Friday, March 27, 2015

The ACLU vs. Small-Town America

This week, I sat and watched from almost 400 miles away as the news broke on social media and online news outlets that the ACLU was taking issue with my alma mater in Ohio.  Small-town America at it's finest, it's a place I hope to never regret growing up in and graduating from high school.  

Since then, on more than one occasion, I've become angry.

To explain briefly, SOMEONE complained.  SOMEONE didn't like that the district was having religious assemblies prior to Thanksgiving and Christmas. SOMEONE didn't like that the school district values "honesty and Christian values" as stated in the high school student handbook.  Of course, who this particular SOMEONE is will remain a mystery for now, because they get to maintain their anonymity while the ACLU sends letters and makes threats on their behalf.

That angered me - because I don't do bullies.  Just ask any other education advocate in the state of New York right now.  We have one big bully sitting in office in Albany.
(But I digress...)

So is it really bullying?  I mean, let's face it...a public school system really CAN'T do those things.  So maybe I was just angry that said individual(s) didn't just make the attempt to handle it themselves with district leaders, but instead they went straight to the big guns.  Or maybe they did -  Had they been blown off?  

And all of THAT made me angry.

In complete transparency, I will admit that I have no recollection of having assemblies like those that are described by the complaint and what is being reported in the media.  I also don't recall the particular phrase in question from the handbook.  Shoot - I barely remember having a handbook!!  Whether that is because I'm older, and I simply can't remember those details or if it's because they just didn't happen 25 years ago - I have no idea.  

And that infuriates me (that I'm getting old)!

I was born and raised in this particular small town, and I don't think I could have had a more conservative Christian upbringing.  30 years ago, I might have even stood alongside my fellow Christians and yelled and kicked and screamed with the rest of them that my Christian beliefs were being infringed upon by attempting to silence these religious assemblies and unacceptance of a simple phrase of "Christian values".  

You know - I would have gotten angry.

I can just imagine the closed-mindedness of both sides.  Actually I don't have to imagine it, because I've spent the past few days reading it on social media as this story broke online.  There's just nothing like the ACLU taking on small-town America to make people go just a wee-bit crazy and light up the internet as they spout law, fact, scripture, and opinion to make their voices heard over one another.

Tonight, I am writing to hopefully help lift the blinders off of both sides of this argument that has unfolded on social media this week.  Online words of angry individuals who believed that this was a long time coming for the school district, and on the other hand, those who believed that their rights are being trampled on. Claims of intolerance, hatred, and ignorance - all tossed into that virtual arena as fast as fingers could fly across a keyboard.  

So here it is.   I'm going to make a statement that coming from a born and raised, good,  conservative Christan girl, it may just shock my former minister and Sunday school teachers back into their pews.

As much as it pains me to say this, IF  the complaint is accurate - and I have no certainty of this one way or the other - the ACLU would be correct, and indeed, "Houston, we have a problem."

BUT....

Before you begin to write that hate mail, and before you begin to pray for me that my fundamentalist faith might be restored....

Stop. 

Because I would NEVER, under any circumstances, want or allow my own children to go to school and learn ONLY about Islam, or ONLY about Buddha, or ONLY about Wicca.  And it is that same freedom of religion that protects my children from that very thing happening, that protects other children from having ONLY Christian beliefs enforced on them.  It MUST work both ways if it is to work at all.

Be very certain:  Our children CAN read their bible in school and our children CAN pray in school. Nobody is taking away that right - not some unknown individual with the ACLU, nor any local leadership.  What can not happen, however, and what should not happen is the allowing of individuals in a position of leadership enforcing any singular religious beliefs as the "norm".  

So instead I offer you the following.  Let's teach our children to be strong independent thinkers who know that they can bow their head freely on their own in the school cafeteria and thank God for that meal.  Let's teach them to be strong and courageous enough to carry that Bible in their backpack to school and pull it out during independent reading.  Let's stop complaining that "God isn't allowed in schools" and teach our children about the religious freedom that they do indeed continue to have.

God bless us, everyone.
~C.