United States: Some schools have a system whereby non-profit organisations may give flyers to schoolchildren. A recent court ruling affirmed that, to avoid church and state issues, the system had to be made available to all non-profits, or none at all. The case was brought by an organisation run by preacher Jerry Falwell.
The dispute started last summer when Gabriel and Joshua Rakoski, twins who attend Hollymead Elementary School, sought permission to distribute fliers about their church's Vacation Bible School to their peers via
backpack mail. Many public schools use special folders placed in student backpacks to distribute notices about schools events and sometimes extra-curricular activities to parents.
School officials originally denied the request from the twins' father, Ray Rakoski, citing a school policy barring
distribution of literature that is for partisan, sectarian, religious or political purposes.
A Charlottesville weekly newspaper, The Hook, reports that Rakoski
sicced the Liberty Counsel on the county, and the policy was soon revised to allow religious groups to use the backpack mail system. Liberty Counsel is a Religious Right legal group founded by Mathew Staver and now affiliated with Falwell.
So, when a Unitarian Universalist congregation used the system to advertise an event about the pagan origins of Christmas, followed by a Yule celebration, who got all upset about it? Yep, Christians.
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.
And the stushie soon came to the notice of the fundies at World Net Daily:
Amazing — government schools ban orthodox Christianity, but allow an openly pagan organization to proselytize six-year-olds! one observer who asked for anonymity told WND...
The banner also displays three symbols: a cross, a Star of David and a pentagram — a star enclosed in a circle — often associated with paganism, witches groups such as Wicca, and even Satanism.
At least the World Nut Daily can tell the difference between a pentacle and a pentagram, unlike most Neopagans these days.
Andrew Ian Dodge also pointed me towards a forum discussion of the issue, where one or two people were a little upset about it.
I'm shocked that people think this would hold up. What about local control? Aren't local standards used to define what is obscene?
I thank God for Christian schools!
Obviously, the obscenity in question must be the gruesome method of execution depicted on the flyer.
Falwell’s Flub: Jerry-Rigged Policy Opens Door For Pagan Proselytizing In Virginia Public School—The Wall of Separation, 5th December 2006;Pagan Christmas ritual pressed on young kids—World Net Daily, 8th December 2006.