Here's what happened: Hollymead Elementary School uses a neat idea called "backpack mail", which involves special folders handed out to each child, containing weekly announcements, details of after-school events and the like.
Two students at the school petitioned to be allowed to use the system to promote their church's "Vacation Bible School", but were denied on the grounds of, well the Constitution of the United States of America, but more specifically, by the school's own policy forbidding the "distribution of literature that is for partisan, sectarian, religious or political purposes".
Well, the student's father "sicced the Liberty Counsel on the county". "Liberty Counsel" is a right-wing legal group "dedicated to advancing religious freedom" (although, in the opinion of this blogger, for "religious freedom" read "our religious freedom, not yours").
Well, as a result of this glorious assault on the foundations of the USA, the policy was changed and the leaflets went out.
Oh, but then comes the justice. A pagan group at the same school decided along the lines of "what's sauce for the goose.." and started advertising their religious activities.
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).”
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.”
Well, Cathy and Jeff, it’s a new day. Your pals Falwell and Staver have opened up this forum, and now everyone gets to use it. Isn’t that what you wanted all along – freedom of religion? That freedom means all religions – even ones you don’t happen to like.
Here's a hearty ha-ha from me.
Read the full story here.
Hat tip to Looksbothways at AP.