A Michigan-based Christian law center has filed suit in U.S. district court against the Ann Arbor Public School District on behalf of a Catholic student who claims she was prevented by school officials from expressing criticism of homosexual curricula.
Lawyers with the Thomas More Law Center say Betsy Hansen, 18, who graduated in June from Pioneer High School in Ann Arbor with “the highest honors,” was prohibited by school officials from giving a speech disparaging homosexual behavior.
In March, the school sponsored an event called “2002 Diversity Week,” the center said, which featured various events including oratory at a school assembly. Also featured throughout the week were panel discussions on a range of issues including race, religion, and one topic entitled, “Homosexuality and Religion.”
In her suit, Hansen claims school officials forced her to submit her speech for review, then removed “all references critical of homosexual activity,” said Robert Muise, a spokesman for the center.
During the weeklong event, Muise continued, “certain school officials also jointly agreed to prevent Betsy from expressing her Roman Catholic view on homosexuality at the ‘Homosexuality and Religion’ panel.”
He said school officials claimed that Hansen’s view toward homosexuality was “a ‘negative’ message and would ‘water down’ the ‘positive’ religious message that they wanted to convey” – namely, “that homosexual behavior and religion are compatible, and that homosexual behavior is not immoral or sinful.”
The suit alleges that the school violated Hansen’s constitutional rights to freedom of speech, free expression of religion and equal protection under the law, Muise said. Also, he said, the school allegedly violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment “by impermissibly promoting and endorsing the religious belief that homosexual activity is compatible with religion. …”
Muise said the lawsuit was filed Wednesday in U.S. district court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
“[Betsy] is a super good kid,” he told WorldNetDaily. “She is no slouch. She got a full scholarship to the University of Florida. She’s not the type of kid who bucks authority.”
He said Betsy’s mother, Connie Hansen, is also suing under her rights as a parent because she has two other children – a daughter and a son – who will be attending Pioneer High School next year as a freshman and junior, respectively.
“The facts alleged in the complaint clearly show that school officials … are hostile to Betsy’s Roman Catholic belief that homosexual activity is immoral and sinful,” said Richard Thompson, chief counsel at the center. “In their zeal to promote the homosexual agenda during this so-called ‘Diversity Week,’ school officials gave a powerful lesson of intolerance and bigotry toward traditional Christian beliefs.
“This is nothing short of hypocrisy,” Thompson added. “Parents of Pioneer High School students need to know what is being disguised as education in the Ann Arbor Public School system.”
Ann Arbor school officials referred inquiries regarding the case to the district’s lawyer, Robert Boonin, who said he wasn’t familiar with the specific allegations made in the suit because school officials had not yet been served.
Boonin said he was “generally familiar with Ms. Hansen’s desire to be a part of [a] panel discussion, but for a number of reasons I’m aware that the school district did not include her on the panel.”
He said one reason was because Hansen had requested that school officials change the date of the debate. “I believe Ms. Hansen indicated an interest in participating after that deadline,” Boonin said.
“Even given that, the district did consider her request but [the school] decided it was not appropriate to change the composition of the panel or the topic the panel was discussing,” he said. “There were other panels going on, and she had access to them. She wished to basically change the lesson plan,” but officials decided “the lesson plan should go forward.”
Muise said regardless of the assortment of issues or number of panels, the subject of homosexuality was still inappropriate for the school setting.
“At the end of the day, this should make people stop for a minute and ask, ‘Why is this stuff even in the public schools?'” he said. “They should be teaching our kids reading, writing and arithmetic.”
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