October 18, 2004

Posted 1:15 AM Eastern

In 2002, The Thomas More Law Center (search) filed a federal civil rights case against the Ann Arbor school district along with several officials. This lawsuit was brought on behalf of Betsy Hansen claiming Hansen's constitutional rights had been violated. 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. This decision cited school officials in Ms. Hansen's community prevented her from expressing her expressing her religious views against homosexuality during her high school's annual “Diversity Week” program.

According to 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.”

The Pioneer High School officials during the school's “Diversity Week” program held in 2002, barred Ms. Hansen from expressing her Roman Catholic view against homosexuality at a “Homosexuality and Religion” panel sponsored by the school. She was also denied a request to have a panel member who would express her Roman Catholic belief against homosexuality. Ms. Hansen raised a further objection that officials had handpicked religious leaders who endorsed the school's pro-homosexual agenda.

The response by school officials was that Ms. Hansen's religious views towards homosexuality were a "negative" message which would “water-down” the “positive” religious message the school desired to inculcate to attendees: homosexuality was consistent with Christianity and that homosexual behavior is not immoral or sinful.

In a 70-page ruling by Judge Rosen, he ruled that the school had violated Ms. Hansen's constitutional right to freedom of speech as well as equal protection under the law, and said this about Ann Arbor's "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.’”

Acknowledging the importance of Judge Rosen's rule, Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel for the Law Center said, “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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