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

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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