An outspoken Christian preacher and activist is accusing his daughter’s school of violating her First Amendment rights by forcing her to change out of a shirt proclaiming that “homosexuality is a sin." He is contemplating legal action.
Brielle Penkoski, the daughter of Rev. Rich Penkoski, attends Livingston Academy, a public high school in Livingston, Tennessee. During the school day on Tuesday, Aug. 25, she was allegedly asked to change out of a black T-shirt shirt bearing white letters asserting that “homosexuality is a sin.”
The shirt references the New Testament passage of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. When she refused to change out of the shirt, she was sent home from school, her father told The Christian Post in a recent interview.
Penkoski, who regularly speaks out in opposition to things like homosexuality and Drag Queen Story Hour events, runs an organization called Warriors for Christ, which describes itself as a “pre-denominational ministry” that has a global online presence.
He and his family moved to the north-central Tennesee area in March after moving around a lot in the last few years.
In an e-mail to The Christian Post, Penkoski claimed that Livingston Academy principal Richard Melton reasoned that his daughter’s shirt was prohibited because its message featured “sexual connotation.”
Responding to that explanation, Penkoski noted that one of his daughter’s teachers has an LGBT pride sticker displayed in his classroom featuring the rainbow colors associated with the LGBT movement, which pushed to make same-sex marriage legal in across the U.S.
The teacher’s sticker features words: “Diverse, Inclusive, Accepting, Welcoming Safe Space For Everyone.”
According to Penkoski, the principal did not have any issue with the pro-LGBT display.
The Christian Post reached out to Livingston Academy and Overton County Schools for comment on Penkoski's allegations and details on the school’s dress code policy. A response was not received by press time.
During an interview with The Christian Post, Penkoski described the debate over his daughter’s shirt as a “First Amendment issue.”
Penkoski accused the school of abiding by a double standard when it comes to political speech.
While the school allows students and teachers to “promote pride,” Penkoski’s daughter was “told to leave” because she wore apparel expressing a dissenting viewpoint on the hot-button topic, he argued.
“She wanted to do this on her own. She wanted to go there to … express her values like all the other kids do,” he added. “They’ve got kids walking around with the pride symbol on their sneakers and pride clothing and nobody bats an eye.”
“She was basically censored,” Penkoski continued. “It’s not fair … that she’s told that she can’t wear that shirt and other people can wear the stuff that they wear.”
Penkoski argues that teachers “are pushing Joe Biden … [and] pushing the rainbow stuff.”
“But if a Christian comes up there and repeats what the Bible says, they are seen as intolerant, they are seen as hateful,” he added. “Simply saying 'homosexuality is a sin' is not hate speech. That’s what the Bible says. And we need to start preaching truthfully.”
Penkoski maintained that what happened to his daughter is not an “isolated incident.”
He believes that what happened to his daughter in “a little town in Tennessee that nobody’s ever heard of” is indicative of the culture at schools around the country.
Pastor Dale Walker, president of the Tennessee Pastors Network, agrees with Penkoski and said that what happened to his daughter was “an indication of what is happening in our school systems.”
“They’re trying to drive the indoctrination down the throats of the students,” Walker contends. “They want the students to cower down and not be able to wear a shirt that has a Bible verse on it. They can fly your rainbow flags but then you have a Christian student who wants to express her deeply held beliefs and she is unable to.”
“Our elected officials have to return the power of the schools back to the people,” he argued. “If not, the indoctrination will continue and it will get markedly worse.”
Walker believes that reforming American education begins with allowing the people of Tennessee to “elect our school superintendent” and “elect a school director.”
“We need a conservative director of education in our state. I don’t think we have a conservative director of education,” he said.
Penkoski's dissatisfaction with public education is not limited to Livingston, Tennessee.
Two years ago, he expressed outrage after his daughter received a homework assignment asking her to practice writing the Islamic declaration of faith in Arabic calligraphy. At the time, his daughter was attending middle school in Gerrardstown, West Virginia.
Earlier in that particular school year, Penkoski’s daughter was shown a music video featuring two male students sleeping together and a close-up of a sex toy.
Late last year, after Penkoski and his family moved to Sullivan County, Tennessee, he said that his 7-year-old son brought home a flyer promoting a clinic that would provide access to “free birth control and pre-pregnancy services.”
“This is a movement,” Penkoski proclaimed. “They’re trying to recruit kids, they’re trying to indoctrinate kids with liberal ideology, promoting sex and sexuality to kids.”
Penkoski urged parents across the U.S. to keep on top of what their children are learning in school.
“The schools are supposed to teach reading and writing and arithmetic,” he stressed. “They’re not supposed to push issues of faith. They’re not supposed to be pushing a political ideology.”