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pagandem4justice Donating Member (193 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-20-06 11:33 PM
Original message
Need your opinions on this occurrence at my school.
Edited on Wed Dec-20-06 11:34 PM by pagandem4justice
(I am xposting at the Ancient Wisdom and Pagan Spirituality Board for maximum comment.)

Last week, my public elementary school presented a holiday program on Tuesday evening for PTO and parents. I thought nothing of it other than the fact that my choir students (about 1/4 of my 5th grade class) would have to be there late that evening, and that I regretted not being able to see them perform. I figured it was the typical holiday fare, watered down "Jingle-Bells-ish" songs and so forth.

Yesterday, on the last day of classes, we gathered in the cafeteria during school hours for a reprise of the program...which was (to my surprise and chagrin) a Christmas Posada. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Hispanic culture, a Posada is a traditional Mexican/Spanish Christmas Nativity play, complete with Mary, Joseph, innkeepers, and the Baby Jesus. The choir sang "Do you hear what I hear?," "Away in a Manger," a couple Spanish language holiday songs -- also religious in theme -- and a modern song that sounded like a country-western type thing about "this baby boy" and "in Bethlehem."

This is, I know, totally wrong for a public school. My Jehovah Witnesses students had to withdraw froma program meant for the entire student body. I, as a Pagan, was very put off and felt almost assaulted by the presentation at which I -- as part of my job in supervising my classroom as a captive audience -- was required to attend. But, in going to AU and ACLU, I can't find any information specific to Christmas pageantry at public schools.

The music teacher and those who put on this spectacle were very careful to disguise it in a "culture" lesson, having student narrators read a historical background of the Posada tradition in Hispanic culture, but it was really nothing but a religious Christmas play.

What should I do??

Thanks in advance.
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northofdenali Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-21-06 01:23 AM
Response to Original message
1. Open up a dialogue immediately.
Make sure the music teacher is included, as well as the principal and any others whose approval is necessary for an event. It may well be they are "uninformed" but that's a little hard to believe in this day and age. Your being required to attend, and the (intentioned?) withdrawal of students who have different beliefs is probably grounds for a suit, and the school admins should, very sternly, be made aware of that fact.

Contact your local ACLU for the particulars - they're great about giving you info by phone or email. Had this "cultural event" included scripts with Hanukah, Kwanzaa etc. being acknowledged (Muslims also recognize Christ as a prophet), perhaps the event could have been tolerated. However, being religion-based, I may be wrong on this point as well!

Cross-post this to GD, too - lots of us don't often visit specific smaller forums, and there are a number of civil libertarians on DU who probably have a lot more info than I do.

Happy holidays! Hope your Solstice is terrific! (Here in Fairbanks, we have a HUGE Winter Solstice festival - come join us and celebrate one year - a link: http://www.downtownfairbanks.com/

Thanks for unlurking, BTW! :hi:
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pagandem4justice Donating Member (193 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-21-06 12:24 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. Thanks!
I appreciate the good, sound advice as well as the "unlurked" welcome! :)
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northofdenali Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Dec-21-06 01:23 AM
Response to Original message
2. Open up a dialogue immediately.
Make sure the music teacher is included, as well as the principal and any others whose approval is necessary for an event. It may well be they are "uninformed" but that's a little hard to believe in this day and age. Your being required to attend, and the (intentioned?) withdrawal of students who have different beliefs is probably grounds for a suit, and the school admins should, very sternly, be made aware of that fact.

Contact your local ACLU for the particulars - they're great about giving you info by phone or email. Had this "cultural event" included scripts with Hanukah, Kwanzaa etc. being acknowledged (Muslims also recognize Christ as a prophet), perhaps the event could have been tolerated. However, being religion-based, I may be wrong on this point as well!

Cross-post this to GD, too - lots of us don't often visit specific smaller forums, and there are a number of civil libertarians on DU who probably have a lot more info than I do.

Happy holidays! Hope your Solstice is terrific! (Here in Fairbanks, we have a HUGE Winter Solstice festival - come join us and celebrate one year - a link: http://www.downtownfairbanks.com/

Thanks for unlurking, BTW! :hi:
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madeline_con Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Dec-31-06 01:54 AM
Response to Original message
4. By law, no one can be compelled to listen to a religious
program in public school. It's very clear.

If it were after hours, people would have a choice whehter ot come. As it was, it was nothig short of "witnessin' for Jesus".

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wickedcity Donating Member (47 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-02-07 12:01 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. Do you really believe that?
What about the Virginia school forcing students to wear Muslim clothing and pray to Allah five times a day as a "culture lesson"?
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iverglas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-02-07 02:51 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. I'll bet you really believe that --
the Virginia school forcing students to wear Muslim clothing and pray to Allah five times a day

-- although I won't bet more than 5 cents. Too risky.

I'm guessing that you are pretending to talk about / think you're talking about this:

http://www.whsv.com/news/headlines/5022016.html
That's what Casey Morris hopes to eliminate through his research project, the stereotypes the public has about Muslims. Not only will he learn about the culture by wearing traditional Muslim clothing and praying five times a day, but "Also going without pork for 30 days, that's going to be rough but we'll make do," said Morris.

Morris says he is prepared for the criticism that comes along with it.

"Yeah, we're probably going to get some funny looks as we go down the hallway. I'm expecting comments maybe here and there. You know what, I'll be honest, I'll be disappointed if we dont get some," said Morris.

... Morris' goal is to get a big dose of multiculturalism.

"Alan and I will obviously come out of the deal with a great understanding of the culture with great respect and appreciation for the Islamic culture and hopefully we'll impart some of that upon other people too," said Morris.

... Morris says he and his classmate will start the actual project January 2 and go for the whole month. They will capture everything on video and put together a documentary not only showing what they learned, but the local attitudes toward Muslims as well.

Gee. Sounds like a voluntary project undertaken by a high school student, to me. How 'bout you?

One would hate to think that you're getting your news and views from someplace that doesn't quite tell the whole truth ... or that you weren't quite telling the whole truth about the news.




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wickedcity Donating Member (47 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-02-07 05:37 PM
Response to Reply #6
8. I apologize...
I was told the project was mandatory. Though it still raises and interesting question; would many here protest it if it was mandatory?
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iverglas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-02-07 05:43 PM
Response to Reply #8
10. interesting?
it still raises and interesting question; would many here protest it if it was mandatory?

Or just a baseless insinuation? You have some reason to think that many here would NOT protest if it were mandatory?

I was told the project was mandatory.

Here's a question: by whom? Perhaps my inference that the project is voluntary was inaccurate; if you offer your source, we can assess its credibility, and consider whether you should really have done that before repeating the tale and using it to impugn anyone else's.

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gbate Donating Member (900 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Feb-11-07 01:07 PM
Response to Reply #4
18. I agree with this.
If it was held during school hours, then it might be a no-no. I am a mother of two teens, both of whom participate in holiday music programs. I have seen quite a few outward displays of faith during these concerts. The most memorable (for lack of a better word) was my oldest's 6th grade music teacher praying before the band concert. This happened quite a few years ago and I haven't seen anything as blatant as this.
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YellingTuna Donating Member (44 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-02-07 03:39 PM
Response to Original message
7. If you had the ability to leave.
Edited on Tue Jan-02-07 03:40 PM by YellingTuna
If this was an optional event, which you could decide not to attend due to whatever moral or religious reason, I cant see too much harm in it. Plus, I don't think youre in Elementary school! You write as if youre in high school.
If the play did not disrespect any other religion then I just don't see the problem.
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iverglas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-02-07 05:39 PM
Response to Reply #7
9. yup, there's just no problem at all
If those coloured folks had the ability to find another restaurant to eat at, what harm could there have been in any restaurant refusing to serve them?

Something about the nature of rights just seems to constantly escape some people ...


Something else seems to have escaped you in particular:

my choir students (about 1/4 of my 5th grade class)

-- the person you are addressing seems to be a teacher, not a student. Small wonder you would not think s/he is in elementary school.


But back to our sheep ... of the non-nativity scene variety.

It is entirely possible for content about religion to be presented in a public school as part of an educational exercise. One could hardly teach children about much of human history without incorporating content that consists of the principles and practices of various religions, e.g.

*Teaching about* religion is entirely different from *teaching* religion. The poster is of the opinion that the event in question was *teaching* religion, dishonestly framed as *teaching about* religion as part of a culture. Not having been there and witnessed it, I won't express an opinion.

Plainly, of course, teaching religion is a discriminatory practice in a public school -- it treats children who are not adherents of that religion differently from children who are, regardlesss of whether they "have the ability to leave" or not. (Teaching about religion can also be discriminatory, if various religions are not included in the curriculum and especially if one religion in particular is spotlighted.)

The Jehovah's Witness students referred to in the post had that ability and exercised it; this meant that they did not receive the same services as the children who did not exercise the option to leave, and they were forced to choose between (a) acting contrary to their religious beliefs and (b) bringing unwanted attention to themselves by acting in accordance with their religious beliefs.

What earthly purpose can be served by an activity in a public school that imposes this kind of "choice" on children?


If the play did not disrespect any other religion then I just don't see the problem.

What kind of a "liberal" would not object to this kind of discriminatory treatment of children? They are being "disrespected" -- or more accurately discriminated against in the provision of a service they are entitled to receive on an equal basis with other children -- when a school requires that they engage in a religious practice that they do not wish to engage in or risk the foreseeable negative social consequences, and possibly even academic consequences, of withdrawing.

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Mikey929 Donating Member (290 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-03-07 03:40 PM
Response to Reply #9
11. Don't sweat it
Cultural instruction on religion is permitted in schools. Keep in mind that the Establishment Clause is a two-pronged provision. First, it says that congress shall pass no law respecting the establishment of religion. Second, it says that nor shall Congress prohibit the free exercise thereof. Religion is not banned simply because you are on public school grounds.

Christmas is a national holiday. It is based on the birth of Christ. So if Christmas is a national holiday based on the birth of Christ, how can it be unlawful to have a school program that discusses that very issue? So you listened to a few songs that mentioned the baby Jesus. Is that really on par with being assaulted, as you stated in your post? I think that's an exaggeration.

If students were required to participate or get a failing grade, or were required to participate on penalty of not graduating, then you would have a point. That would be an undue restriction on a person's religious liberty. But to simply expose children to some religious-based songs and themes at a cultural event celebrating a national holiday does not infringe on their religious liberty.



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iverglas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-03-07 03:47 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. don't patronize me

Your failure to understand / acknowledge the nature of equality rights in the 21st century, in the big wide world and even in the USofA, just makes your attempt look less than clever.

My point had nothing to do with your "establishment clause". If you cared to address my point, other than by expressing your baseless personal opinion that to simply expose children to some religious-based songs and themes at a cultural event celebrating a national holiday does not infringe on their religious liberty ... well, I guess you would have done so.


Is that really on par with being assaulted, as you stated in your post? I think that's an exaggeration.

Actually, I think that's a blatantly false statement, and I have no idea why you have made it, since I in fact stated no such thing. Perhaps you're needing a new prescription; you seem to be seeing things that are not there. And not seeing what is quite clearly there.



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Mikey929 Donating Member (290 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-03-07 04:13 PM
Response to Reply #12
13. Chill
Sorry, the comment about feeling assaulted was to the original poster, who stated that he or she almost felt assaulted at the event. I think this is awfully strong language when the only thing that happened was she listented to some religious-themed Christmas songs.

As for your statement that your point had nothing to do with the establishment clause, I would say this: Every single case about religious liberty in this country is based on the establishment clause. It is the bedrock of all court opinions on what is permissible and non-permissible conduct on school grounds. So any discussion of religion in the public schools has to start with the establishment clause.

If students were FORCED to participate in this event upon penalty of academic failure or other penalty, then I would agree it is impermissible. But I don't see how these kids (or teachers) were actually discriminated against because they attended a cultural event about Christmas. How were these people discriminated against? Did they get lower grades? Were they required to sign some oath of loyalty to one religion or another? No, they learned a little about an Hispanic custom and sang some songs.

The original poster is over-reacting and should let this go. Find some truly important things to get upset about and work to change those. Singing "Silent Night" is not worth a lawsuit.
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iverglas Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Jan-03-07 07:57 PM
Response to Reply #13
14. guess who doesn't care whether you agree with anything?
Or whether you think anyone is overreacting to anything, or about much of anything else you think/say/feel blah blah.

You may not have noticed, but this isn't about you.

But I don't see how these kids (or teachers) were actually discriminated against because they attended a cultural event about Christmas. How were these people discriminated against? Did they get lower grades? Were they required to sign some oath of loyalty to one religion or another? No, they learned a little about an Hispanic custom and sang some songs.

Yup. And people of colour got seats on the buses. Not the seats they wanted, maybe, but why would you care? The real question being, of course: why would they care whether you care?

Like I said: you might want to learn a little about the nature of equality rights in the 21st century ... or even the 20th. This is not about "religious liberty" -- no one is proposing that someone else be deprived of any right or freedom because of his/her religion, or prohibited from practising a religion or compelled to practice a religion on pain of punishment by the state for non-compliance -- it is about DISCRIMINATION in the provision of a service to which all children, in this case, are entitled. The "establishment clause" HAS NOTHING TO DO with the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of religion, which I would really assume is to be found somewhere in the laws of the state where this event occurred, or whatever legislation the school is funded under.

Texas it seems. Hmm. George W Bush seems to have had some ideas in this regard during his tenure:
http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1568/is_3_31/ai_55015497

Here's another fun Texas one:
http://www.usdoj.gov/opa/pr/2003/April/03_crt_247.htm
The Justice Department today announced that it was closing its inquiry into complaints by Texas Tech students that a biology professor's medical school recommendation policy, which required affirmation of a personal belief in evolution, constituted religious discrimination. The decision was based on the professor's replacement of the affirmation requirement with a requirement that students simply be able to explain the scientific theory of evolution.

The Justice Department received complaints alleging that Professor Michael Dini had discriminated, based on religion, against several students through his written recommendation policy. The policy, set forth on a Texas Tech website, stated that to receive a medical school recommendation, the student had to meet three criteria. These were to get an "A" grade in one of Professor Dini's courses, get to know him personally through working as a teaching assistant or extracurricular activities, and "truthfully and forthrightly affirm a scientific answer" to the question: "How do you think the human species originated?"


Children *are* forced to attend school, essentially -- and even if they weren't, the schools are a public service, paid for by the public, to which all children are entitled to equal access and where they are entitled to equal treatment without distinction based on, e.g., religion.

Children *are* entitled not to be treated differently in the public schools on the basis of their religion (or lack of religion).

A child whose religious beliefs (or lack of religious beliefs) require that s/he *not* participate in other people's religious practices is entitled not to be treated differently if s/he chooses to act in accordance with those beliefs in the schools. A child who must withdraw from a school-sponsored event during school hours in order to act in accordance with his/her religious beliefs, i.e. not to participate in someone else's religious practices, IS being discriminated against. A child whose religious beliefs are disregarded, while other children's religious beliefs are recognized and given expression in the school, IS being discriminated against.

(Please recall that I chose to express no opinion about whether, in THIS instance, the religion in question was being taught or taught about, and that I was addressing what YOU said, which plainly applied without such distinctions.)

This is true whether or not there are any measurable effects resulting from the child's withdrawal (or non-withdrawal) from the event. And if you don't think that children notice such things, and use them as weapons against other children, you're just trying too hard to pretend that the world is what it isn't.

It simply is not up to you to decide that no one is injured by being compelled to participate in someone else's religious practices, any more than it is up to you to decide whether someone is injured by being compelled to sit at the back of the bus. It just isn't about you.

Here's a teeny primer for you:
http://sitemaker.umich.edu/hwaters/discrepancies_with_religion_in_schools

Oh look; Bill Clinton got into the act:
http://www.adherents.com/misc/fed_guidelines.html
... # Teachers and administrators are prohibited from either encouraging or discouraging religious activity and from participating in such activity with students.

# Public schools may not provide religious instruction but may teach about religion. ...

And there's nothing like a case in point:
http://www.mormonstoday.com/000625/N1SchoolPrayer02.shtml
The case was originally filed in 1995, in response to the way that the Mormon family, and a Catholic family that joined them in the suit, were treated by teachers and other students in the school district. Both families felt that their children had been discriminated against and harassed for belonging to a minority religion in the majority Southern Baptist town, according to Mormon News' analysis of news reports and contacts with those involved in the case.

Both families experienced a pattern of teachers and students promoting their religion at school. One junior high school teacher passed out fliers for a Baptist revival in class. Invitations to religious camps and other religious materials were handed out in the classroom. Teachers included denominational religious teachings in their lessons. Bibles were distributed in the schools by the Gideons. At lunch time, students were told to bow their heads and pray before eating.

The families soon discovered that religion was included in the school system's policies. ...


I'm sure you'll get it if you stop trying so hard not to.
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Mikey929 Donating Member (290 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jan-04-07 08:26 AM
Response to Reply #14
15. Thank you
Thank you for the abundant amount of time you spent in responding. Obviously you have put a lot of time into this. I'm not sure why you express such anger toward me, but that is another issue. I'm just trying to discuss an interesting point of law and religion.

I guess where we primarily disagree is what constitutes discrimination. Obviously, if there is preferential treatment attached to one religion over another, that is wrong. And if there is some penalty for failure to participate in an event, that is wrong. We are in agreement there. A lot of your examples fall into that category, e.g., requiring a belief in evolution to get a recommendation.

But I really don't see discrimination in the act of hosting a cultural event that describes an Hispanic holiday custom, and that includes the singing of traditional Christmas songs. If no one is compelled to do so, and there is no penalty attached for not participating, then it strikes me as OK. No one is being required to profess a belief in Christ, and no one is being compelled to attend a revival or bible camp. This is just a Christmas pageant. The fact that a non-Christian may listen to some songs and may learn about another culture -- in and of itself -- is not discimination.

And your casual reference to the Civil Rights movement and blacks sitting in the back of the bus is completely unwarranted. Separate but equal is not at play here. Obviously, if we tried to put Christians or Jews or Muslims in the back of the bus, that would be absolutely wrong. That is not the same thing as putting on a cultural event, and you know it.


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Heathen57 Donating Member (365 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Feb-10-07 02:05 AM
Response to Reply #15
16. I must disagree with you, Mikey,
on a couple of points.

Children, even those in elementary grades are subject to discrimination from a school sponsored event like this. Those who cannot participate because of their religion differs from the one being supported will be singled out for harassment by the other children and as often happens, the teachers. They can be marked down for not participating in the choir during the event. They also are taught that they are somehow not as important for being the wrong religion. They are being left out of an event that they would enjoy.

There is also a question of being fair. Christmas is not the only event that happens during the season, but the school in all probability, did not teach about those traditions, much less showcase them. That is promoting one religion, Christianity, over the others.

The teacher would be required to be at the reprise of the pageant. That would be part of her job and thus requiring her to expose herself to a religious display that I'm sure would offend her by being state sponsored.

One final note, it seems that when things like this are ignored, the next time they are done more "In your face". Imagine that those in charge thinking "We got away with this, next year we can have a preacher give a benediction and really make it a tribute to Christ." Look into the history of religious freedom from AU and ACLU for the suits where this has happened.
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roody Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Feb-10-07 03:46 PM
Response to Original message
17. This Posada Jesus stuff is done under the
guise of multiculturalism. Supposedly to include Mexican kids. Are they embraced in other ways, such as instruction in their first language?
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