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Need help with some fact checking. Stealth wingnut posting Christmas "rights" in school!

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RiverStone Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 05:14 PM
Original message
Need help with some fact checking. Stealth wingnut posting Christmas "rights" in school!
I work in an educator and middle management capacity in the public schools.

In the past, I have shared how I routinely rip down the swill a stealth rightie posts in the staff lounge - mostly propaganda from Ann Coulter's web page (occasionally Rush). This person cuts off the links and posts it as news, but I Google it and always find the source leads back to some wingnut location.

Since the election, this person has been licking his wounds - until today. I know who it is, but he never admits it. We have had some spirited political debates; and President Elect Obama has thrown him for a loop. This is what he posted for teachers to read today --- with yellow highlighter plastered across all the headings.

Partial excerpt from Pro Family News (circa 1995):


4. Studying the Bible in government schools is allowed.

For instance, school teachers may read portions of the Bible which relate the Christmas story for the purpose of providing a literary or historical context for the Christmas season but not for religious or devotional purposes.

The United States Supreme Court in The School District of Abington Township v. Scamp banned organized prayer and devotional Bible reading from government schools but also said, "It certainly may be said that the Bible is worthy of study for its literary and historic qualities. Nothing we have said here indicates that such study of the Bible or of religion, when presented objectively as part of a secular program of education, may not be effected consistently with the first amendment."

In the U.S. Supreme Court's 1980 decision Stone v. Graham, the Court said, "the Bible may constitutionally be used in an appropriate study of history, civilization, ethics, comparative religion, or the like."

5. Use of Christmas trees is permitted.

Christmas trees are permissible because they are a secular symbol or Christmas, e.g. they don't have religious significance like a cross, nativity scene, or a Menorah. There is no establishment clause issue if the items in question are not religious in nature (Allegheny County v. American Civil Liberties Union).

6. Student distribution of religious materials, e.g. Christmas cards, is protected speech.

The right of students in government schools to distribute religious literature is protected by the First Amendment right of free speech. The distribution of printed materials is considered "pure speech" by the United States Supreme Court (Texas v. Johnson. The fact that the speech or literature is religious in nature does not diminish its protection by the Constitution (Widmar v. Vincent).

The only basis for restricting students' speech is if the school can show that such distribution would 'materially and substantially interfere with school operations or with the rights of other students," (Tinker v. Des Moines School District). Merely showing that the regulation is designed to "avoid the discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompany an unpopular viewpoint ....," (Johnston-Loener v. O'Brien).

Before I react to this, does this Christmas and/or Biblical stuff in the schools have any merit? Or is it fundamentalist propaganda?

As an aside, I'll own I'm 100% for schools staying secular. As a non-Christian kid growing up in the rural south, and having every classroom celebrating a holiday I did not follow (or my parents), was very difficult! So I do take this stuff personally.

As always, thanks in advance for your --- DU's --- wisdom! :hi:

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ayeshahaqqiqa Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 05:19 PM
Response to Original message
1. I'd check out the cases cited
at Westlaw or some other respected website before I did anything else.

The tree, being as it was originally a pagan symbol, may well be considered ok---but check the decorations on said tree!
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The Wielding Truth Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 05:27 PM
Response to Original message
2. IMO 4 and 5 are okay but the literature would have to be checked
for content and posted or available in a common area with supervision like main office or cafeteria counter.
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QueenOfCalifornia Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 05:35 PM
Response to Original message
3. What's wrong
with having a Christmas tree? It is after all a pagan symbol not associated with the birth of Jesus.

I would post my own material in response:

King Tut never saw a Christmas tree, but he would have understood the tradition which traces back long before the first Christmas, says David Robson, Extension Educator, Horticulture with the Springfield Extension Center.

The Egyptians were part of a long line of cultures that treasured and worshipped evergreens. When the winter solstice arrive, they brought green date palm leaves into their homes to symbolize life's triumph over death.

The Romans celebrated the winter solstice with a fest called Saturnalia in honor of Saturnus, the god of agriculture. They decorated their houses with greens and lights and exchanged gifts. They gave coins for prosperity, pastries for happiness, and lamps to light one's journey through life.

Centuries ago in Great Britain, woods priests called Druids used evergreens during mysterious winter solstice rituals. The Druids used holly and mistletoe as symbols of eternal life, and place evergreen branches over doors to keep away evil spirits.

Late in the Middle Ages, Germans and Scandinavians placed evergreen trees inside their homes or just outside their doors to show their hope in the forthcoming spring. Our modern Christmas tree evolved from these early traditions.

Legend has it that Martin Luther began the tradition of decorating trees to celebrate Christmas. One crisp Christmas Eve, about the year 1500, he was walking through snow-covered woods and was struck by the beauty of a group of small evergreens. Their branches, dusted with snow, shimmered in the moonlight. When he got home, he set up a little fir tree indoors so he could share this story with his children. He decorated it with candles, which he lighted in honor of Christ's birth.

The Christmas tree tradition most likely came to the United States with Hessian troops during the American Revolution, or with German immigrants to Pennsylvania and Ohio, adds Robson.

But the custom spread slowly. The Puritans banned Christmas in New England. Even as late as 1851, a Cleveland minister nearly lost his job because he allowed a tree in his church. Schools in Boston stayed open on Christmas Day through 1870, and sometimes expelled students who stayed home.

The Christmas tree market was born in 1851 when Catskill farmer Mark Carr hauled two ox sleds of evergreens into New York City and sold them all. By 1900, one in five American families had a Christmas tree, and 20 years later, the custom was nearly universal.

Christmas tree farms sprang up during the depression. Nurserymen couldn't sell their evergreens for landscaping, so they cut them for Christmas trees. Cultivated trees were preferred because they have a more symmetrical shape then wild ones.

Six species account for about 90 percent of the nation's Christmas tree trade. Scotch pine ranks first, comprising about 40 percent of the market, followed by Douglas fir which accounts for about 35 percent. The other big sellers are noble fir, white pine, balsam fir and white spruce.
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RiverStone Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Dec-08-08 05:51 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. I'm very pagan friendly, but of course the ONLY thing a tree stands for in the schools...
Edited on Mon Dec-08-08 05:52 PM by RiverStone Christmas.

A Christian Holiday. It's all merry christmas and what a beautiful Christmas tree!!!

And no, this is not a war statement on celebrating Christmas, to each his own, please enjoy Christmas --- OUTSIDE of school.

I just don't believe a PUBLIC school should celebrate any holiday with a religious connection.

So far,---in this building--- one teacher has put up Christmas stuff in her classroom, but last I heard, the common areas of the school building I work in (i.e. halls, front office, gym etc.) are to remain free of Christmas anything. But that seems to vary year to year depending how big a backbone the Principal has for enforcement. Other buildings in the district are far more blatant about it.

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