New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has chimed in on the controversy saying that he found Knox’s comments on her personal Facebook page “disturbing.”
“I think that kind of example is not a positive one at all to be setting for folks who have such an important and influential position in our society,” Christie told WABC Radio. “I’m really concerned about those kinds of statements being made.”
A New Jersey high school teacher is under investigation after she allegedly posted a message on her private Facebook page that she opposed homosexuality because of her Christian faith.
The Union Township school district said they are investigating whether Viki Knox violated school policies when she allegedly posted remarks saying homosexuality is a sin that “breeds like cancer” and describing it as “perverted.”
Knox also complained, on her private Facebook page, that Union High School featured a display recognizing October as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History month. The display reportedly featured photos of Harvey Milk, Neil Patrick Harris and Virginia Woolf.
“The district is taking the matter very seriously,” school superintendent Patrick Martin said. “We are running a thorough investigation. The board of education will act appropriately based on the outcome of the investigation.”
He declined to confirm or deny reports that Knox was put on leave and was escorted from the school building by administrators.
Hundreds of people, both supporters and critics turned out at a school board meeting Tuesday night after a statewide civil rights organization launched a campaign demanding the firing of Knox.
“I was pleased with the openness of the meeting and the decorum of the meeting,” Martin said. “There was no calling out, no cheering, or booing. People were listening to what was being said.”
Knox has been advised by her union attorney not to talk to the media, but she was defended by her husband in an interview with WCBS-TV.
“They can persecute her but they can’t prosecute her,” Gene Knox told the television station, stating that “everybody’s entitled to an opinion.”
But a spokesman for Garden State Equality, a group that advocates gay rights, said that’s not true.
“She should not be teaching in the classroom,” said Steven Goldstein, chair of the gay rights group. He said her “vicious, anti-gay remarks on Facebook crossed the line.”
Goldestein’s group launched a statewide campaign to have the Christian teacher fired – sending hundreds of phone calls and emails to the school district.
“I find what she wrote on Facebook endangers the learning atmosphere for students beyond repair and violates the school district’s own policy of a safe and comfortable environment for all,” Goldstein said. “She’s no longer in a position to teach in the classroom because she will make many students fearful of her hatred.”
Ada Davis, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, attended the meeting and said she was very alarmed at how the school system is treating the Christian teacher. The ADF recently represented a Florida school teacher accused of posting similar anti-gay Facebook messages.
“The problem is they don’t want anyone who believes homosexuality is a sin to be a teacher,” Davis said. “Teachers obviously should not be punished for exercising these kinds of constitutionally protected rights. She has a right to communicate her religious beliefs.”
Davis said the ADF found it necessary to take a stand on behalf of the teacher because of what they called the massive opposition against her by New Jersey’s homosexual community.
“She is being persecuted for having a belief,” Davis said. “It’s very scary – she has a right to communicate her religious beliefs.”
Davis reiterated that what Knox did was on her own time, in her own house, and on her personal computer.
Does she believe the teacher is a victim of a witch hunt?
“That’s a very good way to describe it,” Davis said. “Any opposition is just attacked.”
Gay rights groups aren’t the only ones attacking the teacher. John Paragano, an attorney and former member of the Union Township Committee, told The New York Times he was offended by what Knox wrote on her private Facebook page. He questioned whether she could enforce the state’s anti-bullying law.
“Teachers are at the forefront of that, enforcing that,” he told the newspaper. “My concern is that if this teacher had these feelings, is she going to call out the bullying of a gay, lesbian, and transgender person?”
Superintendent Martin was non-committal on how long the investigation might last.
I think it’s a very tough situation for many people,” he said. “We’re having a very difficult time working our way through this. It’s tough all around. I don’t think anybody is really enjoying this.”