Buncombe County School Blinks in Pagan Inclusion Test

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  January 5, 2012 — 83 Comments

On December 20th, I reported that a Pagan, Ginger Strivelli, was challenging her son’s school in Buncombe County, North Carolina on allowing the distribution of Bibles, claiming that the manner of distribution crossed the line into unconstitutional endorsement. Strivelli, and noted North Carolina Pagan activist Byron Ballard, decided they would test the supposedly open-door policy for the distribution of religious materials as asserted by principal Jackie Byerly of North Windy Ridge school.

“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.”

So, how did North Windy Ridge school do when presented with boxes of Pagan literature free for the taking? According to Ballard, their tune had suddenly changed when it came to non-Biblical text distribution.

Ginger Strivelli with her rejected Pagan books.

Ginger Strivelli with her rejected Pagan books.

“We were there to deliver the materials that she was assured would be “made available” in the same way the Gideon material was, right before the winter break. No surprise to find that, in consultation with the system’s superintendent Dr. Baldwin, the principal Jackie Byerly and asst principal Danny Fusco couldn’t do that at all because the central office was reviewing its policy regarding religious materials in schools. They suggested that they would “hold onto” the books, in case the school system needed to review them for appropriate content, once the policy was vetted.”

Local news outlets are now reporting on the sudden change of heart, with the Asheville Citizen Times getting Jan Blunt, spokeswoman for Buncombe County Schools, to entertain the idea that perhaps their method of distributing Bibles in a public school wasn’t altogether legal after all.

“This whole thing has raised an issue of were we in compliance with any laws or were we not,” Blunt said. “There’s a lot of gray area. Perhaps we were in the wrong, and that’s why we’re going to review.”

Blunt also noted that a group in New York offered to send them 500 Qurans, and that feedback on their policy has been “mixed.” As for Ginger Strivelli and Byron Ballard, they are vowing to continue fighting and see this through till the end.

“The Earth religions community is frankly tired of dealing with this every few years. As long as any child in a public school system is bullied, coerced or ostracized for the spiritual path of their family and themselves, the situation is not fixed and the school environment is not safe. There will be more media, more “good Christian” people threatening violence, more bullying and “othering” before this is settled. But settled it will be. Of this you can be certain.”

Again and again it seem like certain Christian activists love the idea of inserting religion into the public sphere until it’s made plain that other, competing, ideas will be allowed as well. Then, the value of secularism suddenly reveals itself, at least until the law, or the demographics, change enough to allow them complete religious hegemony.  Pagans (and other minority religions) it seems, are either being invoked to test the resolve of supposedly “open” programs of religious activities that receive governmental funding, or used to prove how open a program is to avoid litigation. As non-Christian practices and beliefs become more and more common, I think we’ll start to see some realignment on the question of religion in public school or local government, until then, local Pagans continue to fight for true equal treatment and inclusion.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Sixteenmilesofstring

    Thanks so much for writing this. To the school board, How about this? School is for learning, not religion. Maybe if we focused on teaching math and science, instead of squabbling over religion, our students would not be lagging the rest of the world. You want your child to have a bible or Quran, do it on your own time, not valuable class time. Maybe then we’d actually still have time for things like gym and art.

    • Anonymous

      Yes math, science, and a vocabulary over 20k words, so they can understand things deeper than the jokes on some sitcom. The problem with public school science however, is the lack of chemistry, electronics, etc, but the inclusion of hypothesis, theory, and even opinion based belief, along with every other pseudo science clogs the classrooms, filling hands on trade schools with debt saddled students, that need to learn something useful.
      The bottom line? If You as a parent care at all about Your child’s education, homeschooling is unavoidable, with or without public school attendance.
      BTW Teaching as fact: Millions/billions of years ago mother earth was born out of father sun, and over millions/billions of years the “life giving” energy of father sun caused mother earth to bring forth life, is plain old fashioned Pagan sun worship, dressed up to look like science by the tired presupposition “Scientists believe….” kinda like 4 out of 5 dentists recommend fluoride, has anyone here taken the time to investigate fluoride, and it’s health benefits?

      • Anonymous

        No, the problem with public schools is that standardized testing is treated as more important than actually preparing students to think for themselves as adults.

      • Streganola

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXPBXLRtQgI

        Re: Fluoride…. The Chocolate option to Flouride…. From New Orleans

    • Romanon

      Or history…has anyone else noticed that history is no longer being taught to elementary students. “Anyone who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it.” But our children can’t learn from history if they don’t learn history in the first place.

      • Bittysnitty

        More people need to read Mr. Heinlien’s work.

  • Kylindreams

    ” They suggested that they would “hold onto” the books, in case the school system needed to review them for appropriate content, once the policy was vetted.”
    did they “review” the bible for appropriate content too? just makes me mad. My daughter goes to a very large high school that is mostly catholic students and someone started a rumor that she was a “devil worshiper” it has made her very uncomfortable going to school now.

    • Crystal Kendrick

      I’d say there’s a whole lot of inappropriate content in the bible: rape, pillage, genocide, murder, violence and brutality, incest…you name it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/demetri.black Demetri Black

        i have to agree with you on that Crystal thats why religious practice and schools(public or privet) need to keep religion out of there course material all together and let individuals practice whatever faith they so choose without being harassed or worse.

    • Jexxer

      I had the same problem in middle and high school, and that was just because I liked to RESEARCH pagan mythology and enjoyed supernatural fiction! That, and they didn’t understand what the word, “agnostic” meant. If it’s not Christian, it must be that DEVIL WORSHIP!

  • Rhys

    We are guaranteed freedom of religion not freedom from it. I have no problem with a school having a location where any student can pick up a religious text, be it the bible, the quaran, various pagan literature, Taoism, etc. To allow one and bar others is a problem. But, I would review any and all of those for content, Druids in the past practiced human sacrifice, I think I would pass on that. Likewise there are parts of Islamic extremism that have no place. School is for learning, and religion IS learning. For a school to preach secularism and ignore religious points of view is also wrong.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1650681499 Diotima Mantineia

      Rhys, can you imagine what an administrative burden it would be on the schools to distribute religious literature equitably? And why should the schools be in the business of distributing religious literature in the first place, unless it’s in the context of a comparative religions course? No, religious literature has no place in the schools.

      • Nitenrse

        I believe they were “making it available” not “distributing”. there is a difference. All books can be “made available” in their library, a source of learning.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          As I recall the original story, a special “break” was created during which students were “allowed” to pick up Bibles — tantamount to passive distribution. And that this arrangement is what the school refused to do for Pagan material.

          • Obsidia

            Also, the students didn’t just “pick one up,” they were HANDED one by a Teacher.

        • Saloli

          They used ‘class time’ to let the students out of class to go and pick one up. That is time paid for by taxes for education. The only way to have avoided using class time would have been to have the pick up time before 7:30am or after 3pm.

          I am from Buncombe county, and I can tell you that the Christians around here push hard core to get Christianity in school. Asheville may be a pocket of semmi-liberalism, but everything around us is full of religious political extremists (ie: Protestants mostly).

          I am also an educator. The Gideons show up every yar to hand out Bibles at the local colleges, its very annoying to deal with and then you see the Bible all over campus, it definitely creates a very intimidating atmosphere (ie: unsafe) for non-Christians. We ought to be removing intimidation from schools not adding to it.

          • Myrhinne

            It really does make an intimidating atmosphere in schools.

          • http://aWorldQuiteMad.blogspot.com aWorldQuiteMad

            As someone who attended Buncombe County schools many years ago now, it is intimidating. I was called a “devil worshiper” and was told I needed to “watch my back.” Some nicer students who were concerned told me I should be careful to keep my opinions to myself unless I wanted to “get hurt.” These opinions had to do with the freedom of everyone to worship (or not) as they saw fit without being forced to pray in the classroom. A substitute teacher told me that her son was beaten with Bibles in the hallway a few years before this, while teachers watched and did nothing to stop it.

            I also faced this same atmosphere working in multiple retail and food industries in Asheville. I encountered racist, homophobic, ultra-right-wing conservative Christians with a narrow world view that one would have wondered if they had stepped out of the middle ages. And to top it all off, the Christians acted like they were the ones being persecuted despite the fact that they were a majority. They disrupt pagan rituals downtown with bullhorns. And the police let them. You see what happens if you disrupt a Christian worship service. You’d go to jail because it’s illegal.

            Asheville is an interesting place to say the least. Crazy racist rednecks live next door to gay liberal hippies.

    • Tracynoelwilloughby

      Good point but I would also like to point out human sacrifice as well as animal sacrifice is also in the Bible.

      • Kekogre

        Not only is it in the bible, Christians did plenty of human & animal sacrifice by torture not so long ago, right here in the USA in Salem, Mass. In Europe, German and Spanish Christians tortured to death thousands of people as a blood sacrifice to their god *much* more recently than Druids. I’m sure there are loads of Christians who would kill for their god today if they could get away with it – isn’t that what the murder of women’s clinic staffers is? Their god tells them to kill a person, and they do, that’s human sacrifice. I have never heard of any Earth Religion practitioners killing anyone for religious reasons at least since the founding of the USA but Christians still for their god.

        • http://quakerpagan.org/ Cat C-B

          “Loads of Christians who would kill for their god”? While religiously-motivated bigotry is overwhelmingly a product of the numerically and culturally dominant Christian religion (in this country) this is such an overstatement that it verges on hate speech.

          Will we feel that whole-cloth attacks on Paganism are OK if it happens that we begin to see some Pagans killing others in the name of religion?

          Or will we then cry what we refuse to admit the validity of from Christians today: “Those people don’t represent the vast majority of us, who do not want to hurt anyone, and just want to practice our religion in peace?”

          I wonder sometimes what the future might hold, given the extremism of our rhetoric about other religions, if Paganism ever does become the dominant religion again. We may have gotten it from the thousands of years of Christian intolerance toward other beliefs, but some of us seem to have internalized hate as a religious value just fine.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Cat, I think you miss the point of Kekogre’s following words, “isn’t that what the murder of women’s clinic staffers is?” The hard fact is that there *are* religious murderers among Christians just as there are among Moslems.

            And the point of it in this discussion is that violence in the name of God in the Bible is not just “back then” but “right now.”

            Kekogre steps on his own lines with terms like “loads” and “plenty” which make his remarks sound more radical than they are.

    • Crystal Kendrick

      That’s the problem. You can’t teach religion and leave out the bad parts. For one thing, it would be a lie, not the actual religion at all. And very few religions pass that test. If you took all the bad out of the bible, you’d be left with the sermon on the mount and the list of “begats” and that’s about it. The same with the quran. There would be little of it left after content editing. You couldn’t have books on Hellenism, Asatru, Celtic Recon, Druidism, even Wicca because their myths often contain violence and current cultural taboos, like incest. All you would be left with is a few New Age texts. As to your other point, that we don’t have the right to be free of religion, we most certainly do. If we don’t have the right to be free of religion then schools and government can push whatever religion they prefer on us. An atheist certainly has the right to not have religion foisted upon him/her. The ruling of Everson vs. Board of Education supports this: “The establishment of religion clause means at least this: Neither a state nor the federal government may set up a church. Neither can pass laws that aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion… . Neither a state or the federal government may, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between church and state.’ ”

      • Bill the cat

        The constitution guarantees that each INDIVIDUAL has the right to their religion. It also guarantees that the government will not take sides in such issues. So IMO it is perfectly legal to allow a library of donated religious books, but it is NOT okay to be biased.

        Likewise it is NOT legal to infringe on an INDIVIDUAL’s right to express their religious practices. However, one person’s rights should never infringe on the rights of others. No harm is caused by witnessing prayer or hearing it. Harm is caused by infringing people’s right to pray.

        I do draw the line on prayer at organized events. That is an endorsement of a faith, even if you “spread the wealth”

      • http://www.facebook.com/demetri.black Demetri Black

        bravo crystal you tell em lol

      • Crystal Kendrick

        Read “review for content” as censorship. Also, I dare you to tell a Druid you wouldn’t allow any of their materials to be distributed for “content purposes”.

      • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

        True… but so do fairy tales have violence and other disturbing content. I believe that religious texts can be taught as literature and history, but that isn’t what this school is doing. They’re clearly promoting one set of beliefs over others.

    • http://www.facebook.com/tonchacheeko Tony Agee

      Freedom of religion necessarily entails “Freedom from religion”.

      And by the way, christians also practice human sacrifice. It’s sort of the whole point of the exercise isn’t it?

    • Dana D. Eilers

      Rhys, I am an attorney licensed in three states and the author of PAGANS AND THE LAW: UNDERSTAND YOUR RIGHTS. The Constitution absolutely stands for the proposition that we are entitled to believe or NOT believe–that atheists have the same rights as those who hold religious beliefs. As an arm of local government, the public school system cannot teach religion as spiritual doctrine which should or should not be adopted by the students. We are absolutely free in this country to NOT believe and to NOT have religion crammed down our throats in school.–Dana D. Eilers, attorney and author

      • Old_Warhorse

        Thank you. It’s good to hear ‘from the horse’s mouth’, as it were. Also, thank you for being active in helping to defend our Constitution.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tom-Jones/100003100049767 Tom Jones

        District policy from 2003:

        http://www.buncombe.k12.nc.us/cms/lib5/NC01000308/Centricity/Domain/7/Policies/Curriculum%20Instruction%20600/660.pdf

        clearly prohibits distribution of religious material. Who needs to be fired? How is that done around there?

        I was going to offer them 500 copies of Mein Kampf as a religious tract, but alas, such tracts are prohibited.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tom-Jones/100003100049767 Tom Jones

      Review for appropriate content? You must be unfamiliar with First Amendment Jurisprudence. Once the government (ie, the school district) has established a public forum, it absolutely cannot decide who gets access to the public forum. Nazi’s distributing Mein Kampf – cannot be blocked. Most school districts go to no public forum when someone makes clear the implications of hosting a public forum. HURRAH to brave folks that challenge these ‘Christians’.

      Inappropriate content? Try Genesis 34, the Rape of Dinah and slaughter of an entire village as consequence. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinah

      • Doug Smith

        Tom, I like your enthusiasm in entering this debate, however you are quoting an unreliable source. Wikipedia is not a good source for any information. Perhaps you would do better to just quote the bible, but that would require you to read it first. I believe in the fact that this earth was created and not just a happenstance. I also believe that man writes all this stuff that we are supposed to believe, how can we be sure any of them are sane when they wrote these. We cannot, therefore we must all take it on faith that what is written is true and accurate. Does this not make all religions faith based?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1012867700 Cari Milton

      Would you also weed out the bible for it’s stonings, tortures, rapes and violence? There is no NEED for schools to ‘make available’ bibles… the things are everywhere already. You want your kid to have a bible, give them one. If the kid wants one, I’m sure they can ask for one or check one out of the library even. Why on earth should schools have any part in that, especially when (at least in the US) they aren’t doing what they are SUPPOSED to be doing… teaching kids. America’s school are in trouble (and were even pretty sad when I went to one 20yrs ago, and when my adult sons went to them in not so distant past)… they need to focus on doing a better job of educating children, not branch out into making bibles available?

      • Harmonyfb

        not branch out into making bibles available

        It’s not ‘branching out’, Cari – Southern public schools have been doing this for years. I can remember being marched en masse to the sports field and lined up to get a little bible from the Gideons, and I was in elementary school forty-something years ago.

  • Crystal Kendrick

    I’m glad that the board is reviewing their policy. Religion belongs in the home, not in schools or government.

  • http://twitter.com/thesilverspiral Naya Aerodiode

    Religion – ALL religions – need to be kept out of anything that we put our tax money toward. Period. I don’t want to see prayers of any kind at any city council meeting, school graduation, anything. The state belongs to everyone, including atheists and those who just don’t care about religion. Nobody’s tax money should support anyone else’s beliefs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeri-Matteson-Hughes/518671481 Jeri Matteson Hughes

    Yes, Rhys, as my Momma always said, “The constitution guarantees freedom OF religion, not freedom FROM religion. Even freedom from ‘non-traditional’ religions.

  • http://www.facebook.com/susan.j.thornton Susan Thornton

    Sure there’s a place in the schools for the Bible, the Quran, and all other written stories of myth – it’s called the library. Or am I just showing my age in believing that school libraries still contain books?

  • captianhook

    Personally, I’d sue the school for content discrimination. They’ve already allowed in the sexist, homophobic, violent propaganda that passes for a religion. What could POSSIBLY be more toxic to students?

  • http://moma-fauna.blogspot.com/ Moma Fauna

    Sticky, sticky.
    In Utah, LDS highschool students get release time (i.e., one of their class sections) to go across the street for “seminary class.” Their rights to this have been ruled as protected by the constitution. Trouble is, no one else gets to go across the street to study at their grove, temple, mosque, synagogue, etc. It is the same old problem of equitable access where the majority religion inevitably receives extra favour.
    (see http://www.acluutah.org/SKYR3.html)
    In the above case, even if the books were kept in a building across the street, I suspect only the students wanting to read bibles would get release time.

    • Kylindreams

      When I went to high school in a little town in Idaho it was the same. The LDS kids went to a class that was in a mod. Building in the parking lot & they actuly got high school creedits for it….

    • Lori F – MN

      They shouldn’t be allowed to get credit for the classes, unless the course is open to anyone AND credited for those people too.
      But LDS students can attend these seminary classes after school or before.
      I would protest their special treatment.

      • http://moma-fauna.blogspot.com/ Moma Fauna

        I do believe they get credit in Utah as well. I also believe LDS seminary is open to anyone. But seriously, what non-Mormon would do that? I would not have been caught dead in a seminary class of any sort in highschool.

        So, is it truly equitable, not really. Can you prove it in court? Apparently not.

        • http://quakerpagan.org/ Cat C-B

          Well, not in a Utah court. That one strikes me as unlikely to hold up under a higher-level appellate review.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tom-Jones/100003100049767 Tom Jones

      A good bit there, on the ACLU Utah site. This link might work better:

      http://www.acluutah.org/SKYR3.html

      • http://moma-fauna.blogspot.com/ Moma Fauna

        Thanks. I didn’t realize it wasn’t working b/c I neglected to test it. I fixed mine too.

    • Doug Smith

      One problem with this is that the school is LDS (latter day saints), that would be like attending a catholic school and asking them to change their religion. If you do not like it, then leave. Public schools are no place for religious turmoil, our children have enough to deal with. Private schools are a different matter, you are paying for what they offer and therefore should not complain about them. Perhaps just start your own private school that caters to pagans, or atheists…

      • http://moma-fauna.blogspot.com/ Moma Fauna

        I am referring to Utah *public* schools. I attended Utah public schools as a youth & I have been an educator in the Utah public school system (currently, I volunteer at one). I believe the person in Idaho (Kylindreams) was referring to public schools as well. I am not sure if there are any LDS private schools below the college level. After all, why would they need them when their kids get to go to seminary at public schools? See the ACLU website for clarification. ;)

        I’ll make that more clear in my first comment as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Bend2MyWill Andréa Hopkins

    I’m so tired of religious favoritism in this country – either allow all religious material available to those who want it or don’t allow any of it!
    I am of the strong opinion that anyone wishing to principal a school should have to take a world religions course before taking up the post – especially if they are in a district which boasts a diverse religious attendance. Ignorance breeds hate.

    • http://www.facebook.com/demetri.black Demetri Black

      agreed

  • Lori F – MN

    I’m surprised that some of the parents of the recipients aren’t at least a bit upset or angry that the Gideon’s were allowed to pass out THEIR copy of the bible.
    To Most Christians all Bibles are NOT created equal.

    • http://quakerpagan.org/ Cat C-B

      It’s amazing how many people–including Christians–do not realize that.

  • Caliban

    Interestingly, I first encountered Margot Adler’s ‘Drawing Down the Moon’ in the library of my high school. This was back in 1986 or so, and not in Seattle or Portland or Austin or any of our more open, cosmopolitan cities. This was in Cincinnati, Ohio which, if not the Bible Belt, is the hairy navel of the Beer Gut that sticks out over the Bible Belt.

    I recommend continuing to challenge practices like this Bible distribution with requesting directly parallel inclusion. But at the same time, a more beneficial approach, and one genuinely useful to young people making their own exploration of the variety of religion would be to see books like that in libraries in schools and communities.

    • Chava Anastasia

      I was always proud that the Catholic school where I once taught had a copy of Drawing Down the Moon in their library, along with many other books about different religions. They were serious about teaching World Religions, so the students would be truly informed and be able to understand others.

  • Sewicked

    Years ago, there was a proposal regarding prayer in schools. One suggestion was that the prayer be according to the dominant religion in the area. One proponent was asked, ‘what if that’s Buddhism?’

    She thought a moment and then said, “well, as long as it’s not Catholics.”

  • Vincent Rose

    I love it. I remember when my school was passing out bibles, my parents complained and threatened a lawsuit.

    http://www.hirevincent.info

  • http://sari0009.xanga.com/ Karen A. Scofield

    I don’t think they reviewed the bible. Most Christian don’t read the entire thing. Ever.

    The following links are probably not safe for work or K – 12 schools.

    Sex and obsenity in the bible:

    http://www.2think.org/xbible.shtml

    The XXX rated bible (it’s on an anti-religion site, sorry):

    http://www.otoons.de/sex/NC-17Bible.htm

    And then there are all the links for “Cruelty and Violence” in the bible. Oh, and there’s a passage in the old testament that describes having to bring to animal sacrifices after menstruating — one as a sin offering and one for a burnt offering.

    Leviticus 15:19-30

    Some of the stuff in the bible is incredibly XXX rated, horrifically violent, woefully unjust and misogynistic all all once. Like this scene of “justified” (?) gang rape and dismemberment of a second class (or less than second class?) woman.

    http://rarebible.wordpress.com/2009/04/26/take-my-daughter-and-my-friends-concubine-and-rape-them/

    • http://twitter.com/lunamoth42 Luna

      Indeed. I have a co-worker who is self-professed devout Christian, spends most of her free time with her church, etc., tells me she wishes I could find a “good church” to join, loves wearing her big blingy crosses and so forth. But she has admitted to me, outright, that there’s whole sections of the Bible she’s not read, because “they seem scary.” That’s made my jaw drop. “They seem scary”

      The mind, it boggles.

  • Forgottenpastlife

    Hang in there, and keep up the good fight. I wish they would teach tolerance, and world religions studies. It would help us all.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Crystal-Barthelmes/100000781631323 Crystal Barthelmes

      Yes,you would think that teaching diversity and tolerance would go hand in hand with the current anti-bullying campaign that is so important to all of these same educators!

  • Kilmrnock

    Seems to me these folks in North Carolina don’t understand the concept of separation of church and state.No religion period , ours , thiers , or any other belongs in the public arena , schools, courts etc .I am a staunch supporter of separation of church and state, this is a big one for me .This kind of stuff just plain pisses me off. I’m a southerner myself , altho not a typical one ………..why is it whenever you hear about this kind of crap , it’s in the south . Good gods what is wrong w/ these people ?Quess they don’t realise such a policy protects them as well . Isn’t this kind of thing why the origonal settlers came to America in the first place , seem they have forgotten our own history. Kilm

  • http://sonneillon-v.livejournal.com/ Sonneillon

    I believe I called this. I deserve an internet cookie.

  • Ellis Karn37

    and is this new? when ever has a “harm none” practitioner ever been not challenged…have fun with this Ginger, Am with you all the way…if that’s ok….

  • Myrhinne

    I think it’s fantastic that there are some American Pagans out there who are really actively concerned with Pagan teens and what they have to go through in a public school system.

    At my public high school, I was harassed by the Dean and faculty by wearing pentacles and carrying tarot and one day for dressing in black. I was told that in order to take time off for holidays, I had to have a parent and a local clergy member of my faith sign a letter (with the organization’s official letterhead) stating what the holiday was, what the observance was, and why I should be allowed to take a day off school for religious observance. I didn’t need to take a day off, but that’s not the point. My point was that I should be allowed the same rights, privileges and observances as everyone else, including “Christian” students who go don’t need official letterheads and signatures.

    When I (and about 20 other students, mostly Pagan, but also some Muslims and Unitarian Christians) wanted to form an Interfaith student organization, we were told by many faculty members that they wouldn’t endorse us because they feared backlash at the workplace and against their family members.

    I repeatedly had to stand up for myself and inform the Dean that I fully understood my rights and the parameters by which public schools can and cannot censor minor students. The Dean repeatedly found excuses to make my high school experience with the faculty and administration extremely uncomfortable. I was counted absent when I was in attendance and on-time, so I was made to take senior finals when other students with the same attendance and grades were able to get a waiver. The Dean covered for sports players and children of faculty members who engaged in bullying, harassment and threats of violence.

    It goes on and on.

    • Mary

      How terrible for any person in a position of power to act in such a manner! Clearly that person shoul dhave never been in that position and has hopefully been removed. Unfortunately there are people in this world (regardless of religous views) that enjoy being mean just because they can.

  • http://www.magickal-media.com Alice C. “A.C.” Fisher Aldag

    Youse guys were right about this. Eating crow. And praising Ms. Strivelli for her tenacity and courage. Blessings to her and her son.

  • Bittysnitty

    I don’t think xians understand how well informed Pagans are about xianity.In my case, reading the bible cover to cover a few times (Numbers is a real snoozathon) helped lead me to look elsewhere . I was raised lutheran but am now very happily Pagan. Maybe their real worry should be letting their children actually read the bible. Who knows where it might lead ;)

    • Mike

      Where it might lead: Buddhism, Paganism, Atheism.

  • Henry

    Did the school request the bibles? or did Gideons International send them unsolicited? Perhaps that should be found out. If the latter case then G.I should be the focus.

  • http://www.facebook.com/padraicohare Padraic Robert Daniel O’Hare
    • Anonymous

      Your link has nothing to do with why Bibles would be a “great addition” to school. Are you saying that minority religions are second class and should just shut up and take it?

  • Obsidia

    Question: Does anyone know the names of the books that Ginger Strevelli brought to the school? There are people calling them “spell books,” and I’m not sure that’s what they were.

    • Anonymous

      The photo shows a Llewellyn Publications box. I seem to remember they had offered to send books, but I may be mistaken.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1010653184 Pamela Sheena Maiasaura Tiger

      I do believe she was gifted a variety of books from a variety of sources/authors. Dunno, though; you’d have to ask her. When I did, she told me she had lots of different books.

  • Kilmrnock

    As a druid the statements that druids did animal and human sacrifice i consider to be quite inflamatory. The Christians , Jews , and most other religions did as well …………..in the distant past . The Muslims still do in the form of stoning for certain offences.I can say w/ reasonable certainty that there has been no Druid sacrifices within the last 700 to 1000 yrs.But on the main topic of discussion here i will restate my position .As a strong advocate of church/state separation , i believe no religious books/teachings etc, belong in the public arena .In schools , courts , etc.Ours , thiers, non at all in tax supported public places. this semms to me the best stance in these situations . Religion belongs in the home and churches , temple , etc . not in schools or our Government. Kilm

  • Kilmrnock

    seems to me, sorry

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1012867700 Cari Milton

    Amazing the sudden change of heart… as if anyone actually believed they would really allow materials of non mainstream religions to be distributed! I am American, but have lived in Australia for 10years now… there is still state sponsored religious Ed in schools and principals are surprised that I’m not ok with it ‘because it’s just a non denominational christian program’ which is supposed to make it ok?

    I found out late this year that the religious ed class, which I opted my kids OUT of, is held in the resource room…and non participating students are in the computer lab (which is off the resource room), unsupervised, with the door wide open. Non while not participating, they are still hearing every single bit of it *sigh* Oh how I wish I had the US constitution to fall back on for this one… but complaining will do no good :(

  • Anonymous

    Thanks so much for saying “certain Christian activists” and not generalizing. I’m a Christian and I embrace freely sharing knowledge about other people’s religions, whether or not I agree with their point of view. There are some Christian sects whose ideas I find highly objectionable, but I’m an American, too and will fight for their right to express themselves the same as anybody else. Reviewing their policy — at a time that will conveniently exclude the Pagan and Muslim materials — is hypocrisy in the extreme.

  • Seymour

    How about this if you going to push “Christianity” and make Bibles “Available,” then why not tell the truth about the contents… How family’s and Villages was killed, raped, beaten, and wiped out in the name of Christianity, and how is that any different from the human sacrifice from the Druids or the Mayans. Besides did she identify as Druid or Mayan, not from what I seen; all she said was “Pagan” which does not necessarily mean Murder, Death, or Kill anything. And neither does the word sacrifice! I think our children deserve to know the truth and if it is good enough for the lien ass bible thumpers then why is it a problem for the oldest and truest earth based religion that still says “Harm None” even after being suppressed and stole from killed for over 200 years. As if they was to be completely wiped out anyhow. Problem is we need to get our personal beliefs to our selves with our friends and family. You know out of the 200+ different religions Christianity has killed more people than all of the put together yet Pagans are the bad Guys? Bullshit!

  • Tomspeth

    the reason that the founding fathers wrote the separation of church and state into the constitution was they could see the problems it can cause. in a small town somewhere where everyone it the same religion, they cannot see it but if you go somewhere where there are many varieties of religions and people it becomes much more evident. public schools should not be giving religious education. that belongs in the places of worship and at home.

  • Wdaytonking

    My teen son attends school in Indiana, generally a pretty tolerant state. A few weeks ago one of his teachers gave the term “viruous pagan” as an example of an oxymoron. He protested that it didn’t apply because he himself was a virtuous pagan. She proceeded to argue with him that while she “respected” his right to his beliefs, there was by definition no such thing as a virtuous pagan. His mother has complained to the principal, and I am waiting to see how it all plays out.

    • Harmonyfb

      She proceeded to argue with him that while she “respected” his right to his beliefs, there was by definition no such thing as a virtuous pagan.

      Oh, HELL NO. I hope his mother jerks a knot in that woman’s chain.