A Wisconsin school district is under fire after reportedly responding harshly to an op-ed written by a 15-year-old high school student.
The anti-gay adoption article, penned by Brandon Wegner, a Christian, ignited intense debate in the district. According to lawyers defending Wegner, he was "censored" and "punished" by school officials following the publication of his article. Some people in the district, though, claim the article, itself, constituted "bullying."
The contentious piece was written for "The Hawk's Post," a student-led newspaper. In it, Wegner highlighted his Christian worldview on marriage and adoption, expressing his view that children are best off being raised in families with a mother and father. A portion of the article (read a PDF version here) reads:
"If one is a practicing Christian, Jesus states in the Bible that homosexuality is (a) detestable act and sin which makes adopting wrong for homosexuals because you would be raising the child in a sin-filled environment.
A child adopted into homosexuality will get confused because everyone else will have two different-gendered parents that can give them the correct amount of motherly nurturing and fatherly structure. In a Christian society, allowing homosexual couples to adopt is an abomination."
The Christian Post reports about the situation:
He cited various authorities and sources, including Scripture, in defense of his opinions. Wegner argued that children raised in an environment in which the mother and father are present had the best chance for success and that homosexual adoption should be prohibited. His article was released in conjunction with an opposing viewpoint provided by another student, Maddie Marquardt, also "The Hawk's Post" copy editor. Marquardt countered in her argument that gay couples should be able to adopt because the foster system is broken and children need a two-parent home.
Also, it should be noted that controversial bible verses -- most notably Leviticus 20:13 -- were included in the article. It reads, "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."
It was his rejection of same-sex adoption and the inclusion of controversial verses that led a Nick Uttecht, a gay parent, to file a complaint with the district. Uttecht claimed that the expressed views in the article "constituted as hate speech" and could potentially "cause kids to commit suicide." The complaint sparked quite a response from officials.
What happened next, critics say, was unfair treatment of Wegner by Shawano School District officials. Following the complaint, the district released a formal statement apologizing for the publication of the column.
"We sincerely apologize to anyone we may have offended and are taking steps to prevent items of this nature from happening in the future," CP quotes the statement as reading.
In addition to the statement, the school's principal allegedly told Wegner, "in a public school, you can't use the Bible as a source because we can't impose our religious beliefs on other people." He purportedly also said:
"...the school newspaper is not the place to be talking about your religious beliefs at your age...because of this article you can't write about religion, politics, or social issues in the school paper."
Liberty Counsel, a non-profit, Christian law firm decided to take up Wegner's case, calling the district's treatment of him "shocking" and "outrageous" (they also dubbed it a form of bullying). On the group's site, the following is written about how the group responded to the situation:
Liberty Counsel sent a letter to school officials at Shawano High School after they censored and punished Brandon Wegner, a 15-year-old, for writing an op-ed article explaining the Biblical view of homosexuality and supporting natural mother-father adoption. The letter demands that the school apologize for its unconstitutional and irrational censorship and humiliation of Brandon. [...]
The First Amendment protects the opinions of all, including student journalists. The bullying at Shawano High School is by Superintendent Todd Carlson and the school officials, not the student, Brandon Wegner. The school officials have displayed blatant intolerance of a view on homosexuality held by many people. The school’s actions are shocking and unjustified. The superintendent should immediately apologize and stop the bullying.
Clearly, this is a battle over values, with both sides maintaining that the other has violated moral and ethical guidelines. Whether the district will, indeed, apologize is yet to be seen, but it's unlikely this issue will simmer unless individuals from both sides strike some sort of agreement. Legal action may be on the horizon.
(H/T: Christian Post)