Tuesday, December 28, 2010

An Angry Anti-Christmas at School

The metaphor "the War on Christmas" can be mocked -- as if Santa and his reindeer are dodging anti-aircraft fire. But many of our public schools have church-and-state sensitivity police with an alarming degree of Santaphobia. Anyone who's attended a school's "winter concert" in December with no traditional Christmas music -- not even "Frosty the Snowman" -- knows the drill. The vast Christian majority (that funds the public schools) is told that school is no place to celebrate one's religion, even in its most watered-down and secularized forms.

There are real-life stories of Scrooge-like school administrators, like the one at the appropriately named Battlefield High School in Haymarket, Va. A group of 10 boys calling themselves the Christmas Sweater Club were given detention and at least two hours of cleaning for tossing free 2-inch candy canes at students as they entered before classes started. They were "creating a disturbance." One of their mothers, Kathleen Flannery, told WUSA-TV that an administrator called her and explained, "(N)ot everyone wants Christmas cheer, that suicide rates are up over Christmas, and that they should keep their cheer to themselves, perhaps."

Of course, that level of sensitivity is not applied when it comes to slamming Christianity during the Christmas season. On Dec. 16, The Washington Post paid tribute to another suburban school in northern Virginia, McLean High School, for warming hearts during the season with "The Laramie Project." This play is a political assault, using transcripts of real-life interviews by gay activists out to blame America's religious people for the beating death of homosexual college student Matthew Shepard in 1998.

The Post championed how in the play, "there is a Baptist minister who says he hopes Shepard was thinking of his lifestyle as he was tied to the fence ... There is a young woman who grew up in the Muslim faith in Laramie and thinks the town and nation need to accept what the case has laid bare. 'We are like this,' she says."

This account actually underplayed what the character "lays bare" -- a guilt trip. In the script, she says "there are people trying to distance themselves from this crime. And we need to own this crime. Everyone needs to own it. We are like this. We ARE like this. WE are LIKE this." (Emphasis by the playwright, Moises Kaufman.)

That attack keeps coming. A Catholic priest insists the killers "must be our teachers. What did we as a society do to teach you that?" A character also reads an e-mail from a college student: "You and the straight people of Laramie and Wyoming are guilty of the beating of Matthew Shepard just as the Germans who looked the other way are guilty of the deaths of the Jews, the gypsies, and the homosexuals. You have taught your straight children to hate their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters -- until and unless you acknowledge that Matt Shepard's beating is not just a random occurrence, not just the work of a couple of random crazies, you have Matthew's blood on your hands."

This is vicious anti-Christian propaganda, plain and simple. Any teaching that homosexuality is a sin is an invitation to murder? These mudslinging culture warriors are celebrated as compassionate by administrators, while just down the road, the Christmas Sweater Club is given detention for spreading Christmas cheer.

The McLean High students putting on this play are candid. They are trying to walk people away from the Bible. "I hope that this changes some people's perspectives on gay rights and maybe opens their minds a little bit," proclaimed Lauren Stewart, 17, the student-director. "I think the way to progress on issues is to talk about them."

Another student added, "If one person comes into the theater and is on the fence about ... any discrimination and leaves questioning their beliefs, I think we've done this play justice."

Making people "have conversations" is presented as glorious. But it wouldn't be a constructive conversation if students were trying to convert people to Christianity -- only when you try to convert people away from it.

A little research shows plenty of "socially conscious" public high schools have staged this propaganda bombing, aiming to crush biblical "discrimination." But it takes a really special school administrator to let it be scheduled in the last two weeks before Christmas. It's amazing that at Battlefield High School, the accusation was that Christmas cheer invited suicides, but plays about murderous "hate crimes" that America has collectively committed by our "fear and ignorance of the Other" somehow should make our spirits bright.


Scrapping School Religious Holidays Solves Nothing

In a recent column for USA Today, Boston University religion professor Stephen Prothero argues that public schools should do away with giving students’ days off for religious holidays because honoring Christian holidays in this manner is unfair to other religions.

“As I read the First Amendment,” writes Prothero, “using taxpayer dollars to prop up Christianity and Judaism at the expense of Hinduism is unconstitutional, whether the number of parents who won’t send their children to school on [the Hindu festival of] Diwali totals 80 or 800.”

Prothero suggests that those who agree with him should clamor to have every religious holiday under the sun celebrated in our public schools, in which schools would thereby be overwhelmed and forced to honor none of them as a matter of “fairness.”

One would hope that USA Today, which presented this article as a half-page, quasi editorial would let someone write a similarly placed piece reminding us of the need for renewing our moral values at Christmas, and to add their shock when Christmas parades, holidays and greetings come under fire from militant secularists.

Nevertheless, it is always amusing when folks, typically college professors, drape themselves in the Constitution when they want to do away with something they don’t like, and in the process, ignore the rest of the Constitution that, were it adhered to, would have prevented the very “problem” they’d like to solve.

Nowhere in our Constitution is there a mandate for a centralized public education system to begin with – a system where the Federal Government spends $70 billion per year dictating which attitudes, values and beliefs ought to be drilled into every American students’ mind. Perhaps our Founders realized that a one-size-fits-all approach to education, whereby the ruling class was the final arbiter, was dangerous to all of our liberties and not just those laid out in the First Amendment.

Nor did our Founders establish a school system whereby American families are taxed into oblivion and essentially forced to enroll their children in government schools – schools they must pay for regardless of whether they use them or not, and regardless of whether they even have children or not. Schools, incidentally, where students are told to check their religion at the door under some bizarre interpretation of the First Amendment.

Constitution aside, Prothero’s suggestion that we should do away with school-sanctioned religious holidays is hardly a solution. It’s a false notion that we can respect everyone by respecting no one, as he suggests. Telling the 76 percent of Americans who are Christian that observance of their holy days must be scrapped in deference to the 0.4 percent of Americans who are Hindu might seem fair within the confines of the Boston University Religious Department. However, in the real world, this doesn’t hold up to anyone’s idea of fairness.

Those who wish to make a point by invoking the Constitution need to understand that they can’t pick and choose from the document like it’s a cafeteria line. The Constitution is only as strong, and as rational, as the sum of its parts. So while it’s true that our Founders never intended a government mandated religion, it’s equally true that they never intended a coerced government education system in which all children are prohibited from practicing or exhibiting any religious beliefs.


Christian assemblies in British schools face axe over claims they infringe children's human rights

Christian assemblies in schools could be scrapped if campaigning atheists and teachers get their way. According to the National Secular Society, a legal requirement for pupils to take part in a daily act of collective worship ‘of a broadly Christian character’ discriminates against young atheists and non-Christians, and infringes human rights.

And the campaign has support from headmasters who claim that many schools already ignore the requirement, despite it being set in stone since the passing of the 1944 Education Act. The Association of School and College Leaders has also suggested assemblies should end, and the British Humanist Association is campaigning on the subject.

But the most direct attack on religious assemblies, which represents yet another assault on Britain’s historic Christian culture, has come in a letter to Education Secretary Michael Gove from Keith Porteous, executive director of the National Secular Society.

Mr Porteous wrote: ‘We believe that the mandatory daily acts of mainly Christian worship and, in particular, the imposition on children to take part in such acts, represent an infringement of rights. ‘We recognise that assemblies with an ethical framework have a vital contribution to make to school life. ‘We do, however, object to collective worship in principle, as not being a legitimate activity of a state-funded institution. ‘We are confident that you would not wish to perpetuate a law that is routinely disregarded. We hope that, under your leadership, the law will be changed so that it is brought out of disrepute.’

The letter goes on to urge the Education Secretary to scrap the requirement to stage Christian assemblies in an education bill due to be produced next year.

Although parents can withdraw their children from such assemblies simply by writing a letter to the headmaster or headmistress, the atheist campaigners claim many fear such letters could make their children targets for bullying.

The National Secular Society had already prompted outrage this year by launching legal action using the much-derided Human Rights Act to stop councils beginning meetings with prayers. If such action was taken through the appropriate courts, religious assemblies could ultimately be ruled illegal.

The campaigning atheists have willing supporters inside the school system, with many of them saying schools do not have big enough halls to accommodate all their pupils every morning.

Paul Kelley, the headmaster of Monkseaton High School, Tyne and Wear, has claimed that most schools ignore the requirement to stage a daily collective act of worship anyway. Five years ago he lobbied the Labour government to scrap the requirement, but was told the House of Lords would never approve such a move.

The Association of School and College Leaders has also backed calls for an end to the law on daily religious assemblies, saying that in reality they often simply did not happen. ASCL general secretary Brian Lightman said: ‘Many schools aren’t doing the daily act of worship and theoretically they are breaking the law.’

The Church of England, however, is strongly opposed to changing the law. A spokesman said: ‘To deny children the entitlement to take part in worship at school is to deny them a learning experience that is increasingly important in the modern world.’

And the Department for Education said the Government was not planning to bring an end to compulsory Christian assemblies. A spokesman said: ‘The Government believes that the requirement for collective worship in schools encourages pupils to reflect on the concept of belief and the role it plays in the traditions and values of this country.

‘Schools have the flexibility to design provision that is appropriate to the age and background of their pupils. ‘If a headteacher feels it is inappropriate to have Christian collective worship, the school can apply to have this changed.’


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