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Student Wins Free-Speech Lawsuit Against Teacher

DETROIT (AP) - A Michigan teacher who kicked a student out of class after the teen made a comment against homosexuality during a high school anti-bullying day was ordered to pay $1 for violating his free speech rights.

Daniel Glowacki told economics teacher Johnson "Jay" McDowell during the Oct. 20, 2010, anti-bullying observation at Howell High School that "his religion does not accept homosexuality and that he could not condone that behavior," according to a lawsuit filed on behalf of Glowacki in federal court in Detroit.

The student and his family are Catholic.

Glowacki's statement followed a question from McDowell on whether the student "supported" or "accepted gays."

The lawsuit states that Glowacki was ordered to leave the classroom or face suspension.

Federal Judge Patrick Duggan ruled Wednesday that Glowacki's comment was protected by the First Amendment.

McDowell was reprimanded by the Howell district, northwest of Detroit. Glowacki graduated in 2012.

"This had nothing to do with Mr. Glowacki's religious beliefs," McDowell's attorney, Suzanne Bartos, told The Associated Press on Thursday. "(McDowell) did not believe Mr. Glowacki's comments were appropriate and believed them to be against the school's anti-bullying policy. Mr. McDowell was acting in a responsible fashion, trying to protect other students in the classroom from the bullying."

Glowacki missed 20 minutes of class, Bartos added.

The Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center, which filed the lawsuit in December 2012 against the teacher and district, said in a statement that McDowell claimed Glowacki caused a disturbance in class.

"The teacher's claims were wholly unsupported by all of the other evidence in the case, including affidavits of students in the classroom and the teacher's own earlier statements," the law center said. "The teacher also tried to argue that Daniel's religious statement was tantamount to bullying. The court dismissed that claim as well, holding that Daniel's speech could not be silenced because the teacher did not like Daniel's religious beliefs and viewpoint."

The court dismissed claims against Howell Schools.

"The purpose of our lawsuit was to protect students' constitutional rights to free speech, defend religious liberty and stop public schools from becoming indoctrination centers for the homosexual agenda," said Richard Thompson, Thomas More's president and chief counsel.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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