By Julie Bolcer
Originally published on Advocate.com November 16 2010 11:05 AM ET
A free speech debate rages at a Catholic school in Minnesota after a student newspaper deleted two op-eds that generated controversy for being critical of the Catholic church and supportive of gay teenagers.
According to Minnesota Public Radio, the op-eds in the Knight Errant newspaper at Benilde-St. Margaret's school in St. Louis Park accompanied an article about the Preserving Marriage in Minnesota DVDs sent by bishops to the state’s Catholics prior to the recent elections. Senior Bernardo Vigil called the DVD “unsubstantiated.”
A piece by Sean Simonson about the struggles of life as a gay teenager touched off the fiercest debate. He said he was moved to write by the recent series of LGBT youth suicides. The op-ed generated more than 90 comments, many positive, but some quite negative.
“Benilde-St. Margaret's principal Sue Skinner called Simonson's parents a day after the piece ran, and also talked to Simonson,” reported MPR. “School administrators declined to be interviewed for this story, but Simonson said the principal wanted the newspaper to stop taking comments on the piece. Simonson disagreed.”
Instead, the newspaper staff and their faculty adviser decided to remove the op-eds and comments entirely from the website and to post an explanation from the principal.
The explanation said in part, "While lively debate and discussion clearly has its place in a Catholic school, this particular discussion is not appropriate because the level of intensity has created an unsafe environment for students. As importantly, the articles and ensuing online postings have created confusion about Church teaching."
Vigil and Simonson expressed concern that the deletion suggests the critics have won, but they saw hope in a vibrant conversation now moving to Facebook, reported MPR.