please keep reading us on the website and our new Digital Edition, released every Thursday and available for online reading or download.