Florida Judge Slams ‘Transgender Ideology’ in Defense of Teacher Fired Over Pronouns

The ruling, issued by Judge John Van Laningham, advises the state’s Education Practices Commission to exonerate the teacher, Yojary Mundaray, and not take any further disciplinary action against her.

Florida Capitol
Florida Capitol (photo: KMH Photovideo / Shutterstock)

A Florida administrative judge called “transgender ideology” a “new secular faith” in a ruling that supported a middle-school science teacher who lost her job when she refused to use male pronouns to refer to a biological girl.

The ruling, issued by Judge John Van Laningham, advises the state’s Education Practices Commission to exonerate the teacher, Yojary Mundaray, and not take any further disciplinary action against her. The judge’s findings serve only as a recommendation to the commission, which could still choose to discipline her.

The judge said the school district had imposed “transgender ideology” on Mundaray, which he warned is becoming a secular “state-sponsored religion.” 

“Advocates of transgenderism can be as doctrinaire as religious zealots these days,” a footnote in Laningham’s ruling noted. “As this case demonstrates, adhering to the traditional view that gender is biologically determined can get a person excommunicated, from a job in this instance.”

“Indeed, a reasonable argument can be made that transgenderism is fast becoming, if it has not already become, a kind of state-sponsored religion,” the judge continued. “Ironically, if anyone attempted to impose beliefs in this instance, it was [the student] and, more importantly, the District who did so. Each sought to force Mundaray to conform her conduct to tenets of transgenderism, which she rejects. Mundaray’s refusal to convert to this new secular faith cost her dearly.”

The alleged offense arose from a 2019 interaction in which a student who identified as transgender asked to be referred to using male pronouns, rather than female pronouns. The Miami-Dade teacher told the student that she could not agree to do that because of her Christian beliefs. 

When the student said “I think God made a mistake,” Mundaray responded, “I’m a Christian, and my God made no mistakes.”

Mundaray lost her job in June of 2020, but matters got worse when Florida Department of Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. filed an administrative complaint against the teacher,  accusing her of imposing her religious views on the student. This brought the incident to the Education Practices Commission, which has the authority to punish Mundarary more severely by suspending or even revoking her teaching certification.

Based on the facts of the case, Laningham said the allegation that Mundaray imposed her views on the student is “untrue” and that, “at most, Mundaray expressed her view that God is inerrant, which is about as anodyne a theological statement as one could make.”

“She did so only in defense of the God she worships,” the ruling added. “Surely, such cannot constitute a disciplinable offense in a country whose foundational principles include religious freedom.”

Laningham said it was the student, not the teacher, “who initially opined about God’s nature” and that “Mundarary merely expressed polite disagreement with the student’s theological statement, which was both heterodox and disparaging.” He found that “this case is not about proselytizing but about transgender ideology.”

A few years after the incident, Florida lawmakers passed a law that forbade school districts from firing teachers who refuse to refer to students with a pronoun that is different from his or her biological sex. However, the law went into effect on July 1, 2023, which was more than three years after the incident. The new law also asserts that it is “false to ascribe to a person a pronoun that does not correspond to such person’s sex.”

“Had the incident with [the student] occurred today, instead of three years ago, Mundaray would have been protected against the significant loss she suffered simply for refusing to do what the law now deems ‘false,’” Laningham said.

CNA reached out to the Florida Department of Education but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

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