By Dave Begel Contributing Writer Published Feb 02, 2012 at 12:01 PM

I could be a Christian or I could just as easily be a Jew.

Confusing, I know, but imagine if you are me. I grew up in a household with a Jewish father, an Episcopalian mother and a staunch Roman Catholic grandmother.

It hasn't been easy, but I have a religious code of ethics and attitudes that has evolved and continues to do so. I like to think I've taken the best Christian stuff, mixed it up with the best Jewish stuff and tossed in just a pinch of Catholic teaching and here I am.

I find my religious sensibilities (and all my other sensibilities) deeply offended by something that's going on in our great state and making national news.

Up in Shawano they had a point, counter-point thing in the school newspaper. The issue was adoption of children by same-sex parents. One student supported it, the other one, Brendan Wegner, opposed it and cited his Christian beliefs as the basis for his opinion.

Now, I think this poor Wegner kid is dead wrong and is going to have some difficulties as he moves out of high school into the real world, where Christians and Muslims and gays and straight and a lot of other people get along just fine.

But what happened in Shawano after the article appeared is what is so dispiriting about this.

Nick Uttecht, one-half of a gay couple with children in the Shawano public schools, was upset. He said the opinion piece was bullying. He didn't want his kids to learn about this kind of attitude.

And the school system, proving once again that people with high level educations can be just as stupid as the rest of us, wrote a letter apologizing for the opinion piece and promising to examine how that student newspaper went about its business.

"Offensive articles cultivating a negative environment of disrespect are not appropriate or condoned by the Shawano School District," district Superintendent Todd Carlson said in a written statement.

Then one of those righteous Christian law firms, this one calling itself the Liberty Counsel, got involved by threatening the superintendent telling him not to dare punish young Mr. Wegner. I've always believed that places like the Liberty Counsel are places where lawyers who could barely pass the bar exam ended up. On its home page the Liberty Counsel has an endorsement quote from the Rev. Jerry Falwell. That should tell you all you need to know about this group, plus he's been dead for almost four years.

Here's the problem with this whole thing. Uttecht, who is raising four kids with his partner, got upset with the school newspaper.

"I'm worried the lasting impact of this thing. I'm worried about how this is going to affect my kids," said Uttecht. "And I'm worried how gay students in school will be treated. It took me a long time to come out, and I think this just really sets things back by being so closed-minded. This sets things back 20 or 30 years." I know there are at least three openly gay families in the district, there's probably more.

What effect is this going to have on my kids? And how are other people going to react?"

I wonder if this guy thinks he is going to be able to protect his four kids, none of whom are adopted (I guess he and his partner had them when they were both married to women), from people who think gays are evil bad people who threaten the foundation of our world. He won't be able to, of course. Like they say, ignorance is temporary, stupid is forever.

What he's done here though is make a little problem much worse. He is teaching his kids that what you do with hateful speech is prohibit it. Eliminate it. Shut it down. Punish people for saying it.

That's just about the worst lesson you can teach. Much worse than worrying about how a few religious zealots can't figure out that two people who love each other ought to be able to live together without hassle from bigots.

Dave Begel Contributing Writer

With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.

He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.

This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.

Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.