Gay Censorship in Shawano
SHAWANO — A gay couple with school-age children is outraged over a Shawano High School newspaper column that cites Bible passages and calls homosexuality a sin punishable by death.Her academic specialization, of course, makes it clear what she is going to say.
The column ran on the editorial page of Shawano High School’s Hawks Post recently as part of an opinion package about gay families who adopt children. The other side said sexual orientation does not determine a person’s ability to raise kids.
“This is why kids commit suicide,” said Nick Uttecht, who is raising four children with his partner, Michael McNelly.
Uttecht told school district officials he thinks the piece opposing gays as parents is hateful and should not have run. He worries the strong language will hurt his children and could lead students to bully gay classmates.
School officials apologized and said they will review the process for editing and producing the paper.
“Offensive articles cultivating a negative environment of disrespect are not appropriate or condoned by the Shawano School District,” district Superintendent Todd Carlson said in a written statement.
According to the 2010 U.S. Census, out of 17,019 households in Shawano County, 82 were same-sex households, and nearly half reported children in the home. In Wisconsin, 13,630 out of 2.28 million households in 2010 were same-sex, and 5,978 of those households had children.
A step back?
The student newspaper column against same-sex couples says: “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.”
Uttecht said his 13-year-old son, Tanner, who is in eighth grade, saw the article and asked about it.
“When I saw this I was in shock,” said Uttecht, who is raising four children, three who are his biological kids and the biological daughter of his partner. Three are in the Shawano school system; the youngest is 4.
“I talked to the school superintendent; he said he was shocked,” Uttecht said
Carlson told the Green Bay Press-Gazette “appropriate steps are being taken” to remedy the situation, but did not provide details.
He sent the following written statement:
“The Shawano School District would like to apologize for a recent article printed in the Hawks Post newspaper. Proper judgment that reflects school district policies needs to be exercised with articles printed in our school newspaper. Offensive articles cultivating a negative environment of disrespect are not appropriate or condoned by the Shawano School District. We sincerely apologize to anyone we may have offended and are taking steps to prevent items of this nature from happening in the future.”
Uttecht said he’s worried about the lasting impact of the column.
“I’m worried about how this is going to affect my kids,” said Uttecht, who also is an elected member of the Menominee Indian Head Start Policy Council. “And I’m worried how gay students in school will be treated. It took me a long time to come out, and I think this just really sets things back by being so closed-minded. This sets things back 20 or 30 years.
“I know there are at least three openly gay families in the district, there’s probably more. What effect is this going to have on my kids? And how are other people going to react?”
David Hudson, an expert for the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group First Amendment Center, said the column may be distasteful to some, but student journalists were practicing their constitutional right to free speech.
“Bullying is a serious concern, and I don’t take it lightly. But I hope it doesn’t lead to squashing different viewpoints. I do think (gay adoption) is an issue people are deeply divided about. Hopefully student journalists don’t have to fear they’ll be squashed if they take a controversial view.”
Editors and advisers have the job of toning down language if it is too sensational, Hudson said.
“Freedom of speech includes speech about religious viewpoints,” Hudson said. “If you took that away, it could be seen as discrimination. Someone could have an atheist opinion, and that’s OK, too.
“Any controversial issue is a lightning rod for censorship.”
Although students have the right to voice their opinion, it doesn’t mean they should say it in a school paper, said Christine Smith, assistant professor of psychology, human development and women’s studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
“High school students are at a time in their life when they are developing intellectually and socially,” she said. “To see something like this debated in the paper could be devastating. How would you feel if someone said your family is abnormal, is not acceptable, that your parents never should have been allowed to have you, that they’re not suitable to raise you?This, of course, is the theory universial among politically correct people: you can’t say bad things about homosexuality, because that might make gays (or the children of gays) feel bad.
“Of course, it’s got to be harmful. Kids this age are so worried about discovering who they are and what they are. To have them told their family is immoral and not suitable has to be devastating. To be told by your peers, people you see in the hallways, these people who clearly have passed judgment.”
A consistent policy of not saying things that make people feel bad might have something to recommend it. Unfortunately, the people who want to censor anti-gay speech are quite willing to attack Christians who view homosexuality in a negative light.
They don’t at all mind if the open promotion of homosexuality by a school district tends to marginalize Christian students. In fact they want that to happen.
It’s interesting to see politically correct school bureaucrats talk about “a negative environment of disrespect” when they are in fact encouraging and promoting “a negative environment of disrespect” for Christian values and thus for Christian students.
If the school is worried about negative consequences of controversial columns in a student newspaper, they should refuse to run such columns, banning both sides of the argument. In fact, a large body of Constitutional law holds that any government-imposed restrictions on speech must be “content neutral.”
You can file this case under “gay fascism.”