A Payne County judge has dismissed a Stillwater man’s lawsuit against Stillwater Public Schools alleging his free exercise of religious expression was denied.
Brice Chaffin was reciting Bible passages at the Stillwater Board of Education’s April 12 meeting during the time for public hearing. Board president Tim Riley told him he was straying off the topic of bathroom policy.
Law enforcement escorted Chaffin out of the meeting.
The suit claimed Chaffin had the right to express his religious views on school bathroom policy for transgender students without disruption under the Oklahoma Religious Freedom Act. It sought a written apology to be read aloud during a board meeting.
Members of the public who wish to participate in the public hearing time of board meetings must submit a request form.
“I wish to speak on the issue of SPS policy which allows biological boys to use the restroom designed for biological girls,” Chaffin wrote in his form.
Each person approved to speak on the topic is given three minutes to do so.
Chaffin read Romans 1:20-27 for the first 90 seconds. Riley attempted to interrupt, and when he could not, he signaled to turn off the microphone
Vice President Marshall Baker told Chaffin he’d been asked to stop.
“I still got a minute left,” Chaffin said in response.
Riley said he violated policy by not speaking about the approved topic.
“You all violated the natural life of young women,” Chaffin responded. “You are all held to a higher standard.”
Riley then gestured for police to escort him away from the lectern and out of the meeting room.
The advocacy group Reclaim Oklahoma Parent Empowerment joined Chaffin in the lawsuit.
Their attorneys argued the board controlled the meeting in a matter that breached Chaffin’s religious freedom.
The defense motioned to dismiss the case, saying the board’s actions were in response to Chaffin’s refusal to speak on the topic he signed up for.
“The public comment portion of the meeting is not an open forum for the free exercise of religion; rather, it is an opportunity to communicate with the board ... relative to issues affecting Stillwater Public Schools,” defense attorneys said in a response to the suit.
“School boards are entitled to exercise a certain amount of discretion in regulating what is relevant to school business.”
Judge Stephen Kistler sustained the defendants’ motion in dismissing the case.
Maria Seidler, the attorney representing Chaffin and ROPE, said the decision was a disappointment.
“We are looking at taking the next step and taking it to the court of appeals,” Seidler said. “We will try to enforce parents’ rights in the courts.”