After being sent home for wearing a T-shirt proclaiming “homosexuality is a sin,” the daughter of a street preacher finally received a monetary settlement from her school district.

The Overton County Board of Education in Tennessee agreed to compensate Brielle Penkoski a symbolic $101 for the incident when she was sent home from Livingston Academy public high school for wearing the contentious T-shirt. The settlement also covered litigation costs and attorney fees related to the case.

Penkoski Was 15 When The Incident Took Place

Penkoski is the daughter of a street preacher, Reverend Rich Penkoski, who leads an online ministry called Warriors for Christ.

Source: X/Richard Penkoski

Penkoski was 15 when the incident took place. She was dismissed from Livingston Academy in 2020 when she refused to remove a T-shirt bearing the message “homosexuality is a sin.”

Some Staff and Students Were Offended By The Message Written On Penkoski’s T-Shirt

Some of the staff and students at Livingston Academy found the message on Penkoski’s T’shirt offensive and threatening.

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Penkoski explained that the phrase was derived from the Bible verses 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, which declare that individuals engaging in same-sex sexual relationships will be denied entry into heaven.

Penkoski Argued That The Message Constituted Protected Speech

Penkoski argued that the T-shirt and the message written on it constituted protected speech.

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The school didn’t agree with this perspective and sent Penkoski home.

Rich Penkoski, Brielle’s Father, Filed The Lawsuit Against The Overton County Board Of Education

Brielle’s father, Rich Penkoski, initially filed a lawsuit on his daughter’s behalf against the Overton County Board of Education in a federal court.

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The lawsuit was subsequently amended to remove her father as a plaintiff once Brielle turned 18. Penkoski later added teacher Stephen Henson and the school principal Richard Melman to the lawsuit. However, the charges against the two were dismissed.

Rich Penkoski Sees The Court’s Decision As A Victory Of Free Speech

The elder Penkoski expressed his satisfaction with the court’s decision. Penkoski told Hemant Mehta of the Friendly Atheist that he sees the settlement as a triumph for both religious freedom and free speech.

Source: Flickr/Simon Gibbs

Penkoski said to Mehta, “Free speech is free speech.”

For The Penkoskis It Wasn’t About The Money

In a statement to the Christian Post, Rich Penkoski emphasized that he and his daughter were not seeking financial gain through the lawsuit.

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Instead, their goal was to convey a strong message to the school.

First Amendment Training Courses For Teachers

Rich Penkoski said in the statement that one of the things he strongly insisted upon was to have teachers take First Amendment training courses.

Source: Flickr/Brent Payne

Penkoski said, “The other part of this [settlement] 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.”

Rich Penkoski Has Faced Several Lawsuits

Rich Penkoski has had his fair share of lawsuits. He has also been involved in homophobic controversies.


Penkoski’s Warriors for Christ online ministries was labeled as an anti-LGBTQ+ hate group by the SPLC in 2022.

Restraining Order Against Rich Penkoski

In 2021, Penkoski received a five-year restraining order prohibiting him from further criticizing Oklahomans for Equality.

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Penkoski had been speaking out against the LGBTQ+ advocacy group, Oklahomans for Equality. He had shared images from the same-sex marriage ceremony of Sheena Hayes and Morgan Lawrence-Hayes, the executive board president of the local Bartlesville chapter of Oklahomans for Equality.

Brielle’s Case Was Settled “Without Acknowledgement Of Wrongdoing”

Despite the fact that Brielle received the symbolic payment, the case was settled “without acknowledgement of wrongdoing on the part of any party or the agents or employees of any party, which wrongdoing is expressly denied.”

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Rich Penkoski told The Christian Post that he felt vindicated either way. Penkoski also noted that it is typical for the settling party not to formally admit any wrongdoing on paper.

The Monetary Payment Is Generally Insignificant In Civil Rights Lawsuits

Penkoski said to The Christian Post, “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.”

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Penkoski added, “Well, it’s not true. Most of the time, it’s a dollar.”

Rich Penkoski Said That His Daughter Got Received A Much Larger Payment Than They Were Expecting

Even though Brielle received a small payment that was largely symbolic, the elder Penkoski said it was still a larger amount than what they were expecting.

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Penkoski said to The Christian Post, “But Brielle got $100, which is way, way more than we thought she was going to get anyway out of this.”

Penkoski Accused The School Of Having Doubled Standards

Penkoski recounted that, at the time, the school’s principal had justified the request to remove Brielle’s T-shirt by citing the rule that clothes “sexual connotation” are not allowed within the premises.

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Penkoski claimed that there is a double standard within the school district regarding what qualifies as “sexual connotation.” He pointed out that one of Brielle’s teachers prominently displayed an LGBT pride sticker in the classroom.

Penkoski Asserted That His Daughter Has The Right To Wear What She Wants

Penkoski pointed out, “They’ve got kids walking around with the pride symbol on their sneakers and pride clothing and nobody bats an eye.”

Source: Pexels/Alexander Grey

Asserting his daughter’s rights, Penkoski added, “She was basically censored. 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.”