Not Ready for Pagans and Atheists?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  June 29, 2007 — 5 Comments

In December of last year, I reported that a UU Pagan group in Albemarle County, Virginia generated some controversy when they took advantage of new school board rules that allowed the distribution of religious-themed flyers to school children.

“Some local Pagans who attend Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church, a Unitarian-Universalist congregation in Charlottesville, decided to take advantage of the new forum as well. 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…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.'”

This was all a result of threatened litigation brought by the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty Counsel, when the school refused to allow the distribution of Bible camp literature.

“A letter from the Jerry Falwell-linked Liberty Counsel has prompted the Albemarle County School Board to change its policy. The Board will now allow religious organizations to send home fliers with school children in backpack mail.”

But all this “religious freedom” at school isn’t going down too well. Pagans were bad enough, but then the atheists got involved!

“The county began allowing religious activity fliers but promised to revisit the issue in a year. And over the past school year, a Pagan flier in December and one for the atheist-oriented Camp Quest this spring sparked more controversy. Superintendent Pam Moran told the School Board her email inbox shut down when a national organization — Vision America headquartered in Lufkin, Texas — got wind of the “beyond belief” Camp Quest fliers and flooded her with messages protesting school-abetted “atheistic indoctrination.” Technicians had to work over the weekend to get her email back up and running.”

So now the Albemarle School Board, not wanting to find out who will try to distribute literature next, has banned all non-school related flyers from their “backpack mail” system. A situation that their teaching staff seems to have preferred all along.

“In the end, distributing religious and nonreligious materials through the schools was miring teachers, principals, administrators, and the Albemarle School Board in controversy. And a majority of School Board members wants to eliminate any fliers that aren’t school- or government-related at its June 28 meeting … ‘Last year, 16 out of 16 elementary principals recommended we not do this,’ admits Friedman. ‘We did not listen.'”

The irony here is that conservative Christians are the ones who pushed for the distribution of religious material at the school, and then complained so loudly about “atheist indoctrination” once other groups took advantage of the system that it had to be ended. So who wants “religious freedom”? It certainly isn’t the conservative Christians, who seem to only want freedom if it’s their religion.

Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Adam Becker Sr

    Well, Jefferson UU has made its point, but…Publicizing your congregation in a way that will piss off a large number of people and make headaches for the town’s schoolteachers. Is this really a formula for church growth?Most of the UU congregations I’ve known don’t publicize themselves at all. Was Jefferson UU already doing something like the Uncommon Denomination promotion? Buying radio spots? Or was this it’s biggest media push of the year?

  • Jason Pitzl-Waters

    “Publicizing your congregation in a way that will piss off a large number of people and make headaches for the town’s schoolteachers. Is this really a formula for church growth?”Well, the flyer in question was in no way “controversial”, other than it not being Christian. If Pagans, UU or otherwise, refuse to publicize their faiths in open forums due to fears of pissing people off, then we may as well cede any ground we have gained to the conservative Christians who believe we have no place in the alongside “respectable” faiths like theirs.Of course it was going to get some negative attention (though not as much as the atheists got), but that tension is always going to be there until Paganism is truly accepted as part of the mainstream of religious belief.

  • Inanna

    I say good for the Pagans for taking advantage of the school board’s allowing distribution of religious-themed flyers, and good for the school board for coming to its sense and realizing that religion has no place in the public schools.

  • Anonymous

    As a member of Naturespirit and one of the people who helped plan and publisize the event, I have to mention that this was not an act of the UU church. This was an act that Naturespirit planned as a pagan group, independent of, though with permission of, our UU church leadership.Also, it was not carried out with proselytizing in mind. We did it to prove a point- that religious advertising and/or recruiting has no place in public schools. Sometimes you simply must fight fire with fire.

  • Anonymous

    Innana,Bless you! This is the kind of work pagans need to undertake when these hypocrites seek to take over this way. Their goal was to indoctrinate, and now even the morons out there have clear evidence that this was the purpose, for why else would they go apeshit when someone else used their “religious freedom”?They’re fighting hard to convince everybody that “Intelligent design” is science. Once they achieve that goal (sufficiently), they will quickly move on to insist that evolution is not worthy of a science program, and thus should not be taught in school. You can quote me on that.