Pagans Outraged over Bible Distribution in Buncombe County School

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 20, 2011 — 103 Comments

A North Carolina Pagan, Ginger Strivelli, is challenging her son’s school on allowing the distribution of Bibles, something the school said is perfectly acceptable since they didn’t actively hand them out.

"Oh look, a Bible, you shouldn't have."

"Oh look, a Bible, you shouldn't have."

“Jackie Byerly, principal at North Windy Ridge, defended the availability of the Bibles. She said they were not handed out, and students had the option to take them. She checked with Superintendent Tony Baldwin and was given permission to make them available. She said the Bibles arrived Monday morning from a local group of Gideons International, and the box containing the books was opened in the main office. Byerly said the students picked them up during their break time. “If another group wishes to do the same, I plan on handling that the same way as I have handled this,” she said.”

But Strivelli’s son said that the “break time” was constructed especially for picking up a Bible, that all the students went, and that copies were distributed to the children by a teacher. Strivelli called the incident “totally inappropriate” while local Pagan leader (and blogger) Byron Ballard called the distribution “problematic,” and “potentially illegal.”

“Byron Ballard, an active Pagan in Asheville and freedom of religion advocate, said the situation is “terribly inappropriate.” She said she plans to contact the school system’s legal department and the local American Civil Liberties Union.”

Now, Strivelli plans to see if Jackie Byerly is true to her word and will handle the distribution of other religious material in the same fashion, of if the Christian Bible will be privileged in a public school.

“I have 2 lovely Pagan Authors already promising me copies of their books…and I need to contact the Editor who used my Chapter in her book, surely she can chip in some for my work on that book for her….and dropping all those and more off Jan 3rd I hope..but asap for sure…WE WILL SEE how equally they ‘make them available’.”

Longtime readers of this blog may remember that a similar test was given to another school district in North Carolina, and they didn’t exactly pass with flying colors.

The Brunswick County Board of Education in North Carolina.

The Brunswick County Board of Education in North Carolina.

“Way back in 2006, the Brunswick County Board of Education in North Carolina was on track to approve a controversial and vaguely-worded policy that would allow for the distribution of religious materials on school grounds. Legal threats didn’t seem to faze them until Llewellyn Worldwide offered to distribute free books on Wicca and Paganism to school children. Faster than you could say “Galloping Gideons”, the Brunswick board backed down from their plan, and someone fortuitously caught that delicious moment in a photo.”

Is Buncombe County ready for its “Pagan moment,” or will they blink the face of true equal treatment?

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Anonymous

    As upset as this story makes me, I’m quietly holding out hope that the principal and superintendant let this happen without batting an eye. Can you imagine the POSITIVE press this could garner for both paganism AND this district if they do so?

    All of which is to say: Never going to happen.

  • I can’t tell if the man on the right is looking like he’s about to be ill, or if he’s thinking “Hmmm, skyclad you say?”

    • Baruch Dreamstalker


    • Happy I wasn’t drinking anything when I read that, or I’d be replacing my monitor!

  • Cainwyne Ravenheart

    I would like to think that the Pagan books will be distuributed just as freely as the Bible was but I have my doubts. I will be pleasently surprised if they are.

  • Anonymous

    “In other news, the principal at North Windy Ridge School and the local superintendent followed through with a promise to provide equal access to students to religious materials, regardless of their persuasion. Concerns were raised last Monday when the school provided a ‘break period’ during which a teacher helped pass out Gideon Bibles to all students that had been ordered for the occasion, but yesterday – just a week after the district was questioned as to their motives with the stunt – Pagan authors and their publishers provided copies of their own literature for interested parties to pick up. The school followed a similar structure, and as with the Bibles provided earlier, a teacher helped hand out the books during a ‘break period’ during which students headed to the school’s main office, where the books were stored.”

    Now there’s a bit of news I wouldn’t mind reading! Here’s hoping it comes true, I’m not sure we could ask for much more.

  • What makes me laugh is that there is an advertisement here on this very page that is soliciting for online Bible Studies from Christian Totally ironic :).

    Let Llewellyn do the same thing and see if they back down.

    • Cara

      The ads that appear are auto generated by Google based on what websites you go to and what articles you read. Unless an advertiser specifically requests to advertise in a specific spot.

  • Pitch313

    How about handing out FREE material on good old timey Hoodoo and mountain magic to those intermediate school students?

    Honestly, why don’t these Gideons do what so many corporations do? Hand out schwag to kids in the mall parking lots?

  • I have absolutely no problem with the Gideons making Bibles available to kids — children who actually want them.

    There is a huge problem with making this compulsory, making it seem as if children who do not want a Bible are ostracized or in any way “less than” kids who desire a Bible.

    I also have some concerns about the contradiction in statements between the young man and the principal. It seems as if the admin is being a bit sneaky. And if there’s no violation of the law, no trespass of rights, there’s no reason to sneak.

    If it’s aboveboard, and the Bibles are only provided to children who want them, then it falls under the First Amendment clause about “free exercise” of religion.

    • kenneth

      It ain’t “free exercise” of religion if public employees are doing the exercising. There’s absolutely no good reason for any religion to be imparted during school hours, unless you’re a fan of the state raising your kids.

      Kids have 134 hours outside of school each and every week during the school year. Even cutting out time for sleep and meals, you’ve got several full day’s worth of private time each week to impart religious instruction at home or your local temple of whatever sort.

      If this scam was really “free exercise,” than it should be cool if the imam from the local mosque or madrassa came by with a box full of Korans for “kids who want them.” There’d be a mob of villagers at the school doors by nightfall and you’d be there with a sharp pitchfork of your own.

      • Last paragraph… Not true… um, did you read the post I made above, Kenneth? Bran studied the Qu’ran last year as an independent project, for comparative religious studies as a social studies credit, in public school. Along with the Bible.

        The difference seems to be in that it wasn’t compulsory, and the more I read about the incident in NC, the more it seems that passing out Bibles was done in a manner that was both exclusionary and compulsory.

        • kenneth

          Independent study is a different animal, and it’s commendable that he would undertake a study of world religions for a class. We shouldn’t let kids stay ignorant of the big ideas and philosophies, including religions, which have shaped human history. That said, I cannot support having public schools take that on, in this country, at least as a regular mandatory class. Comparative religion/sociological or literary study of religion is too often abused as a smokescreen for another agenda here.

          I think it’s an excellent project for things like independent study and for parents to take on. Bahai’s offer an excellent example in this regard. Bahai kids learn about all world religions, or at least all major ones, so that they can make a truly informed decision at age 15 or so, and so that they know something of the world around them.

          As for Bible distribution in schools, it’s a losing proposition. Even if it’s done with good intentions and some eye toward sensitivity, there’s simply no way it won’t have a degree of compulsion or awkwardness for kids. It’s an inappropriate role for public employees to play and it creates absolutely nothing of value for students that they cannot readily get elsewhere. That’s true of all religious texts. I get why pagans want to apply a test of fairness, but we ought to be suing for an end to all abuse of the Constitution, not seeking equal latitude to abuse the law ourselves.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve said before and I’ll say again that it’s still a violation of the First Amendment requirement for separation of church and state for schools to hand out religious literature, even if they do hand out the religious literature of any religion that asks. But, yes, if they’re going to hand out Bibles, then Pagans should challenge them to hand out Pagan literature.

    I wish our schools would focus on teaching reading, math, science, history, literature, composition, logic, art, music, and PE and leave religion to parents and religious organizations.

    • Respectfully saying that the Bible is literature, and is also in context for teaching history and social studies.

      My son did a comparison between the Bible, Qu’ran, Rig Vedas and several other religious texts last year for school. He’s oldline Cymri Pagan — no texts, mostly oral history and folklore. Yet he’s considerably older than the lad in the news story.

      Teaching with religious texts can be done with sensitivity and no implication that any faith is better than any other.

      • Anonymous

        If you think the Gideons are handing out the Bible to school kids as literature, I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I’d like to sell you.

        • I agree that it’s not likely for that reason, and that fifth grade isn’t an appropriate age for comparative religious studies.

          However, I disagree that the Bible and other religious texts should be absent from public schools altogether.

        • AnonGuest

          Sure they have another motive, but it’s still literature.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Gideon International is not distributing these Bibles as literature, not is it on any class’s curriculum as such. If this school were honestly teaching the Bible as literature — a wonderful idea; it *is* great literature — we would be reading about it on TWH only if the Christians in the community rose up angry against the whole idea. (And I believe they would.) This is evangelizing; that’s what Gideon does.

        • Thelettuceman

          When I was an undergrad, there were two courses that studied the Bible, complimentary to each other. One was as History, the other was as Literature. Being a History major, I took the first, and I did thoroughly enjoy it, even if we did just stick to the Pentateuch. I agree with you.

          I would like to see more of that, but I’d also like to see public education be more teacher-specific. I’d love to have world history courses that don’t brazenly gloss over aspects of history, or fall prey to the opinions of big book publishers.

          But..I live in New York State. Our entire public school system is geared towards a set of unimportant and archaic exams, and as such they fail tremendously at turning out any kind of decently useful education. There are more important things to attack first than allowing religious texts to be circulated.

          In the meantime, I’m going to find a copy of LaVay’s book and send it down to them to allow any interested student to pick up.

          • Liz

            I agree about the Regents exams. The evidence of gov’t mandated testing on how much it screws with teacher creativity and actual learning (vs. teaching to the test and rote learning) has been available for all to see in NYS long before No Child Left Behind got into the game.

      • kenneth

        “Teaching with religious texts can be done with sensitivity and no implication that any faith is better than any other.”………….

        Yeah, it CAN be, but it never is done that way in primary or high school. It is always designed as a wedge strategy and the textbooks are usually funded and written by Christian evangelicals. Some are naked attempts at proselytizing designed to provoke legal battles. Others are more subtle and try to make a pretense of equal treatment to pass muster.

        None of them are motivated by a desire to see real and balanced scholarly treatment of world religions. I reserve a special contempt for culture war Christians on this count. They don’t even have the courage of their convictions to openly sell their wares. They try to sneak it in like a virus in an email attachment.

        • Not always. But when it’s done appropriately, it doesn’t make headlines.

          I am aware of courses at a high school level that have been taught in the past that would have been of value to any student, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Pagan, atheist, or none of the above…

          Such courses may be rare, and you are possibly right to believe that school boards and administrations encourage the introduction of even Bible-as-literature courses for the wrong reasons. But it can be done, and well.

          Makes it doubly tragic that it so often isn’t.

      • Agreed. I’ve taken a graduate course in how to appropriately teach the Bible as literature, while maintaining an appropriate separation of church and state. (Ironically, of course, for me, the challenge would be not denigrating the Biblical interpretations of Christian kids in my classroom as I taught.)

        I would love the chance to teach a high school level course on the Bible as literature. A lot of the material is really foundational to a lot of Western literature, and it’s not necessary to be a believer to benefit from thinking about the history.

        I don’t know if I’ll ever get the chance–my school district is a small one, and there’s no money at present for elective courses.

        But I’d dearly love to try it.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker


  • Ursyl

    Maybe there’s a local UU or two able to give our basic information book for the school to hand out to the students too?

  • Mata Druim

    They are children, WE become as bad as the christians if we are to distribute our books in schools. The only thing we should be fighting for is a fairer religious education class that covers paganism as a topic. Giving children our book is just as bad, I will be very disappointed in our community if this goes forward.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      You have piqued my curiosity. What harm, exactly, do you foresee befalling these children if exposed to a mere snapshot of our ideas in the sea of Christian ideas wherein they have their being?

      • Mata Druim

        Because they are children, they are innocent. Christians evangelize their faith because it makes their own personal faith seem more powerful. We are not evangelical, nor should we ever be in the future or present. If children want to find out about paganism then they will find it, they will have their calling. This all sounds like some ridiculous sales pitch, if this happens we will soon have “religion/spirituality faires” where hindu, muslim, christian, buddhist, pagan etc all try to “sell” their spirituality to children. We need to focus our minds on the fact that these are innocent children who are trying to enjoy an innocent childhood. It is completely unacceptable to do anything but be there to answer questions IF a child is curious about paganism. The beauty of paganism is that YOU find it within yourself, paganism does not find you.

        • What about those of us with legacy traditions? Aren’t our children born to Paganism cuz the Gods desire that path for them?

          • Mata Druim

            no, not at all. I will never push paganism into my childrens throats. They are free human beings with the choice to decide what spiritual path to take. Your using the theory of the Gods desiring them to follow paganism to cover up the fact that you want them to follow in your spiritual footsteps. Doesn’t matter if paganism is perfect for your spiritual growth, might not be the same for your children. I have the upmost love for all fellow pagans worldwide, but I will not stand idly by and watch children be converted to paganism at an age were they cannot make that decision rationally.

          • Thelettuceman

            You know, the Shakers relied on converts to grow their religion, instead of having children and raising them in their own path in order to further their faith and culture. Let’s see how they’re doing?

            ..oh wait.

          • Lonespark

            I don’t see how you’re giving them that choice if you don’t involve them in your traditions.

          • AnonGuest

            There’s a mile between giving a children information and not concealing your faith and beliefs and shoving down religion into someone’s throat

        • Allyson Szabo

          The Christians I know evangelize (ie “witness”) because they feel a strong call to do so, much as I feel a strong call to be a priestess of Hecate and an interfaith minister. However… beware being too broad. YOUR brand of paganism doesn’t evangelize, but there are plenty of pagans, historical and contemporary, that do. Certainly I believe that my religious paths are good and right, and I teach them to our children and expect them to toe the line. Should they act in a way that is contrary to my religious beliefs (those of honesty, duty, parental and fillial love, service to the gods, etc.) they will be punished. Since I know that my religion is a “right” one (though not “the” right one… I do not believe any one religion has the corner on the market), and I see that most religions want the same thing from their children as I do from mine, I don’t see the problem. 🙂

          Not everyone believes as you do, Mata. Just be aware of that.

          • Mata Druim

            nobody should be throwing religious or spiritual ideas down the throats of innocent children!! its unthought of. You punish innocent chidren for not adhering to YOUR beliefs?? Thats sick. I forward your own statement to you, not everyone believes as you do.

          • Cara

            I don’t understand the attitude of keeping your religion away from your children, like it’s some shameful, hurtful secret. Many families celebrate religious holidays together, worship together, and incorporate their religious practices into normal, day to day family life. Children aren’t any less innocent for having attended a Yule celebration than if they were shut into their bedrooms least they be tainted with the evils of religion.

            If you wish to raise your child as an atheist, I’m fine with that. But your hysterics over a parent raising their child in the family faith and teaching them ethics and morals is a bit over the top.

          • Mata Druim

            it is not up to you to decide someone elses faith, especially a child with an innocent, untainted mind. Your children are not a projection of you with regards to spirituality, they are free to choose.

          • So it’s your job to police how other people raise their children in their own homes now? How’s that working out for you?

          • Mata Druim

            Cara, Thats fine, aslong as you do not indocrinate a child into paganism. Just because you are a pagan it doesn’t mean your child will grow up as one. I never said I would raise a child as an atheist, I would raise them with spiritual freedom and the knowledge that i will be proud of them no matter what spiritual path they choose (if any). And I am a proud pagan, I’m not an atheist. I just believe spirituality to be a personal thing it is not something to be used as a tool of indoctrination. Im not telling anyone what to do, Im expressing my opinion. As a member of the pagan community I am entitled to give my opinion to topics such as this. I was brought up heavily catholic and my family were very upset (to the point of ignoring me and blocking me off) when they found out i preferred sitting in the forest to going to church. I think over indoctrination of children can cause them to go through the same feelings of rejection that I suffered from at the hands of my own kin. This is not about me though, its about the children 🙂

          • and there’s where you should draw a lesson and from where you should take your stance. Do what your family failed to do; provide an open experience of the possibilities and when your children reach an age that they wish to make thier own choices about Spirituyality, accept thier choices. So long as you haven’t lied to them about other faiths while raising them within your own spiritual framework you have done a good job.

          • deerwoman

            I do not think it is possible to “indoctrinate” a child into a form of Paganism in the same sense as a child can be indoctrinated into one of the Abrahamic faiths.

            Generally speaking, Paganisms are not based on the belief that they present the one true way, and they tend not to demonize other religious viewpoints, so someone indoctrinated into a form of Paganism would generally be accepting (or at least tolerant) of diversity and value learning. The results of indoctrinating a child into Paganism would be vastly different than the results of indoctrinating them into Evangelical Christianity, for example.

          • Your strange… I was RAISED christian, as far as anyone else was concern I was christian because of my family, most people still assume I am, again because of my family being christian. In my teens I stopped believing and searched another choice. It’s possible to raise your child as one religion, but allow them the opportunity of other choices. She’s perfectly allowed to raise her child as pagan, though when/if greer kid wants to be something else at an older age, she should exercise the same tolerances that we preach. My mother is southern baptist, and took my change gracefully, encouraging it even.
            Are you a parent? If not, don’t tell people how to raise their kids. If you are, don’t tell people how to raise their kids!

          • Cara

            I can understand that, but I think you are carrying some emotional baggage that is long over-due to be dropped off at the curb. (I’m not saying that in a negative way, we ALL have baggage we insist on carrying around year after year)

            When my son attended Catholic school, he wanted to go through 1st Communion and I was fine with that. Now that he’s an adult and is a Heathen (and a heathen) I’m fine with that, too. I’d LOVE it is he was Hellenismos, but it’s his life and not up to me to live it.

            But it’s also been clear that the family religion is Hellenismos. The celebration we are having is a Solstice celebration (Heliogenna), not a Heathen one or a Catholic one. I will say, I’m happier he’s a Heathen rather than a Catholic for the simple reason our religions are enough alike that holidays are much simpler and he’ll continue to honor our ancestors and I can entrust our Agathos Diamons into his care.

            Raise your kids in your faith. Teach them your ethics. And if they go another way, give them your blessing.

          • kenneth

            The problem is that the evangelicals in this case were using the government to enable and further their proselytizing. They are free to raise their children in an exclusivist religious setting. You are free to do the same too, even though it is at odds with most modern pagan understanding of these matters. Neither of you are free to use our government and public resources to advance your agenda over others in a republic which was supposed to be about equal treatment before the law.

          • Thelettuceman

            How is “raising your children in an exclusive religious setting” at odds with “most” modern pagan understanding? Where was I in Pagan 101 classes that said that teaching your children about your path, about your God(s)’ love, and assisting in the construction of a trans-generational community were all bad things?

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          You raise two worthy points here, one about impact on the children and one about the shape of the future.

          Pagan children are raised as such and suffer no harm. These children will get one glimpse of Paganism and, if they have Pagan hearts, may respond. They already live in an environment steeped in one kind of religious content. Exposure to something else is not a drug.

          We will not have religion faires in the future. The impact of a school having to do this will resonate through school districts — via the same medium though which we are conversing — and the Gideon people will in the future be barred at the schoolhouse door at the school’s intiative.

          • Mata Druim

            Fair point made there brother. I agree.

        • You keep hammering this idea of ‘innocence’ over the head again and again. From your use of this phrase, it sounds as if the inclusion of religion in a child’s life is like a taint or poison. I could not disagree with your position more.

          Introducing our children to our religious ideas, beliefs, and practices, is part and parcel of helping them understand the world around them. Religion in my life, both as a Catholic and as a Pagan, has been cornerstone on which I can depend for comfort, community, hope, and so many more things than I could write here. I would not be who and what I am without religion in my life. To cut religion out of a child’s life, to me, is taking out what could be a very positive relationship with the Gods, and a powerful source of comfort, hope, and support in their life.

          Integrating religion into a child’s life differs far and wide from ‘shoving it down their throat’.

    • Crystal Kendrick

      I was thinking the same. I hate hate HATE proselytizing in any form. I hope though that the threat of Pagan literature leads the school to think twice about the distribution of religious material in the future. I get a chuckle over (because I retain a twisted sense of humor) using my broad religious category as a threat- but hey, if it gets results…

      • If the Bibles had merely been left out where students could passively pick them up–not the case, according to at least one local–and if other religious texts could be similarly made available, I would not see this as an affront to the separation of church and state.

        And I do note that familiarity with the Bible itself, as opposed to the proof-texting drawn from it common in many Fundamentalist circles, has made a non-Christian out of many a teenager.


    • Obsidia

      Mata wrote:

      >WE become as bad as the christians if we are to distribute our books in schools.

      Don’t worry, Mata….these people will NOT distribute the Pagan materials. I will bet on it!

  • If these fundies were smart, they would build a mega church up the street from one of our military academies and train America’s future leadership in the techniques of theocracy.

    Oh, wait…

  • Awesome resource: “You have a Pagan student in your school” available thru the Pagan Pride Project website.

  • C

    Isn’t Ginger Strivelli now or formerly a founder or director of the Pagan Unity Campaign? Seems like a relevant detail.

    • Ecstaticlght

      Yes, she was. She is also a mother with her own children attending schools in that district. Whether she was the lead of PUC/PAC or not, she is still a parent. She knows her children’s Rights and she makes sure they are followed, as we all should.

  • Kilmrnock

    Well, heres my 2 cents on this , i’m a wee bit Po’d , upset about his one.I’m a major supporter of seperation of church and state. Imho, the public schools shouldn’t be handing any religous materials period . Not Christian ,Jewish,. Pagan , Muslim etc, any at all.Religion should be taught at home or church , temple whatever . Not in OUR public schools .Such things need to as our founders intended. No government involvement or endorsment of religion , period .Our tax dollars pay for these schools , this is outragious . Needs to be stopped now b/f these fools go further . Kilm

  • The Bible is not just a religious text, it’s also one of the foundations of Western Civilization and many parts of it are respected as literature. If schools wanted to continue to give away free religious texts (and if they are just sitting in a box in a hallway I’d be fine with it, special “break periods” designed for “Bible picking up” I’m not OK with), similar arguments could made for the Qur’an, as well as various Hindu and Buddhist texts. A Llewellyn “How to” book is not going to fall into that category, and could be looked at as something entirely different.

    That doesn’t mean that Pagans couldn’t offer a book of some sort, but it would almost have to be a collection of myths and poetry (like the Iliad) instead of an instruction manual.

    I’m disturbed by the idea of a communal “Bible Pick Up Time,” but what’s the best course of action? Does loudly speaking up correct the problem, or does it serve to ostracize a high school student? Would a back channel attempt to distribute Robert Graves’ “The White Goddess” in the same manner as the Bibles were distributed work better?

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      The Bible *is* an instruction manual. Contemplation of the spiritual lessons it offers can change one’s life, with or without outside instruction (though the latter is more rare). These kids have been exposed to that instruction manual or its spin-offs all their lives.

      A glimse at another instruction manual could be quite subversive. At the most basic, it would not be possible to use the words “religion” and “Christianity” interchangeably any more, if one really paid attention. There are other areas where they apply the name of a category to their member of the category.

      So I’m not saying it’s inconsequential. I’m saying it’s not harmful.

  • Hotstreak12

    The fact is that this is blatantly against church and state. No religion should be hawked in school. Sadly this is an attempt to turn the public schools into religious christian schools, the same as many private schools, except without the great budget and education. I hope that pagan literature is passed out as well, but I doubt it. I believe there will be two outcomes. Either the school will back down, or they will give the pagans the big middle finger and hand out bibles anyway, stating that paganism is not a “legitimate” religion. Along with Llwellyn, copies of Theoginy, and the Eddas should be passed out as well, and need I remind anyone that both of these works are seen as “legitimate” literature.

  • Henry

    the Gideon’s Bibles given out as gifts typically are not the same as the traditional canon, it is comprised of the psalms, proverbs and the new testatment, including the acts, epistles and revelations. It does not contain the pentateuch, historical books or the prophets, and only the selections above from the wisdom books.
    It is also never for sale, but always freely given. It is also very much an evangelical publication,as there is usually an affirmation of acceptance of jesus Christ as one’s personal savior in the back cover, which provides a signature line and date line to be filled in.
    just an fyi.

    • AnonGuest

      Plus (not that I imbibe) but they are traditional rolling paper

  • Dana D. Eilers

    I am ordering additional copies of my books THE PRACTICAL PAGAN and PAGANS AND THE LAW: UNDERSTAND YOUR RIGHTS to be presented to the school for distribution in the same manner as the Bible: to be given out by a teacher after announcement on the school PA with a pass to get out of class early if they go and get one. The circumstances must be the same. The Pagan material must be clothed in the same indicia of authority as the Bible was.

    • ChaosTech

      Next Christmas ornaments won’t be able to be made in schools anymore. Pagans are a died out religion. Neopagans must accept their minority and realize that the western world including the good old U.S. of A, was founded on Christianity, and so the Bible is no offence, as long as other religions are tolerated too. Seperation of Church and State shouldn’t mean alienation of religion with state run organisations. My college has both wicca, ceremonial magic, and general pagan texts, along with buddhism, islam, etc (and yes bibles). I only wish my highschool or better yet middle or elementary school had such resources in the library. I could have began my shamanic path when I was 6 or 7 and first started asking questions about the world and reading books on history and anthropology, instead of thinking all magick was black devil magic, or fantasy like in video games and fantasy books, untill I was 16 and actually went to public libraries outside of my highschool library and got some real education, as they had plenty of pagan books.

      • ChaosTech

        Also I later researched the christian bible from head to toe, as I became a hobby scholar of history and wanted to see what archaeology has to say about a religion that conqured the pagans. I found out much of the bible IS pagan, and has both mystical and magical elements and horrible B.S. just like most ancient pagan religions had. Neopaganism tries to be so liberating and cool, but ancient original paganism was just as dogmatic and horrible as monotheism. Everyone should be a hobby historian, it really sorts the modern bull from the ancient truth. We have it made these days. Ancient history was harsh. The Bible, especially if it has scholarly notes, as this helps the reader understand and further investigate the timeline, is a great read. The ancient pagan gods were just as demanding and cruel as Yahweh, and reading about them helps people understand life, and what they personally believe.

        • Ursyl

          For a hobby historian, you sure missed the entire point and direction of the Constitution, written by the Founding Fathers to govern this country.

          Do tell exactly which Christian principles were we founded upon: the divine right of kings? slavery?

          I know “one person/one vote” (or even “one man/one vote”) sure isn’t in that book, but slavery sure is, with instructions on how to practice it correctly.

        • Hotstreak12

          ChaosTech, I don’t agree with your statement. The ancient gods demanded sacrifices of animals, but so did Yahweh, and the claims of human sacrifice are suspect. Also, the one big difference is that no ancient polytheistic pantheon that I know of demanded complete obedience to that faith. The ancient peoples had no problem paying homage to gods of different lands, that is how the cult of Mithra spread from Persia to Rome. Monotheism (particularly Islam and Christianity) are the only religions that require the forceful conversion to there faiths with no room for other. Even if you are right and the ancient gods are as cruel as you say, that fact is that they have always been tolerant toward each other. Ancient wars were fought over land and power, but name me one religiously motivated war that took place between monotheistic peoples.

          • Hotstreak12

            Sorry, I meant polytheistic peoples, not monotheistic. Name me one religiously motivated war between polytheistic peoples.

      • Harmonyfb

        Pagans are a died out religion

        ::laughing:: Clearly, we are not members of a ‘died out’ (sic) religion. We all belong to living, vibrant faiths.

        You are also incorrect that the United States was ‘founded on Christianity’. This nation was consciously and deliberately founded as a secular one, with our freedom to worship as we please without government endorsement of religion guaranteed by the Constitution.

        • Sonneillonv

          *peers at Chaostech* Does he even go here?

      • Sonneillonv

        Pagans are a died out religion.

        Amazing how I’m pretty convinced we’re still here. And our numbers actually doubled in the USA over the past decade. Weird.

        [the] U.S. of A, was founded on Christianity,

        Not as such, no. It was founded on pagan principles. Hence why the US of A has a patron goddess. The founders, many of whom were Deists, not Christians, also expressed in their writings their admiration for Hindus and Muslims and some of their ideas, which wound up incorporated into some of our founding documentation. So, no. Brush up on your history.

      • “Neopagans must accept their minority and realize that the western world including the good old U.S. of A, was founded on Christianity…My college has both wicca, ceremonial magic, and general pagan texts, along with buddhism, islam, etc (and yes bibles). ”

        Your _college_?

        Hey, I’m the last person to pick on an occasional error in grammar, punctuation, or spelling, but this post is pretty poorly written for a college student. It’s really hard to take your comments seriously when they seem both uninformed and unintelligible. Are you simply trolling?

        • (My apologies if English is your second language. I know that to an international student, American history may be as hard to parse as our grammatical structures.)

      • Tara

        “the western world including the good old U.S. of A, was founded on Christianity”.
        Actually, Western civilization is rooted in the ancient Greco-Roman and Egyptian cultures. Christianity was a later addition.

        • And the Iroquois Nation… Mr. Jefferson drew heavily upon their methods of having meetings and their election process.

          • Tara

            Yes, the Iroquois system of government was a major influence on American democracy specifically. Chaostech was speaking of the “Western world” in general.

    • What a great idea!

  • Henry

    if the “modern pagan movement” really wants to bring about change, try being pro active rather than be re active. School board is probably the easeist entry point. It doesn’t take much to run for a school board position. School board elections are probably the least attended elections and the least attended meetings, and are really the most important. If one is a property owner one pays more taxes overall towards education than towards any other sector, and it it the most ignored as far as civil participation.

    • kenneth

      One shouldn’t have to personally grab the reigns of power to make sure the government is following the law it swore to uphold. That’s why the Middle East and most of the world is so screwed up. The only “law” is what the sect or tribe in power says it is.

      It’s also a bad idea to serve on a school board with one issue in mind. Even in the Bible Belt where these sorts of issues frequently arise, 99% of what a school board does is boring but crucial nuts and bolts stuff – how to pay the bills, set mundane policy etc. If pagans or anyone else wants to step up and serve knowing all that, yes, they should participate as part of the communities in which they live.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        There is a middle path: Attend School Board meetings. People from the community should only do this if they are interested in (nicely put) the nuts and bolts of public education. Develop knowledge in areas the Board is concerned with and, after a while, make public comments thereupon. If the Board agenda does not have a time for public comment, ask that it be added.

        Of course you may have terrible luck and your School Board may never try anything stupid about religion. But it gets our foot in the door, as a community, in the sort of political involvement Henry is recommending.

        I watched a suburban City Council for about a decade, and I wasn’t even Pagan yet, rather defending the interests of my neighborhood, a bohemian enclave. I even monitored the Board of Zoning Appeals for a while after something really outrageous surfaced at one meeting. And I started it all out ignorant as a pig about what I was doing. I wound up seeing a few of my recommendations turned into policy.

  • Kdawn133

    I am a Christian and Bible believer and see no problem in making both the Bible and what you call pagan literature available to school children. They deserve the right to determine for themselves what they believe. Simply keeping them from the material doesn’t dispel the idea. What do you fear the most- that the majority that willingly took Bibles would refuse your so-called pagan literature or that upon inspection of the Bible by children raised in a pagan home, that they would believe the Bible? It is every bit as possible for a child raised in a Christian home to believe the pagan material. How does limiting access to the ideas keep the ideas from being widely spread? That sounds a whole lot like what an individual called Hitler believed- doesn’t it?

    • Obsidia

      We, of course, don’t believe in limiting access to any kind of knowledge. It could be easily kept in the school library, where the children would have equal access to it. However, in THIS case, a special “break” was arranged so that all the students could come and receive this Religious Text HANDED OUT BY A TEACHER. This is different.

    • Anonymous

      Godwin’ing yourself with your opening statement? Really?

      Also, please note, “so-called pagan literature” is really quite rude. We don’t say, “your so-called ‘bible'”, we also usually are respectful enough to capitalize it as well. Though we may not be People of the Book, we do tend to respect knowledge in all its forms – the least you can do is reciprocate.

      Additionally, as many below have noted, which would apparent if comments had been read, the issue is with public employees (i.e. the teachers) distributing religious material (of any variety), and taking time from actually teaching functional subjects (reading, math, etc) to do this. Many of us would oppose this, regardless of the religion being espoused, due to A. the separation of church and state, as guaranteed by the First Amendment and B. the waste of taxpayer money, in the form of the time taken from the school’s curriculum.

      • Boris

        You are right. My first reaction was: get as many Gideon Bibles as you can carry, and shred them for kitty litter. But we should have some respect for the holy books of other religions.

      • WhiteBirch

        I was wondering whether that “so-called” material was dubiously Pagan or dubiously literature. I’m guessing literature. Thanks for pointing that one out. Those subtle demeaning jabs in wording are one of my least favorite things.

    • kenneth

      Actually it sounds a hell of a lot more like what an individual named Thomas Jefferson believed and what Baptists and other Christians dating back to the 1600s believed. Jefferson and these Christians created the idea of a wall of separation between church and state, not modern liberals.

      They built that wall because they believed people didn’t need any “help” from the state in forming their own consciences. The sort of “help” the school gave kids in this instance. This wasn’t about providing access to kids and letting them make up their own minds. It was about using a government facility and employees to proselytize. The pressure spoken or not, was clearly there to take one or to have the spotlight turned on you.

      This had nothing to do with “providing access” to bibles. This isn’t John Tyndale’s England or Soviet Russia, where such things were hard to come by. It’s not the middle ages, where books cost a year’s wages for the average punter. These kids ALL have access to bibles, 24 hours a day. With the tablet computers these kids all have these days, they have more access to the written word than any king or university scholar had for 99% of human history. This program at the school was held purely as a way for Christians to thumb their nose at a part of the law they disagree with, and to re-assert their position as the arbiters of who “real and decent” Americans are.

    • Tara

      Our objection to this is not children having access to Bibles,
      it is the fact that a public school is setting aside time especially to promote a certain religion (Christianity) to its students. Public education in a secular country is supposed to be religiously neutral. Pushing Christianity on the students, who are of all different religions, promotes institutionalized discrimination against non-Christians.
      Think about it this way, how would you, as a Christian, feel if you were attending a school where class was cancelled so everyone could go pick up their copy of the Bhagavad Gita? Pretty weird, huh?

  • Ecstaticlght

    OK, back to the school issue at hand….this isn’t only about the literature. This is about what happened when the student didn’t accept the text when it was distributed IN THE CLASSROOM (no one has yet mentioned that little bit). The child was made fun of by the teacher and the other classmates when the text was turned down. Passing the literature out is one thing, but when the student exercises the Right of refusal and then jokingly called a demon and listens to suggestion he/she should be baptized, in a 5th grade classroom, is another issue. These students go through the same thing when they choose not to attend Prayer ‘Round the Flagpole or not sing hymns in their Christmas programs (if you don’t attend the program you get a failing grade). Please please remember this is about little ones, not high school or college students. They need their parents to stand up for them. Ginger happens to be a lioness.

    • October Moon

      Thanks for the insight on what it’s like to be a student in a classroom where Bibles are handed out. These are 5th graders so I doubt many can read or understand the Bible they are getting. But, for those evangelizing, that’s not the point. This was a public demonstration of ‘Christian witness’ and its support by the school. Just saying ‘Everyone who is a believing Christian raise your hand to go get a Bible’ was enough to show who’s in power and who’s not. If they hand out Pagan books, or Koran’s, etc. it will still work for the ‘Christian witness’ since almost no one will raise their hand (in North Carolina, I wouldn’t either) and that will also show who’s in power. As much as I’d like to send them a pile of Pagan books and watch them squirm, the best solution is requiring schools to stay secular.

    • I am guessing by this information that you know the family? You’re right, this wasn’t mentioned in the article, and does add some serious implications of religious intolerance to the matter. Asking how old is the young man in question?

      • Ecstaticlght

        I’m sure you can contact Ginger Strivelli to get the particulars. She has never been one to hold back when it comes to confirming issues inside of the school classroom or system. (Yes I’ve known her for 12 years).

    • deerwoman

      If this is the case, the situation is much worse than I thought (and I thought it was sneaky and in poor taste just knowing that the kids received a “special break” to go pick up their free Bibles). None of these details were presenting in the article. I hope Ms. Strivelli writes a letter to the Citizen Times to bring these additional details into wider public knowledge and address the inaccuracies of that article.

  • Tara

    Someone should get the Scientologists to send a package of their creepy pamphlets to that school.

  • Ok. The story upsets me, yes. But the comments on here bother me more, you people sit and argue amongst yourselves…. I however will not sit and argue with your commenting your replies of opinions to me. They are just that, YOU OPINIONS, as this is mine:
    First, if this situation was reversed, the school was handing out PAGAN material…the Christian community wouldn’t politely and quietly petition the school board or debate on the internet. There would be people at the PTA meetings, at the school board, at the school itself, picketing, petitioning their local churches and peers. The teacher who handed out the books, along with the Principal, would lose their jobs, they would be publicly crucified (in the metaphorical sense) and essentially outed.
    Second, I’ve lived in NC for 23 years, 12 years as a pagan, the other 12 as a Christian. I know where Buncombe County is, they won’t be treating any other religion the same as Christianity. We ARE in the Bible belt!!!
    Third, the act of handing out of Bibles or any other religious material as such is illegal. That is all on that!
    Fourthly, the matter of religion and children….That should be left to the family to decide what their children learn, when they learn it and what-not. Not the school’s responsibility to teach them. I am shocked that a high school in my area taught the true origin of the holidays, had my Nazarene father and his mother known, they would have raised all sorts of “hell,” along with getting other people involved from churches and the community. I know that if my siblings have questions, I will try my best to answer them, without trying to change their beliefs.
    That is all.

    • Thelettuceman

      The difference in being the majority vs. a minority in something like this is that when the majority bitches about something, they’re not immediately considered to be petulant little children. If Pagans were to picket this, there would be a bare handful of them, and they wouldn’t make any real impact other than eye rolling and singling themselves out as targets for ridicule or worse. We have to take a different tactic in regards to these things.

      Thankfully, like what happened in Brunswick County, this is wide open for the inclusion of other faiths, and will most definitely backfire on them when legally recognized minority religions (various pagan groups being one of them) get involved. Their bluff was called, and I have no doubt in my mind that this one is called too. They are bound by the law just as we are, so they cannot flagrantly violate it by excluding other religions in this act. It is generally win-win for us. I say generally, because the school can always look the other way if pagan-interested students are subject to bullying.

      • Harmonyfb

        I’d love to see a concerted effort among all the non-Christian faiths in Buncombe country to contact the principal about distribution of materials. One week, the Torah, one week the Quran, one week the Bhagavad-gita, one week the Havamal….I predict the facade crumbles about week two.

  • Lori F – MN

    I have no problem with religious texts being available in a school library, as long as the bible isn’t the only book available. But the kids were in Elementary school, not high school.
    But having Pagan books passed out at the school won’t help. They need to acknowledge that passing out the Bible’s was wrong.
    If they thought passing out the bibles was okay, why didn’t they have permission slips for THAT or offer them at conferences? That way the parents would be in control of the situation.

  • Anonymous

    Is anyone else only able to access the mobile version of TWH? I get 404’ed every time I try to access this blog on my computer, and this has been happening since December 5th.

    It isn’t happening to any other Patheos blog that I’ve encountered, either–only TWH! Can anyone please tell me what is going on?

  • Guest

    I don’t think anyone expects this school to give equal time and attention to handing out (or even just making available) Pagan literature – I think it was brought up to point out the school’s hypocrisy, and I think that is what it will accomplish. The school would actually further their argument by giving the Pagan literature equal time, but I don’t expect them to, nor do I think it would be any more Constitutional than handing out bibles is.

    We have a private home-school in my area that includes bible study in its curriculum – this includes both mandatory courses and inclusion of bible study within all other lessons from algebra to chemistry. They are, however, a private school and they include “Christian” in their name. As far as I know they are the only structured home-school in the area, but in our state registering with a place like this is not required – in fact nothing but an attendance record turned in once a year is required to home school your child in my state. So there is no forcing. My son’s father enrolled him in this school when he took him out of the lousy public school system here because he did not feel capable of taking on the daunting task of homeschooling our adolescent while a single father working full time (I did not live in the state at the time). Though the father is an atheist and did not like the curriculum, he felt he had no other realistic and acceptable choices at the time to assure our son’s education. My son (who is agnostic and has no interest in any religion at this time) just rolled his eyes and filled out the required paperwork regarding religious teaching. He doesn’t feel it affected him positively or negatively because he chose not to let it, but he did worry about his step-brother being unduly influenced.

    The problem with teaching religion even in private schools – especially Christianity – is that there is so much room for interpretation; so even if you are a Christian you might not necessarily agree with the school’s teachings. The answer there is to be an involved parent and be aware of what your kids are being taught. My baby sister attended the same home school as my son, and though she is Christian she did not agree with all of the school’s teaching and we had some spirited discussions about it.

    The point being that for my son and my sister the parents made the choice to go with the Christian teaching private school, whether they were Christian or not, and could chose to ignore the religious teaching outside what was required paperwork. For most people, private school is not an option, much less a private school that teaches their specific religion. For a public school that is funded by government, giving out religious materials for religious purposes should not be allowed, period. At my high school we had the Bible, the Koran, and the Book of Mormon available in the school library and checking them out was purely voluntary – this I had no problem with and would probably have read a wider range of religious books if they had been made available. But lining up kids and handing out religious material where kids are going to feel peer pressure to be silent and accept the material rather than making a point of *not* taking it, even if later more than half of them throw it away or dump it in a forgotten corner, is still undue pressure and unconstitutional.

    I wonder what even most Christians would say if the bibles were a Catholic or Episcopal version that included the Apocrypha? If their child came home and asked about the book of Wisdom, for instance, how many Baptists would blow a gasket? Even though many bible stories are not actually in the 66 books I grew up with in the Baptist church – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego for example.

    There’s a lot to consider here. But for me, I wouldn’t want a school to teach my kids religion even if it exactly agreed with my own – that’s my job, if I chose to do it, just like teaching manners and values is my job.

  • Suntop

    If they distributed Bibles, they should be distributing all other religious texts, including Satans Bible. Do you see any school doing that? NO!

  • Anonymous

    When I was in school, I would have freaking loved this! Bible? Love! Books on Paganism? LOVE! …wait, not everyone is like this? What? I don’t even understand.

  • Hey Strivelli, shoot me a message. I’ll donate a couple books to the library if you need them if it helps the cause.