A court in Virginia has ordered a school to reinstate a teacher who refused to address a trans student with their chosen pronouns, claiming the issue relates to his religious liberty.

Tanner Cross, who worked as a physical education instructor at Leesburg Elementary School, was suspended after he told the Loudon school authorities that he objects to a proposed policy to address transgender students with their preferred pronouns. He said he believed following the policy would be “abuse of a child” and “sinning,” NBC Washington reported.

He said he would never “affirm that a biological boy can be a girl, and vice versa”. Mr Cross was put on paid administrative leave starting 27 May and was banned from entering the school campus or addressing board meetings. He challenged the decision in court on 1 June, alleging the school’s actions violated his rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion.

In a seven-page ruling, 20th Circuit Judge James E Plowman Jr ruled in his favor saying Mr Cross’s rights to speech and religious liberty are central to the case. The court instructed Loudoun County Public Schools to “immediately reinstate” Mr Cross and rescind its ban barring him from school grounds while his lawsuit goes forward.

The judge also said his comments are considered protected speech and the district did not prove his comments caused any significant disruption to school operations, NBC Washington reported. He called the leave and banning “an unnecessary and vindictive act given the end of the school year was so close”.

The school district told local media outlets on Tuesday that they had no comment on the ruling.

The ruling has disappointed many trans parents and parents of trans children. Cris Candice Tuck, a transgender parent in Loudoun, was quoted by Washington Post as saying: “My kids know I’m transgender, and many of our friends are transgender.”

“They know what the effects of things like misgendering and dead-naming can be,” he said.

“They’re really upset today,” he added. “They don’t want to be in PE on Thursday.”

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