Kallman Rebuttal to LSJ Editorial

March 17, 2018.
David A. Kallman
Senior Counsel, Great Lakes Justice Center

The Lansing State Journal (LSJ) recently printed a column I had written in response to its editorial on the Williamston School District transgender bathroom lawsuit – except it did not print my column as it had been written. The Editor made numerous changes to my column that went far beyond just grammatical or form corrections. He deleted all references to the LSJ Editorial to which I was responding and changed words making it look like I was attacking the LGBT community rather than the editorial board for its assault on concerned Williamston parents. Despite my clear instruction in my submission to the LSJ to print my column as written, the Editor disregarded my request, and made these changes without contacting me ahead of time or asking for my permission to change what had been written. This is just further proof of the progressive media’s unwillingness to let people on the other side clearly state their position on the important issues of our day without being censored or edited by them.

The LSJ editorial stated:

Editorial: Williamston residents must let go of fear and bias

LSJ Editorial Board Published 6:00 a.m. ET Feb. 18, 2018

Parents suing Williamston Community Schools are using religion to justify the bullying of students who simply wish to fit in. The lawsuit alleges recent updates – to add sexual orientation and gender identity to anti-bullying and equal opportunity policies – show that school board members “seek to silence and punish Plaintiffs’ sincerely held religious beliefs.”

This is public school. Students of all religions and all identities have the right to feel safe in
schools. The beliefs of one student do not supersede those of another. Expressing religious beliefs at school – or in a diverse community – sometimes can be like walking a fine line. In this case there is no line, fine or otherwise: Every student deserves to feel safe all of the time.

According to a 2015 survey of Michigan students, LGBTQ students are more than four times likelier to attempt suicide due at least in part to bullying in school. They’re also twice as likely to have been threatened with a weapon while at school.

When asked to provide a viewpoint to share with LSJ readers, no one was willing to step forward in support of the lawsuit to publish an opinion. Jonathon Brandt, a Williamston resident who is organizing efforts against the policy change, said, “I agree it’s an important issue, but it’s one for Williamston School District [residents] to decide outside the court of public opinion.”

Is the argument too weak to hold up to public scrutiny? It’s one that persists in pockets throughout the country, with people using religion as a weapon to prevent having to look inward at their own bias and fear.

Let the fear of gay and trans people go. Stop forcing students to choose between religious beliefs and accepting differences in others. Schools are places of learning. Students and parents alike should learn from this – both from the mistakes of the past and from board members who are striving to be inclusive. For Williamston, it comes down to one question: Do residents want to be known as a city of welcome or a city full of bias and fear?

– an LSJ editorial

In response to this attack on the good people of Williamston, I submitted the following response the next day:

Matt Hund, Engagement Editor Lansing State Journal
Monday, February 19, 2018

From:

David A. Kallman, Sr. Counsel Great Lakes Justice Center 5600 West Mt. Hope Hwy. Lansing, MI 48917

(517) 322-3207

dave@kallmanlegal.com

Matt: Please accept this as a point of view article in response to the editorial in yesterday’s paper. It contains 500 words. Please publish this as written. If you have any questions just give me a call. Thank you.

The recent LSJ editorial (2/18/18) begins with a false premise. No Williamston parent opposing the new school policies is “using religion to justify the bullying” of anyone. Everyone agrees that no child should be bullied or harassed for any reason. The current bullying law and prior Williamston policy did just that by prohibiting all bullying. In fact, state law requires all bullying policies to include “[a] provision indicating that all pupils are protected . . . and that bullying is equally prohibited without regard to its subject matter or motivating animus.” (MCL 380.1310b(5)(c)). The underlying animus or reason for the bullying is irrelevant.

However, this new policy, in violation of state law, creates special categories for protection. Why is this needed? What difference does it make if the bullying is for religious, racial, ethnic or transgender reasons? All bullying is unacceptable. There is no need to single out any special category.

Parents are not reacting out of “fear” and are not “using religion as a weapon to prevent having to look inward at their own bias and fear.” Such hyperbole and attacks against the sincere beliefs and motives of Williamston parents are beneath the dignity of legitimate journalism. Name calling, and pejorative remarks squelch any dialogue. Tolerance is a two-way street. LGBT proponents have no tolerance for anyone who disagrees with “their truth.”

It is a common tactic of the proponents of these new cultural standards to simply label others as being fearmongers, haters, homophobes, etc. This has the intended effect of shutting down discussion and public discourse. And the State Journal wonders why people hesitate to speak out publicly, and subject themselves to the vitriol and threats regularly heaped upon those who disagree with LGBT proponents!

Mandating that Williamston’s parents speak and act in a certain way dictated by the Williamston School Board, all through the force of governmental coercion, should not be decreed in volatile areas of social and cultural disagreement. A reasonable middle ground could be reached without violating the constitutional privacy, speech and religious rights of the majority of Williamston students and parents.

It is not fear or religious bigotry that drives parents’ objections to policies that fail to notify parents of their child’s health decisions or medical treatment at school. It is not fear or religious bigotry that drives parents’ objections to policies that allow biologically intact boys to shower and use locker rooms and bathrooms with girls, and vice versa. It is not fear or religious bigotry that drives parents’ objections to policies that violate students’ rights to privacy, personal autonomy and personal religious identity. It is not fear or religious bigotry that drives the parents’ other constitutional and legal objections spelled out in the pending federal lawsuit. We invite readers to go online and read the complaint for yourself. greatlakesjc.org/cases/williamston/. The State Journal obviously has the right to its opinion; however, it does not have the right to inaccurately portray the facts and to disdainfully demonize people of good faith that simply disagree.

On March 11, 2018, the LSJ published the column, but made numerous changes without my knowledge or permission:

Kallman: Williamston parents are not afraid, they just

disagree

David A. Kallman is senior legal counsel with the Great Lakes Justice Center, a non-profit corporation protecting First Amendment liberties and other civil rights. Published 5:15 a.m. ET March 11, 2018

(Photo: submitted)

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No Williamston parent opposing the new school policies is using religion to justify the bullying of anyone. Everyone agrees that no child should be bullied or harassed for any reason. The current bullying law and prior Williamston policy did just that by prohibiting all bullying.

In fact, state law requires all bullying policies to include “[a] provision indicating that all pupils are protected . . . and that bullying is equally prohibited without regard to its subject matter or motivating animus.” The underlying animus or reason for the bullying is irrelevant.

However, this new policy, in violation of state law, creates special categories for protection. Why is this needed? What difference does it make if the bullying is for religious, racial, ethnic or transgender reasons? All bullying is unacceptable. There is no need to single out any special category.

Parents are not reacting out of fear and are not using religion as a weapon to prevent having to look inward at their own bias and fear. Such hyperbole and attacks against the sincere beliefs and motives of Williamston parents are beneath the dignity of legitimate people. Name calling, and pejorative remarks squelch dialogue. Tolerance is a two-way street. LGBT proponents have no tolerance for anyone who disagrees with “their truth.”

It is a common tactic of the proponents of these new cultural standards to simply label others as being fearmongers, haters, homophobes, etc. This has the intended effect of shutting down discussion and public discourse.

And we wonder why people hesitate to speak out publicly, and subject themselves to the vitriol and threats regularly heaped upon those who disagree with LGBT proponents!

Mandating that Williamston’s parents speak and act in a certain way dictated by the Williamston School Board, all through the force of governmental coercion, should not be decreed in volatile areas of social and cultural disagreement. A reasonable middle ground could be reached without violating the constitutional privacy, speech and religious rights of the majority of Williamston students and parents.

It is not fear or religious bigotry that drives parents’ objections to policies that fail to notify parents of their child’s health decisions or medical treatment at school.

It is not fear or religious bigotry that drives parents’ objections to policies that allow biologically intact boys to shower and use locker rooms and bathrooms with girls, and vice versa.

It is not fear or religious bigotry that drives parents’ objections to policies that violate students’ rights to privacy, personal autonomy and personal religious identity.

It is not fear or religious bigotry that drives the parents’ other constitutional and legal objections spelled out in the pending federal lawsuit. We invite readers to go online and read the complaint for yourself at www.greatlakesjc.org/cases/williamston/.

Everyone has the right to their own opinion; however, no one has the right to inaccurately portray the facts and to disdainfully demonize people of good faith that simply disagree.

David A. Kallman is Senior Legal Counsel with the Great Lakes Justice Center, a non-profit corporation protecting First Amendment liberties and other civil rights. greatlakesjc.org. David is also a practicing attorney with the Kallman Legal Group in Lansing, MI. kallmanlegal.com.

I then emailed the Editor with the following response laying out my concerns with all the changes that were made to the column without my knowledge or permission:

Matt:

Thanks for publishing my response to the LSJ Editorial in the Williamston case. However, I am concerned that my column was changed without asking me, or getting my approval, ahead of time. The LSJ has never done this before on any column or letter to the editor that I have submitted. This column was within the word limitations set by the LSJ. The column I submitted stated:

The very first line of my column was deleted, which stated: The recent LSJ editorial (2/18/18) begins with a false premise.

The next sentence stated: No Williamston parent opposing the new school policies is “using religion to justify the bullying” of anyone.

Paragraph 4: Parents are not reacting out of “fear” and are not “using religion as a weapon to prevent having to look inward at their own bias and fear.” Such hyperbole and attacks against the sincere beliefs and motives of Williamston parents are beneath the dignity of legitimate journalism.

The legal citation (MCL 380.1310b(5)(c)) was included in Paragraph 2.

Paragraph 7 of my version: And the State Journal wonders why people hesitate to speak out publicly, . . . .

The last sentence of my version: The State Journal obviously has the right to its opinion; however, it does not have the right to inaccurately portray the facts and to disdainfully demonize people of good faith that simply disagree.

The version printed in the paper Sunday stated:

The first sentence was deleted.

1st sentence: No Williamston parent opposing the new school policies is using religion to justify the bullying of anyone.

4th Paragraph: Parents are not reacting out of fear and are not using religion as a weapon to prevent having to look inward at their own bias and fear. Such hyperbole and attacks against the sincere beliefs and motives of Williamston parents are beneath the dignity of legitimate people.

The legal citation (MCL 380.1310b(5)(c)) was deleted in Paragraph 2.

Paragraph 7 Printed version: And we wonder why people hesitate to speak out publicly, . .. .

The last sentence: Everyone has the right to their own opinion; however, no one has the right to inaccurately portray the facts and to disdainfully demonize people of good faith that simply disagree.

The changes made completely changed the context of what I was saying. First, the beginning sentence was necessary to let readers know I was responding to the LSJ Editorial. Second, the quotation marks were there in the two spots because I was quoting from the Sunday LSJ Editorial and I was responding to the LSJ’s statements. Third, changing the last word from “journalism” to “people” is not what I intended to convey. I was not directing the comment at other people. Fourth, deleting the legal citation prevented readers from easily looking up the law for themselves. Fifth, changing the words “the State Journal” to “we” again changes the context and intent of my column, i.e., to respond to the statements of the LSJ Editorial Board, not others. Finally, changing the last sentence as shown above also changed the intent of the column for the reasons stated.

I would appreciate a correction being printed to point out that the above changes were made. Also, in the future, other than for grammatical reasons, I would appreciate being notified if the LSJ intends to substantively change something I have written before it is published. Thanks,

David Kallman

Attorney at Law

The response I received from the Editor made it clear he will change any opinion column or opinion letter I write and submit for publication, i.e., he will change what is written any time he feels like it. It does not matter what I or any other opinion submitter want to say, he will “edit” it as he desires. He stated:

Hi David,

thank you for reaching out and I am sorry you were dissatisfied. It is our policy that we reserve the right to edit any and all content that appears in LSJ – if anyone ever gave you any other impression, my apologies.

We also do not run responses to our editorials – both to prevent the back and forth of he said, she said and to help authors avoid the distraction of responding to us rather than addressing the issue head on. Since your viewpoint stood on its own once I clipped a couple of places, it was not necessary to reject it.

Again, my apologies you were dissatisfied. We will not be running a correction. -Matt

Matt Hund, Engagement Editor mhund@lsj.com | 517.230.9806

PART OF THE USA TODAY NETWORK

Conclusion:

Ironically, it appears that the last line of my column was blatantly ignored by the LSJ: “Everyone has the right to their own opinion; however, no one has the right to inaccurately portray the facts and to disdainfully demonize people of good faith that simply disagree.” I guess you have the right to your own opinion unless, of course, you happen to write an opinion column disagreeing with the LSJ Editorial Board! Then they will exercise their “right to edit any and all content” that appears in the LSJ and put their spin on what was actually written.

There is a lesson to be learned from all this. When we try to engage with the progressive media, be aware they believe they know better than you. They will edit and change what you want to say without your permission if they deem it necessary. We need to persevere, continue to hold their feet to the fire, and demand that they act in a truthful and responsible manner, even if they do not agree with us.

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