California School District Pays $360,000 Settlement to Teacher Fired Over Pronoun Dispute


Even in the most liberal areas of California, there’s a growing pushback against the extreme demands of transgender ideology, particularly when it comes to compelled speech that contradicts personal faith.

Recently, a school district in Riverside County agreed to pay $360,000 to a former high school teacher who was terminated for not using preferred pronouns for transgender students or keeping their gender identities hidden from their parents. Jessica Tapia, who had been a girls’ coach in the district since 2014, cited her religious beliefs as the reason for her actions, but the school administrators dismissed her regardless.

Supported by the nonprofit Advocates for Faith and Freedom, Tapia filed a lawsuit, arguing that she couldn’t be forced to act against her religious convictions regarding gender transition or to “lie to parents.” Although her case did not establish a legal precedent due to an out-of-court settlement, the substantial payment of $360,000 ($285,000 to her and $75,000 to her attorneys) indicates the strength of her position and suggests she might have won if the case had gone to trial.

Similar cases are unfolding across the nation, with mixed rulings from various courts. The Supreme Court has yet to make a definitive ruling on this specific issue but has consistently expanded religious liberties and restricted compelled speech in other cases. Should a case like Tapia’s reach the Supreme Court, it seems likely she would secure a nationwide precedent in her favor.

This situation becomes particularly notable given that even a progressive school district in progressive California, within the jurisdiction of a liberal federal court of appeals and under a supportive Biden Justice Department, found it necessary to settle the case by paying a significant amount. This suggests that the legal foundation of the so-called “pronoun police” is weak.

The Supreme Court’s protection of religious liberty is well established. For example, in the 1987 case of Hobbie v. Unemployment Appeals Commission, an 8-1 Supreme Court ruling reaffirmed that without a genuinely compelling state interest, a state entity cannot force an employee to choose between their religious beliefs and their job. States must accommodate religious beliefs and practices neutrally, without endorsing them.

Public-sector employers, including schools, must learn and adhere to this principle.

On a broader note, it’s important to remember that pronouns themselves do not have rights. Treating pronoun use as a major offense ignores the broader need for social harmony. Instead of relying on legal interventions, a mix of human decency, reasonable tolerance, and occasionally, a stiff upper lip, can effectively address these issues.

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