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Mormon parents sued a school district after their son had sex in the parking lot
"The school district did not coerce JD into acting against his religious beliefs," said the judge
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In May of 2022, during the last week of school at Skyridge High in Lehi, Utah, administrators were predictably lenient about things like attendance. (It’s not like skipping class meant students were missing out on important information.) The staff wasn’t just checked out for the year, though. The leniency allowed students to meet with teachers to discuss their grades and gave teachers time to wrap up their end-of-the-year paperwork.
It only became a problem when one mother came to the school to pick up her son (“JD”) only to discover no one could find him. He wasn’t in the classroom listed on his schedule and he didn’t respond to an announcement over the intercom.
The mother only found JD after she sent a text message to his girlfriend; the two of them had been hanging out in the parking lot.
Did school officials do anything wrong here? You could make a case either way, but their action—or, rather, inaction—led the mother and her husband to file a lawsuit against the Alpine School District claiming that the unsupervised time violated the free exercise of their Mormon faith.
Why? Because they found out that JD and his girlfriend had sex multiple times that week in the parking lot. And premarital sex went against their religion.
No one doubts that the Mormon Church urges abstinence before marriage. In the case of these parents, they learned their son was doing it anyway (even before the parking lot incidents) and placed restrictions on him. He always needed a chaperone when he was around his girlfriend. He could only travel to and from school with a sibling.
And yet JD found ways around that… as teenagers often do.
U.S. District Judge Jill N. Parrish simply didn’t buy that the school district was to blame, or that they violated any kind of religious rights in the process:
… the Does cannot wield the constitutional right to parent as a sword to require the district to adopt policies that help them to direct and control their son’s choices. The Does have not provided any authority supporting the proposition that the government has a constitutional duty to help them parent JD. Because the Alpine School District did not prevent the Does from making decisions regarding the upbringing of their son, it did not infringe their parental rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.
… the school district did not coerce JD into acting against his religious beliefs. He freely chose to have premarital sex with his girlfriend, even though this was against the teachings of his religion.
The school custom of giving students unsupervised time after being released early from class during the last week of school applies equally to all students regardless of religion, and it was not created with the motivation of infringing on religious practices. Therefore, it is neutral and generally applicable, and the rational basis test applies.
In short, the district’s policies were religiously neutral and the school was under no obligation to force JD to adhere to his parents’ religious beliefs if he didn’t want to.
The judge, however, kept the door open when it came to negligence. The family said the district “breached their duty of care” and caused their son “emotional distress.” The district believes it’s shielded from liability by state law, so the judge sent the case back to a state court to decide that issue.
Still, it’s like the parents were looking for someone—anyone—to blame for the fact that their faith-based desire to control their son’s penis wasn’t working. JD didn’t give a damn about their religious rules—having sex with his girlfriend was more important to him than following the tenets of Mormonism—so the parents foolishly sued the school district. Thankfully, the judge wasn’t having it.
Incidentally, this same high school was in the news recently after administrators forced all Pride flags to be removed from classrooms, libraries, and lunchrooms. Students were furious. The point is: This is a generally conservative school with generally liberal students. If parents don’t like what their kids are doing, they ought to be asking themselves why their so-called “values” aren’t sinking in, not blaming school officials for not doing enough to shove conservative religious ideology down kids’ throats.
(via Religion Clause)
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