Teen Sues School over Censored Talk; Staff Cut Anti-Homosexuality speech.(NATION)(CULTURE, ET CETERA)

Article excerpt


An 18-year-old girl and her mother are suing Ann Arbor, Mich., public schools for censoring the girl's religious beliefs on homosexuality.

During Pioneer High School's "2002 Diversity Week" in March, administrators deleted references to homosexuality from the text of an address given by senior Betsy Hansen.

"Sexuality implies an action, and there are people who have been straight, then gay, then straight again," Miss Hansen wrote in the deleted portion. "I completely and wholeheartedly support racial diversity, but I can't accept religious and sexual ideas or actions that are wrong."

The Ann Arbor school system, whose teachers and students are on summer break, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

But attorneys for Miss Hansen, a Roman Catholic, said the school told their client her speech violated its nondiscrimination policy.

Administrators who deleted the text told Miss Hansen her opinions were negative and would "water down [the] positive" message they were trying to convey during Diversity Week.

"These nondiscrimination policies are typically used as weapons against free speech, particularly against traditional Christians," said Robert Muise, the Hansens' attorney. "Anything critical of homosexual activity is labeled 'hate speech.'"

Miss Hansen said her speech was in response to a new Homosexuality and Religion panel that featured several local clergy who agreed homosexual behavior was compatible with religion. Miss Hansen and other students had offered to find panel members, such as a local Catholic priest, who could present an alternative viewpoint. But school officials rejected the proposal. They instead selected the faculty adviser of the Gay Straight Alliance to moderate the discussion, forbade students from interacting with panelists and pre-screened student questions. …