A 15-year-old Wisconsin student has been "censored and punished" for expressing his Christian beliefs – supporting the biblical family view – in a school newspaper op-ed article about homosexuality and same-sex parent adoption.
Brandon Wegner, a contributor for Shawano High student paper "The Hawk's Post," wrote the editorial column in support of children being raised in a home by a mother and a father.
He cited various authorities and sources, including Scripture, in defense of his opinions. Wegner argued that children raised in an environment in which the mother and father are present had the best chance for success and that homosexual adoption should be prohibited. His article was released in conjunction with an opposing viewpoint provided by another student, Maddie Marquardt, also "The Hawk's Post" copy editor. Marquardt countered in her argument that gay couples should be able to adopt because the foster system is broken and children need a two-parent home.
School officials at Shawano School District were alerted to the editorial column by a homosexual parent who wrote a formal complaint that Wegner's opinion "constituted as hate speech" and could "cause kids to commit suicide."
Following the complaint, the District issued a written statement apologizing for Wegner's column. It stated that "offensive articles cultivating a negative environment of disrespect are not appropriate or condoned by the Shawano School District," USA Today reported.
"We sincerely apologize to anyone we may have offended and are taking steps to prevent items of this nature from happening in the future," the statement continued.
According to Superintendent Todd Carlson, the article did not follow school policies and the 15-year-old's opinion piece constituted "bullying."
Liberty Counsel, a nonprofit public interest law firm and ministry, has taken on Wegner's case and calls the situation "shocking" and "outrageous."
The counsel's founder and chairman Mathew Staver told The Christian Post that his organization believes the Wisconsin school has engaged in bullying against Wegner.
Liberty Counsel also sent a letter to the school that documents inappropriate comments made by certain district officials. Principal Zwirschitz allegedly told the student: "in a public school, you can't use the Bible as a source because we can't impose our religious beliefs on other people."
He is also said to have remarked: "the school newspaper is not the place to be talking about your religious beliefs at your age." Zwirschitz allegedly added: "because of this article you can't write about religion, politics, or social issues in the school paper."
The letter cites a meeting on Jan. 12 with Superintendent Carlson, who allegedly told Wagner the opinion column "went against the bullying policy" and asked him if he "regretted" writing it – to which the Wisconsin teen said he did not and stood firm on his beliefs.
Upon hearing this, Carlson allegedly told Wagner he "had got to be one of the most ignorant kids to try to argue with him on this topic," and that "we have the power to suspend you if we want to."
"His article was done in a tasteful way," countered Staver of the Liberty Counsel. "The [District] humiliated Brandon in front of everyone, prevented him from his exams, and jeopardized his academic progress."
According to the lawyer, the 15-year-old's parents were never notified about these meetings with the school district. "The actions taken by the district to censor only the religious speech of students, while allowing opposing viewpoints on the same topic is simply unconstitutional," the letter reads.
It continued, "Teachers and students should promote tolerance for the views and opinions of others, as well as for the right of an individual to form and hold different opinions or beliefs."
The Liberty Counsel's letter urges Shawano School District to not take punitive action against Wegner and to issue an apology to the teen for its "unconstitutional and irrational actions."
"The school has shown a terrible example for being hostile and bigoted," Staver told CP. "If that's not corrected, students [will have] a wrong impression on how to live in civil society."