Amid controversy over a homosexual speaker, a high school in Wisconsin has canceled its “Diversity Day” event scheduled for tomorrow.
Speakers at Viroqua High School in Viroqua, Wisc., for the biannual event were to include Hmong, Jewish, Muslim, American Indian, African American, Latino, Buddhist, physically handicapped and poor people, the La Crosse Tribune reported.
The paper said, however, the event was called off late last week after the Florida-based public-interest legal group Liberty Counsel raised a potential challenge, insisting the program include the viewpoint of a former homosexual.
The last event, in 2004, initially was canceled by the school board after 400 people signed a petition protesting the inclusion of speakers on homosexual and transgender issues. The event was reinstated in the spring, however, when elections changed the board’s membership.
This time, a fax from Liberty Counsel stated local pastor Don Greven of Bad Axe Lutheran Church and the grandfather of a senior at the high school raised concerns about no Christian, or formerly homosexual, viewpoint being included among the speakers, the Tribune reported.
Liberty Counsel argued a federal court in Michigan had ruled a similar exclusion unconstitutional.
“By excluding the Christian and ex-gay viewpoints, the (Viroqua) District violates the Establishment Clause and the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee of equal protection,” the group said.
Greven, 61, told the paper diversity means, “in our understanding, that the various views are presented, and that was lacking.”
Gregg Attleson, a teacher on the Diversity Day planning committee, told the LaCrosse paper the intent is to introduce students to minorities and people with alternative lifestyles.
“Our students are not going to be living their lives out in Viroqua,” said Attleson. “They’ll be out and about in the world – in jobs, in the military, in the university – and they’re going to come into contact with people of different backgrounds. And we feel it would be real helpful for them in a nice safe place, like a high school, to have contact and be able to dispel some of the stereotypes.”
Attleson said the homosexual couple scheduled to speak refused to be on the program alongside an “ex-gay” viewpoint, saying they would be uncomfortable.
The committee then decided it would be best to cancel the whole program.
The agenda was to feature two keynote speakers, a movie and small-group discussions with three of the 10 speakers.
Attleson said students were free to choose which small groups to attend and could opt out of the program if parents contacted the school in advance.
“Non-positive groups were not what we were going for,” said committee member Ellen Byers in response to the decision to cancel.
The homosexual couple’s appearance was not about “proselytizing” or alienating people, she said. The planners wanted to help resolve misunderstandings about the issue because the school has homosexuals among its student body.
“It’s ironic, because we’re trying to be tolerant and at the same time we might be accused of being intolerant, said Byers, an English teacher.
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