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FLORENCE, Ala. — A petition has been filed in support of the University of North Alabama’s Student Government Association (SGA) president after he made a controversial post on social media.

The new petition which states SGA President Jake Statom “expressed his freedom of speech and freedom of religion recently on his personal social media platform.”

The post shared by Statom was a photo of a T-shirt with a rainbow and a message that reads, “Born this way? You must be born again.” Statom has since apologized for the statement, adding that he is committed to social inclusion on campus.

“No person should be punished for expressing their freedom of speech and/or freedom of religion,” the petition continued. “There are many groups, including this one that have their freedom and it’s time we fight for ours.” On Saturday night, the counter petition had over 1,700 signatures.

Initially, a petition was created on calling for Statom’s resignation with the college’s student senate announcing a formal impeachment process should he choose not to resign. As of Saturday night, the petition had over 1,000 signatures.

News 19 reached out to the university earlier this week regarding the incident.

“A photo critical of the LGBTQ+ community recently posted to Instagram by SGA President Jake Statom is not representative of the University of North Alabama’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion at the UNA campus. While we know how upsetting this social media post is to our LGBTQ+ community and others on the UNA campus, we also need to recognize that Mr. Statom and others have a right to freedom of speech, even when it is offensive to others. A recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion on First Amendment rights observed that public schools have “an interest in protecting a student’s unpopular expression, especially when the expression takes place off-campus, because America’s public schools are the nurseries of democracy.” We encourage students and other members of our campus community to continue to find ways to educate one another on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues; however, the University is not the appropriate venue or authority to resolve differences of religious or political opinion among private individuals. Ultimately, we only have control over our own reactions, thoughts, feelings, and responses. You, as an individual, have the right to respond or ignore opposing views, including those presented on social media by a student.”

Full statement from the University of North Alabama