secular parent

Symbol or religious mandate? The curious case of Ms Eweida

In Morality and Values, news and society on January 22, 2010 at 9:43 pm

I’m not one to go running to the defense of the evangelical, but I find myself trying to figure this whole “Ms. Eweida” thing out.  Let’s toss the facts out and go from there.

At issue is what constitutes a mandate by faith, what is simply an expression, and what are the rights of private sector employees with regard to religious adornments.

Our story begins in 2006 with British Airways.  Ms. Eweida, an evangelical, is told that her cross does not constitute a “necessary” expression of her faith–not like the religious requirements of hijabs, skikhs, or turbans.

“Between 20 September 2006 and 3 February 2007, the respondent prevented the appellant from attending work when she visibly wore the cross and did not pay her as a result, ” Nick Fagge, of the Express.co.uk reports.

British Airways, with it’s strict  employee dress code, is also rumored to have not allowed employees to wear political symbols as well.

But this makes sense doesn’t it?  You’re not a walking billboard at your job (unless you’re literally paid to be a walking billboard).  Personally, the only reason I wear my American Atheists pendant (minus spite, of course) is because so many people have crosses on that I feel like I need to even the viewing a bit.

But, if my job said no jewelry, and it does not specific except crosses or other small shiny things, then one can safely assume that a cross is included.

Why?  Because you won’t go to hell for not wearing a cross–Muslim women (rightly, or wrongly,) truly believe that they have damned their souls if they fail to wear the Hijab.

It’s not the same as an nice old lady not wanting to take her cross off–

at least in my book, anyway.

Carl Gardner from The Guardian sums it up greatly

Why, though, should religious jewellery be in a category apart, the freedom to wear it more protected by law than the freedom to wear any necklace? That isn’t freedom, but religious privilege.

You can find his full article here.

Supreme Court decides against Little Wesley's favorite book–are they wrong?

In commonalities, from the teacher's desk, Morality and Values, news and society, the legal point of view on January 20, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Our story begins rather simply, as these cases typically do.  It is October 2004 and Donna Busch, parent of our protagonist, was invited to speak to the class during little Wesley’s “about me week” in his Kindergarten class.  Any mommy capable of squeezing time from work knows that the kindergarten visit is really special.  The teacher, Ms. Riley extended a visit, and Ms. Busch accepted.  One of the “about me week” activities including bringing in a favorite book to read aloud to the class.

According to court documents, Wesley chose the Bible because “of his Christian belief and because a reading from the Bible would express to the class an important aspect of his life and personality.”

Mind you, this wasn’t a kiddie Bible like the little doll to my left is holding (though that would have been inappropriate as well), this was the good ‘ol King James Version itself.  Mommy was slated to read from the Psalms.

_____________________________________

Pause.  Yes, being a Christian is a part of any child’s world and personality–if parents feed it to them.  But let’s say for the sake of argument that little Wesley’s favorite book IS the Bible…little Wesley can barely read–so he hasn’t read the Bible.  Does “it’s an important aspect of my life” sound like it comes out of a 5-year old’s mouth?  No Dr. Seuss? No Junie B. Jones?  Just straight to the tough stuff eh?

Why this mother didn’t explain to her child that bringing a Bible into a class as “a favorite book” is inappropriate is beyond me.  The Bible is more than a book–

Did this mother consider the wishes of the other students’ parents?  Did she consider that in terms of the separation of church and state, she would have to discuss how the Bible is not the only book about God, and how there are some people who don’t even believe that God is real in order to not favor Christianity above another faith?  No elementary school principal would have allowed that, hence, no Bible reading, right?

NO–she wanted to promote the “goodness” of the Christian faith.  Period.  A kindergarten class is not the place for such discussions.

____________________________________________________

So the teacher, as Ms. Busch was preparing to read, stopped her and requested that the principal decide if this was a violation of the separation of church and state–Good job Teach!  It is definitely above her pay grade to make such decisions, and honestly, her job was at stake.  Suppose the parent of an Atheist, or a Muslim or student of another faith had complained?  She could have easily lost her job.

The Principal requests that the parent choose a book that does not violate the separation of church and state, and one that is more appropriate for the Kindergarten level.

The parent (after loud discussions in the hallway the children could hear from the room) chose to read a different book about counting.

____________________________________________________

The lawsuit was filed namely because not only was little Wesley denied his right to freedom of religion by not allowing his mother to read the book, I mean the Bible (same thing, right?), but also Wesley began exhibiting behavior that was highly unusual:

1-he began to kick and scream daily before having to go school, according to the lawsuit.

2-As his mother had read the Bible before school at the breakfast table with no complaint, little Wesley began to stop her, saying, “it was bad to read the Bible…because my teacher had told him so.”

Also, all the other religions had a fair shot at Wesley’s school–particularly Judaism:

3.10-3.13 of the Factual History in the affidavit state that “students were allowed to read a book abut Judaism, place the star of David on the monthly calendar in the class, [the children were taught] the Dreidel game, and though the school did have a Christmas tree, it was renamed a “Giving Tree.” Also, “kindergartners and first-graders placed a witches finger on their finger while they were reading.”

Based on this, Ms. Wesley felt that the school was demoting Christianity while promoting other faiths.  You can read the district’s legal response by clicking here.

Court findings

In 2007, the district court sided with the school district, saying that though the district engaged in discrimination, it was within the rule of law.  It was inappropriate for the Bible to be read in that setting.

Then, in 2009,

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling, finding that “educators may appropriately restrict forms of expression in elementary school classrooms” even when they have invited speakers into the classroom. However, Circuit Judge Thomas Hardiman issued a vigorous dissent, pointing out that the reading of a passage from Psalms to Wesley’s class was within the subject matter of the “All About Me” unit, and the exclusion constituted viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment because it was based solely upon its religious character.

On January 19, 2010, The US Supreme Court refused to hear the case, committing what John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, (which took the case) called “hostility toward religion in the public schools.”

____________________________________________________

The Fallout

Few people understand the frustration a court case, especially one of this magnitude, can have on a family.  The stress of preparing, taking off work–again and again, having your name sloshed through papers; having children mock your child.

Sometimes, just sometimes, things aren’t as big a deal as we make it.  For example, my girls came home singing a song they’d learned in school:

them bones them bones gonna walk around,

now hear the words of the Lord!

them bones them bones gonna walk around,

them bones them bones gonna walk around,

Yes, I was ticked.  No, I did not file a lawsuit.  I did not request that the music teacher be fired.  I waited 24hrs.  I wasn’t mad anymore, my kids weren’t severely injured, and I simply sent a short email to the music teacher asking her to please choose songs that are secular.

End of story.

Now, Wesley doesn’t like school, he apparently thinks reading the Bible is a bad thing–and that the Bible itself is bad.  Also, a nice family routine (though I disagree with it) has been forever altered.

It’s not my place to say that Ms. Busch should not  have filed the lawsuit; I will say that it is hard to believe–given the archaic and convoluted nature of the Bible–that five year Wesley was enraptured only by that book.  If there was absolutely no age-appropriate, religious-free book that could have been chosen, then that Wesley is truly a picky kid!

________________________________________________________________

Sources used:

Worldnet Daily

The Rutherford Institute

For a complete history of the court case, you can visit the Marple Newton School District’s website by clicking here.


Supreme Court decides against Little Wesley’s favorite book–are they wrong?

In commonalities, from the teacher's desk, Morality and Values, news and society, the legal point of view on January 20, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Our story begins rather simply, as these cases typically do.  It is October 2004 and Donna Busch, parent of our protagonist, was invited to speak to the class during little Wesley’s “about me week” in his Kindergarten class.  Any mommy capable of squeezing time from work knows that the kindergarten visit is really special.  The teacher, Ms. Riley extended a visit, and Ms. Busch accepted.  One of the “about me week” activities including bringing in a favorite book to read aloud to the class.

According to court documents, Wesley chose the Bible because “of his Christian belief and because a reading from the Bible would express to the class an important aspect of his life and personality.”

Mind you, this wasn’t a kiddie Bible like the little doll to my left is holding (though that would have been inappropriate as well), this was the good ‘ol King James Version itself.  Mommy was slated to read from the Psalms.

_____________________________________

Pause.  Yes, being a Christian is a part of any child’s world and personality–if parents feed it to them.  But let’s say for the sake of argument that little Wesley’s favorite book IS the Bible…little Wesley can barely read–so he hasn’t read the Bible.  Does “it’s an important aspect of my life” sound like it comes out of a 5-year old’s mouth?  No Dr. Seuss? No Junie B. Jones?  Just straight to the tough stuff eh?

Why this mother didn’t explain to her child that bringing a Bible into a class as “a favorite book” is inappropriate is beyond me.  The Bible is more than a book–

Did this mother consider the wishes of the other students’ parents?  Did she consider that in terms of the separation of church and state, she would have to discuss how the Bible is not the only book about God, and how there are some people who don’t even believe that God is real in order to not favor Christianity above another faith?  No elementary school principal would have allowed that, hence, no Bible reading, right?

NO–she wanted to promote the “goodness” of the Christian faith.  Period.  A kindergarten class is not the place for such discussions.

____________________________________________________

So the teacher, as Ms. Busch was preparing to read, stopped her and requested that the principal decide if this was a violation of the separation of church and state–Good job Teach!  It is definitely above her pay grade to make such decisions, and honestly, her job was at stake.  Suppose the parent of an Atheist, or a Muslim or student of another faith had complained?  She could have easily lost her job.

The Principal requests that the parent choose a book that does not violate the separation of church and state, and one that is more appropriate for the Kindergarten level.

The parent (after loud discussions in the hallway the children could hear from the room) chose to read a different book about counting.

____________________________________________________

The lawsuit was filed namely because not only was little Wesley denied his right to freedom of religion by not allowing his mother to read the book, I mean the Bible (same thing, right?), but also Wesley began exhibiting behavior that was highly unusual:

1-he began to kick and scream daily before having to go school, according to the lawsuit.

2-As his mother had read the Bible before school at the breakfast table with no complaint, little Wesley began to stop her, saying, “it was bad to read the Bible…because my teacher had told him so.”

Also, all the other religions had a fair shot at Wesley’s school–particularly Judaism:

3.10-3.13 of the Factual History in the affidavit state that “students were allowed to read a book abut Judaism, place the star of David on the monthly calendar in the class, [the children were taught] the Dreidel game, and though the school did have a Christmas tree, it was renamed a “Giving Tree.” Also, “kindergartners and first-graders placed a witches finger on their finger while they were reading.”

Based on this, Ms. Wesley felt that the school was demoting Christianity while promoting other faiths.  You can read the district’s legal response by clicking here.

Court findings

In 2007, the district court sided with the school district, saying that though the district engaged in discrimination, it was within the rule of law.  It was inappropriate for the Bible to be read in that setting.

Then, in 2009,

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling, finding that “educators may appropriately restrict forms of expression in elementary school classrooms” even when they have invited speakers into the classroom. However, Circuit Judge Thomas Hardiman issued a vigorous dissent, pointing out that the reading of a passage from Psalms to Wesley’s class was within the subject matter of the “All About Me” unit, and the exclusion constituted viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment because it was based solely upon its religious character.

On January 19, 2010, The US Supreme Court refused to hear the case, committing what John W. Whitehead, president of the Rutherford Institute, (which took the case) called “hostility toward religion in the public schools.”

____________________________________________________

The Fallout

Few people understand the frustration a court case, especially one of this magnitude, can have on a family.  The stress of preparing, taking off work–again and again, having your name sloshed through papers; having children mock your child.

Sometimes, just sometimes, things aren’t as big a deal as we make it.  For example, my girls came home singing a song they’d learned in school:

them bones them bones gonna walk around,

now hear the words of the Lord!

them bones them bones gonna walk around,

them bones them bones gonna walk around,

Yes, I was ticked.  No, I did not file a lawsuit.  I did not request that the music teacher be fired.  I waited 24hrs.  I wasn’t mad anymore, my kids weren’t severely injured, and I simply sent a short email to the music teacher asking her to please choose songs that are secular.

End of story.

Now, Wesley doesn’t like school, he apparently thinks reading the Bible is a bad thing–and that the Bible itself is bad.  Also, a nice family routine (though I disagree with it) has been forever altered.

It’s not my place to say that Ms. Busch should not  have filed the lawsuit; I will say that it is hard to believe–given the archaic and convoluted nature of the Bible–that five year Wesley was enraptured only by that book.  If there was absolutely no age-appropriate, religious-free book that could have been chosen, then that Wesley is truly a picky kid!

________________________________________________________________

Sources used:

Worldnet Daily

The Rutherford Institute

For a complete history of the court case, you can visit the Marple Newton School District’s website by clicking here.


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