A Tennessee lesbian couple is suing Knox County and a physical education teacher, alleging he used sports to promote his anti-gay religious beliefs.
The unnamed married couple have a son who attends West Valley Middle School in Knoxville, where Chuck Comer is a P.E. and wellness instructor, local NBC affiliate WBIR reports.
Comer allegedly forced the young boy to attend regular anti-gay sermons before he could participate in a basketball program.
“Once Comer lured the students into participating in Defendants’ school-sponsored basketball program, it was revealed that, in order to actually participate in such program, the students would be forced participate in the ’Teens for Christ’ program,” states the federal lawsuit, which was filed earlier this month.
According to the complaint, Comer spoke critically about LGBTQ people at these morning meetings, held twice a week for 30 minutes, during which he interpreted the bible and stated that homosexuality was a sin.
Lawsuit alleges Knox County teacher used sports program to speak out against gays, promote religion https://t.co/oPNUxvpEzP
— WBIR Channel 10 (@wbir) March 25, 2020
The couple also claims that West Valley administrators have knowingly allowed Comer to use the school’s basketball program “as pretext to recruit students” to join his Christian club for at least eight years.
“Teens for Christ” is a nonprofit whose mission is “turning teenagers into fully committed followers of Jesus Christ,” according to its website.
Knox County Schools spokeswoman Carly Harrington said in a statement that “students are not required to attend Bible study as a prerequisite to playing basketball at West Valley Middle School or any other Knox County school.”
The lawsuit argues that Comer’s mandatory religious meetings violate the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.
The couple is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.