Jerry Buell should be fired
Times are hard in America. Job security is eroding fast, as is the middle class. This puts everyone on edge, which would explain some of the blow-back from fans concerning my opinion that there is something fundamentally broken with the way teachers are unionized in America. Of course, that’s not to imply that I want to destroy all the rights workers have managed to harangue from the clutches of the very wealthy (far from it). I just find it strange that the prevailing attitude of many of my listeners down south concerning freedom of speech is this should not interfere with their ability to be gainfully employed. Trust me, when you aren’t an American, this idea is kind of crazy.
Take the case of Jerry Buell. He’s a teacher at Mount Dora High School in Lake County, Florida who was suspended, and later reinstated after posting a number of homophobic remarks on his Facebook account (which included many student “friends”). After learning that New York was finally allowing gay people to have the same rights as everyone else, he became so overwhelmed with disgust, he claims, that he threw up at the diner table.
The Friendly Atheist first came to his defense as a fellow teacher, but quickly changed his tune when he took a gander at Jerry’s very crazy school bio, where he admitted his intent to “teach God’s truth”. Still, a number of Hemant’s fans continue to support Jerry under the banner of free speech. They make a good point: If a teacher can be fired for holding “controversial” views, might the same not apply to non-belief as well?
Here’s my general problem with that idea. Hemant’s beliefs don’t condemn entire groups of people either privately or publicly. It isn’t predicated on the hatred of anyone who isn’t like him. The only thing “controversial” about atheism is that religious people don’t like it. If it wasn’t for these yahoos, we wouldn’t even give this thing we don’t believe in a name. We’re creating a false equivalency here between religious people being discomforted with our non-belief and gay teens being driven to suicide because of the relentless torture of bigots like Jerry. Undoubtedly he’s had a few gay students pass through his class already. What impression of themselves were they left with in his care? If some stories are to be believed, he’s stated that homosexuals should be killed, as should their “conspirators”. How are these vulnerable children affected by this type of hateful bigotry?
The ACLU came to Jerry’s defense because their greater cause is the belief that a person’s views shouldn’t interfere with them having a job. I’m not sure that should be universally true. He’s not working as a fucking office clerk. He’s a teacher, which means he’s been given the charge of educating the mind of our young, and as such Jerry’s beliefs are of extreme importance, especially when it comes to the mental health of the students. Their priority is spelled out clearly in the code of ethics of the school board:
[A Teacher] Shall not intentionally expose a student to unnecessary embarrassment or disparagement; shall not harass or discriminate against any student on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, national or ethnic origin, political beliefs, marital status, handicapping condition, sexual orientation, or social and family background and shall make reasonable effort to assure that each student is protected from harassment or discrimination.
The First Amendment isn’t a defense of people who willfully disregard the codes of conduct they agree to adhere to, and this is especially true for people who educate our young (how tolerant are we if they take other “liberties”?). He’s not being jailed for speaking his mind. He was being suspended for breaking the rules. Just because someone is allowed to say what they want doesn’t suddenly mean that there are no consequences. You can’t have free speech in a world without any fucking accountability.
If you want to take some action against this jackass, then go sign the petition.