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TN School District Settles After Punishing Student Who Wore ‘Homosexuality Is a Sin’ T-Shirt

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A street preacher’s daughter has received a cash payment as part of a lawsuit settlement against her Tennessee public school district after she was sent home from school for wearing a shirt that stated, “Homosexuality is a Sin.”

In 2020, Brielle Penkoski chose to wear a t-shirt that quoted 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 to Livingston Academy high school. 

The school’s principal took issue with the statement claiming it contained a “sexual connotation.”

Brielle was asked to change out of the shirt, but she refused. 

She was then sent home. 

Her father, Rich Penkoski, sued the school district for violating his daughter’s First Amendment rights.

“She wanted to do this on her own. She wanted to go there to … express her values like all the other kids do,” he said. “They’ve got kids walking around with the pride symbol on their sneakers and pride clothing and nobody bats an eye.”

Rich Penkoski was initially part of the lawsuit but was dropped from it when Brielle turned 18.

The Overton County Board of Education recently agreed to pay $101, three years after the lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.

Although the school settled “without acknowledgment of wrongdoing on the part of any party or the agents or employees of any party, which wrongdoing is expressly denied,” Penkoski says he feels vindicated by the outcome. 

“A lot of people don’t understand this, but when it comes to civil rights lawsuits … there’s this perception that somehow we get paid lots of money for these things. Well, it’s not true. Most of the time, it’s a dollar,” he told the Christian Post.

“But Brielle got $100, which is way, way more than we thought she was going to get any way out of this,” he continued. “The other part of this is all the teachers, at least from 2020, were told to start taking First Amendment courses, it was one of the things that I insisted on, that I wanted them to take First Amendment training courses.” 

Penkoski, who leads the ministry “Warriors for Christ”, believes the school held a double standard on free speech and what constitutes “sexual connotation.”

He pointed out that one of Brielle’s teachers at the time displayed an LGBT pride flag in the classroom. 

“She was basically censored,” Penkoski said. “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.” 

He added, “If a Christian comes up there and repeats what the Bible says, they are seen as intolerant, they are seen as hateful…Simply saying ‘homosexuality is a sin’ is not hate speech. That’s what the Bible says. And we need to start preaching truthfully.”

As CBN News previously reported, Penkoski’s Tennessee-based ministry is on a mission to “bring the church back to the faith of the 1st century, to heal the sick, and to preach the gospel to all of creation.” 

He also speaks out often about drag queen story hour and LGBT events. “We have to continue to fight this. We have no choice. I hear people all of the time as Christians saying, ‘I’m reaching people through Facebook.’ Are you? We see time and time again of Facebook banning and removing Christian pages for daring to challenge homo-fascism and LGBT communities,” Penkoski said in a video in 2022. “For daring to say that it is a sin. For daring to say that two men and two women together is not natural, it is not the way God created things.”

Penkoski has been slapped with a five-year restraining order for allegedly threatening and harassing a lesbian couple in Oklahoma.

He has denied the allegations and is appealing the restraining order. 

His attorney, John Whitehead of the Virginia-based Rutherford Institute, told ChurchLeaders.com they are fighting to protect freedom of speech. 

“The First Amendment is the sole savior of America,” said Whitehead, “and what I’m seeing in America today with all the wokeness and political correctness is that people are afraid to speak.” 

Whitehead added that if quoting Jesus is a crime, “then we’re in a bad state in this country.”

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