Appeals court rules for anti-gay T-shirt

March 2, 2011 at 2:45 PM

CHICAGO, March 2 (UPI) -- A federal appeals court has upheld a ruling allowing an Illinois high school student to wear a T-shirt with a message criticizing homosexuality.

After Neuqua Valley High School in Naperville allowed students to participate in an annual Day of Silence in 2006 to promote tolerance of homosexuals, student Heidi Zamecnik wore a T-shirt that said, "Be Happy, Not Gay," the Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday.

School officials objected and made Zamecnik change the words to say, "Be Happy, Be Straight," then to just, "Be Happy."

"A school that permits advocacy of the rights of homosexual students cannot be allowed to stifle criticism of homosexuality," the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit said in an opinion released Tuesday.

"People in our society do not have a legal right to prevent criticism of their beliefs or their way of life," the court said.

Nate Kellum, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, an alliance of Christian attorneys who filed the suit, applauded the appeals court ruling.

"In an environment that freely allows speech that promotes homosexual behavior, the school simply cannot shut out the opposing viewpoint," he said.

School district officials said they could not yet comment on the ruling, the Naperville Sun reported.

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