A homophobic pastor is threatening to sue a public high school in Tennessee after his daughter was sent home for wearing an anti-gay t-shirt.
Rich Penkoski, leader of extremist anti-LGBTQ hate group “Warriors for Christ,” told the Christian Post that his daughter’s First Amendment rights were violated after she was told to leave Livingston Academy in Livingston, Tenn.
His daughter Brielle, who is 15, wore a t-shirt with “homosexuality is a sin” written on the front, as well as “1 Corinthians 6:9-10,” which is a Biblical passage interpreted by many Christians as outlawing homosexuality — though the exact translation is still subject to debate.
“My 15 year old was thrown out of school for the day for wearing this shirt,” Penkoski tweeted last month. “#lgbt wants to trample on your #freespeech rights while they cry for special rights.”
Speaking to the Christian Post, Penkoski said that Brielle was sent to the school’s principal, Richard Melton, who asked her to remove the shirt because of its “sexual connotation.” When she refused, she was sent home, he said.
Penkoski complained that one of the school’s teachers had an LGBTQ Pride sticker in their classroom featuring the words, “Diverse, Inclusive, Accepting, Welcoming Safe Space For Everyone.”
He seemed perplexed as to why Melton would allow the sticker, but not his daughter’s homophobic t-shirt, and said that Brielle wanted to “express her values.”
“She wanted to do this on her own. She wanted to go there to…express her values like all the other kids do,” he said. “They’ve got kids walking around with the pride symbol on their sneakers and pride clothing and nobody bats an eye.”
Penkoski continued: “She was basically censored. It’s not fair…that she’s told that she can’t wear that shirt and other people can wear the stuff that they wear.”
He also complained that his daughter was punished for being a Christian and repeating “what the Bible says,” even though her shirt was not a direct quotation.
“Simply saying ‘homosexuality is a sin’ is not hate speech,” he said. “That’s what the Bible says. And we need to start preaching truthfully.”
He is now reportedly “contemplating legal action,” according to the Christian Post.
Penkoski has a history of anti-LGBTQ statements, and has publicly opposed Drag Queen Story Hours, where drag queens read books to children.
Last year, his YouTube page for Warriors for Christ was demonetized after repeatedly posting anti-LGBTQ content, including opposition to gay and transgender people.
He has tweeted accusations that LGBTQ people “prey” on children, including accusing gay people of “always targeting children” and saying they want to “take children from Christian homes to indoctrinate” and branding them pedophiles.
He has also called gay people “perverts,” and said homophobia is a “made up word” and “satanic propaganda.”
These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!