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Teacher suspended for views on gay marriage

MOUNT DORA, Fla. — He was Teacher of the Year last year, but just days before the new school year begins at Mount Dora High School in Mount Dora, Fla., Jerry Buell has been removed from teaching duties.

His offense?

He said he opposed gay marriage on his private Facebook page.

And somebody reported him.

"We took the allegations seriously," Chris Patton, a communication officer with Lake County Schools in Florida told Fox News. "All teachers are bound by a code of special ethics (and) this is a code (of) ethics violation investigation."

Buell, a 22-year veteran in the school system, posted comments on his personal Facebook page on June 25, the day after New York approved same-sex unions. His Facebook page is not available, but Fox News carried what appear to be the full text of the offending quotes: "I'm watching the news, eating dinner when the story about New York okaying same-sex unions came on and I almost threw up," Beul posted. "And now they showed two guys kissing after their announcement. If they want to call it a union, go ahead. But don't insult a man and woman's marriage by throwing it in the same cesspool of whatever. God will not be mocked. When did this sin become acceptable?"

The Huffington Post said that after that post, some of his Facebook friends "retaliated against his comments."

Fox News also included the post Buell put up a few minutes later. This post further emphasized the religious reasons for his views: "By the way, if one doesn't like the most recently posted opinion based on biblical principles and God's laws, then go ahead and unfriend me. I'll miss you like I miss my kidney stone from 1994. And I will never accept it because God will never accept it. Romans chapter one."

The portion of the code of ethics Buell is said to have violated relates to social media. The Orlando Sentinel said the school's code told teachers their "private use of internet and social networking is not private." The implication being, if he wouldn't say it in the classroom, he can't say it in private social media. The guidelines also said if teachers "feel angry or passionate about a subject … delay posting until you are calm and clearheaded."

Buell told the Orlando Sentinel that he has had students that were gay. "They know that I don't hate them. I love them."

He also told Fox News "It was my own personal comment on my own personal time on my own personal computer in my own personal house, exercising what I believed as a social studies teacher to be my First Amendment rights."

Patton disagrees. "He has (more than) 700 friends," he told Fox News. "How private is that — really?"

It wasn't clear if any of those Facebook friends were his students.

Beull's attorney, Harry Mihet, senior litigation counsel for Orlando-based Liberty Counsel told Florida Baptist Witness that Florida has a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage. "He was not espousing some kind of fringe idea. … If the First Amendment does not protect Mr. Buell's right to voice his personal opinion, on his personal time, from his personal computer on his personal Facebook page, then the First Amendment means nothing,"

Meanwhile, a Facebook page has been put up in support of Beull, saying, "Support Jerry Buell getting his job back. Your opinion on social media websites should not be used for suspension in a state that goes along with your view."

Not all comments on the page support Beull, however. One poster wrote, "Stop homophobia of any kind. Each second thousands of LGBT+ kids are bullied at school and hundreds of them (commit) suicide. Stop hate speech."

CNN said the school's website had a page that described Beull as a teacher who taught for more than 26 years. He was the social studies department chair at the high school and taught American history and government.

Beull's page on Mount Dora High School's website is now blank.

EMAIL: mdegroote@desnews.com TWITTER: www.degroote.com/degroote degroote