Thursday, December 07, 2006

Just To Piss Off The Fundies, Part The Second

My madcap friend, R., is tweaking the fundies in a rather innovative way. Chas Clifton has the link.

In Albemarle County, Va., fundie central, Pagans recently sent a notice home with all school children inviting them to attend a Pagan Yule celebration. "What!?!" you say; "Doesn't that violate the First Amendment's requirement of separation between church and state?" Why, yes. Yes it does. And the fundies, as you may imagine, are none too happy about it. But they have only themselves to blame.

The dispute started last summer when Gabriel and Joshua Rakoski, twins who attend Hollymead Elementary School, sought permission to distribute fliers about their church’s Vacation Bible School to their peers via “backpack mail.” Many public schools use special folders placed in student backpacks to distribute notices about schools events and sometimes extra-curricular activities to parents.

School officials originally denied the request from the twins’ father, Ray Rakoski, citing a school policy barring “distribution of literature that is for partisan, sectarian, religious or political purposes.”

A Charlottesville weekly newspaper, The Hook, reports that Rakoski “sicced the Liberty Counsel on the county,” and the policy was soon revised to allow religious groups to use the backpack mail system. Liberty Counsel is a Religious Right legal group founded by Mathew Staver and now affiliated with Falwell.

Some local Pagans who attend Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church, a Unitarian-Universalist congregation in Charlottesville, decided to take advantage of the new forum as well. They created a one-page flier advertising a Dec. 9 event celebrating the December holidays with a Pagan twist and used the backpack system to invite the entire school community.

“Have you ever wondered what ‘Holidays’ refers to?” reads the flier. “Everyone knows about Christmas – but what else are people celebrating in December? Why do we celebrate the way we do?”

The flier invites people to “an educational program for children of all ages (and their adults), where we’ll explore the traditions of December and their origins, followed by a Pagan ritual to celebrate Yule.”

It concludes, “Come for one or both parts and bring your curiosity.”

Many members of this congregation are strong supporters of church-state separation who don’t believe public schools should promote any religion. But they were also unwilling to cede the field to Falwell and his fundamentalist allies. Falwell opened the backpack forum, and the Pagans were determined to secure equal time.

Suddenly not everyone was pleased by the open forum. Jeff Riddle, pastor of Jefferson Park Baptist Church in Charlottesville, wrote on his personal blog, “If the school allows the Baptist or Methodist church to send home a note to its students about Vacation Bible School, it also has to allow the Unitarian Church to send home a note about its ‘Pagan ritual to celebrate Yule’….This kind of note adds weight to the argument that it is high time for Christians to leave public schools for reasonable alternatives (homeschooling and private Christian schools).” [See, now this is what's funny. You'd think he'd conclude that this kind of note adds weight to the argument that we ought to keep church and state separate, but, sadly, no.]

Another conservative Christian blogger in the county complained about finding the flier in her child’s folder. Apparently unaware of Falwell’s role in bringing it about, the blogger who goes by the name Cathy, noted disclaimer language at the bottom of the flier noting that the event is not connected to the school and wrote, “They [the school officials] aren’t endorsing or sponsoring this? Then it shouldn’t have been included in the Friday folders. The Friday folders have never been used for any thing other than school work and school board and/or County sanctioned/sponsored programs.”

She then fumed that a “pagan ritual” is “an educational experience my children don’t need.”

To be clear, I'd strongly prefer to have NO religious flyers sent home from public school. I think it violates the First Amendment of the Constitution to have the school sending home announcements about any religion. It seems to me that the school should only be sending home notices about school and, maybe, say, the Department of Recreation or the Health Department.

But R.'s action is a great way to remind the fundies why we need separation of church and state. Don't like having your tax dollars used and your captive-audience child subjected to propaganda about my religion? Or a madrassa that teaches that the United States is the Great Satan? Or the Scientologists who want to sell your child "services," or the child-molesting Catholics? Fair enough. Then keep your damn vacation bible school announcements to hand out at your Sunday school.

Gee, five seconds of thought might have allowed the fundies to see the logical outcome of their actions, but, as demonstrated by Jeff Riddle, logical thought may not be their strong suit.


The event is planned for this Saturday, December 9th 1-3 pm at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Charlottesville (Rugby Rd). Drop by and say hello to the Fairy Guide.


Anonymous said...

The spirit of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is strong.

ProfWombat said...

If you don't know Dar Williams' song about the Christians and the Pagans getting together over dinner, you should:

Would that it were so.

Anonymous said...

Bravo! Good on 'em, as my Aussie former boss says.

Anonymous said...

What I found interesting was this bit from an article published back in September when the Liberty Council first won....

"I think it would be unconstitutional to prohibit political material," says Liberty Counsel's Staver, who isn't worried about schools being inundated. "They're not required to accept everything," he says, citing exemptions for libelous, obscene or pornographic material. Nor does he object if Muslim or Jewish groups want to distribute information about their events in schools. "The First Amendment is not just for the Liberty Counsel," he says. "You can't just pick and choose."

Even nonprofits that often oppose Liberty Counsel-- for example, Planned Parenthood-- should be allowed to use the schools to get their messages out, Staver says. "You can't transport kids to an abortion clinic," he stipulates, "but you can send material home and let parents make a decision."

And if the Aryan Nation is having a family event? "You can always think of a hard example," concedes Staver. "I haven't seen the Aryan Nation come up with outreach to kids with picnics or lessons."

Anonymous said...

Sauce for the goose...

As a non-pushy-keep-thy-faith-to-thyself kind of Christian, I applaud this. Bravo, Pagans!

'Tis funny how many other Christians get a little bollixed when they find out (OK, I enjoy telling them!) out the fact that (a) JC was probably born in April, 4BCE, and (b) holly, pine trees, mistletoe, ornaments and feasting have PAGAN origins. Heck, a lot of them don't know that celebrating Christmas was once illegal in this country!


Anonymous said...

I brought that story to the attention of Jason Pitzl-Waters on his The Wild Hunt blog a couple of days ago. He posted a thread about it today and there is some discussion going on there. It would be great if there was some input from people who were directly involved in this matter.

donna said...

s what they get for stealing a great pagan holiday like Solstice!

Anonymous said...

Well they kinda borrowed it for a while. . . ;-)