Florida Judge Defends Religious Freedom in Pronoun Dispute Case, Labels Transgenderism a ‘New Secular Faith’

Judge John Van Laningham [State of Florida Division of Administrative Hearings]

Florida law judge John Van Laningham has fervently defended the rights of a teacher, Yojary Mundaray, who was dismissed for refusing to use a transgender student’s preferred pronouns, citing her religious beliefs.

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The case unfolding at Jose de Diego Middle School in Miami has sparked a heated debate on the intersection of religious freedoms and transgender rights in educational settings.

In 2019, science teacher Mundaray declined to address a student known as ‘Pat’ by her requested male pronouns.

 Mundaray told the student, “God doesn’t make mistakes.”

This refusal, grounded in Mundaray’s religious convictions, led to a tense exchange that reportedly left students in tears and culminated in her dismissal in June 2020 following an internal investigation by school administrators.

However, Judge Van Laningham has called for Mundaray’s exoneration, penning a decision that not only defends the educator’s right to her beliefs but also launches a critical assessment of transgender ideology.

He wrote, “Advocates of transgenderism can be as doctrinaire as religious zealots these days,” further adding that the case underscores how adherence to the traditional view of biologically determined gender can result in punitive consequences, such as job loss.

The judge also highlighted a recent law enacted by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, which mandates schools to identify students by their biological gender.

He noted that had the incident with Pat occurred under this new law, Mundaray would have been shielded from the significant repercussions she faced for her refusal to comply with the student’s pronoun request.

Van Laningham’s decision, which referred to Pat using female pronouns despite their identification as male, has ignited discussions on transgenderism in schools. This topic has become a focal point in American politics’ ongoing cultural debates.

He described supporters of transgender individuals as adherents of a “new secular faith,” asserting that their advocacy can be as dogmatic as religious zealots.

This case is yet to reach its conclusion, with the Education Practices Commission slated to deliver a final ruling.

This is not the first time Judge Van Laningham has garnered attention for his forthright commentary. He was suspended for five days in 2020 for questioning a fellow judge’s comments in a ruling, as reported by the News Service of Florida.

His reputation for crafting lengthy, sharply written orders, occasionally featuring harsh critiques of state agency officials, has been criticized by outlets such as the American Bar Association Journal.

As the nation awaits the final ruling in this case, the discourse on the balance between religious freedom and transgender rights, particularly within educational institutions.

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