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School Censored Christian Student from Expressing Her Religious Views Against Homosexuality—Ordered to Pay $102,738

 

10/7/2004 8:08:00 PM - www.thomasmore.org

 

ANN ARBOR, MI - Detroit Federal District Judge Gerald E. Rosen has ordered the Ann Arbor Public Schools to pay $102,738 in attorney fees and costs to the Thomas More Law Center because school officials in that Michigan community prevented student Betsy Hansen from expressing her religious views against homosexuality during her high school’s annual “Diversity Week” program.

 

Robert Muise, the Law Center attorney handling the case, commented: “If the Ann Arbor Public School District wants to continue to promote the homosexual agenda at the expense of the rights of Christian students, then this will be the cost of doing business. This case should remind school officials that public schools are not a forum for their personal political agenda.”

 

During the 2002 “Diversity Week” program, Pioneer High School officials prevented Hansen from expressing her Roman Catholic view against homosexuality at a “Homosexuality and Religion” panel sponsored by the school, and also refused Hansen’s request to have a panel member who would express her Roman Catholic belief against homosexuality. Hansen objected to the fact that school officials had handpicked religious leaders who endorsed the school’s pro-homosexual agenda.

 

In response, school officials claimed that Hansen’s religious view toward homosexuality was a “negative” message and would “water-down” the “positive” religious message that they wanted to convey-that homosexuality was consistent with Christianity and that homosexual behavior is not immoral or sinful.

 

The Thomas More Law Center filed a federal civil rights case against the school district and several officials in July 2002, claiming that Hansen’s constitutional rights had been violated. Last December, Judge Rosen ruled that the school had violated Hansen’s constitutional right to freedom of speech and right to equal protection, as well as the Establishment Clause. The judge’s 70-page opinion in favor of the Christian student was highly critical of the action taken by the school to censor Hansen’s speech. The six-figure fee award is a result of that earlier decision.

 

Judge Rosen’s opinion in favor of Hansen blistered Ann Arbor School’s so-called “diversity” program:

 

“This case presents the ironic, and unfortunate, paradox of a public high school celebrating ‘diversity’ by refusing to permit the presentation to students of an ‘unwelcomed’ viewpoint on the topic of homosexuality and religion, while actively promoting the competing view. This practice of ‘one-way diversity,’ unsettling in itself, was rendered still more troubling-both constitutionally and ethically-by the fact that the approved viewpoint was, in one manifestation, presented to students as religious doctrine by six clerics (some in full garb) quoting from religious scripture. . . .

 

All of this, of course, raises the question, among others presented here, of what ‘diversity’ means and whether a school may promote one view of ‘diversity’ over another. Even accepting that the term ‘diversity’ has evolved in recent years to mean, at least colloquially, something more than the dictionary definition, the notion of sponsorship of one viewpoint to the exclusion of another hardly seems to further the school’s purported objective of ‘celebrating diversity.’”

 

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel for the Law Center, acknowledged the significance of Judge Rosen’s ruling: “His ruling sends a clear message to public schools that insidiously attempt to advance the homosexual agenda using the Trojan Horse of ‘diversity.’ Betsy Hansen’s courageous refusal to be silenced is an example to other Christian students who are being discriminated against because of their religious beliefs.”

 

 

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