I love stories like this, when the religious right is up in arms over non-Christians exercising the same rights they went to court to demand for themselves. Most schools have a system for sending home flyers to parents informing them of school events. Most schools also allow outside groups, like the Scouts or the YMCA, use that system to get the word out about summer camps and the like.
In 2001, a Christian group tried to use a school’s system to inform parents of one of their events and they were refused. They filed suit and the 4th Circuit ruled in their favor, saying that if a school is going to allow some community groups to use that system, they cannot engage in viewpoint discrimination in choosing which groups to allow in. This was not unexpected; it fits with a long line of rulings on limited public fora that say, in essence, “allow one, allow all.”
But one could easily predict what would happen if a non-Christian group demanded the same access as Christian groups; all that talk of how unfair such viewpoint discrimination is would go right out the window. But we don’t have to predict this, we can see it in action in this Worldnutdaily article about a school in Virginia where teachers are throwing a fit over flyers from a freethought group advertising their summer camp, and even refusing to hand them out as instructed. And you’ve got to love the way they spin the situation:
Some teachers in the Albemarle School District in Virginia are rebelling against their managers’ orders to hand out to students as young as kindergarten a promotion for a summer camp that advocates for “Atheists, Freethinkers, Humanists, Brights, or whatever…”
A representative of the teachers talked to WND only on condition that a name and school not be used, and said such advertisements provided by the district to hand out to children violate the teachers’ religious beliefs.
You’d think from reading this that the school district is behind the whole thing. Wrong. The school district has no choice but to distribute those flyers, which are provided by a non-profit community group – you know, just like the Christian group that went to court demanding access to the flyer system. Here’s what has their panties in a bunch:
“Camp Quest is the first residential summer camp in the history of the United States for the children of Atheists, Freethinkers, Humanists, Brights, or whatever other terms might be applied to those who hold to a naturalistic, not supernatural, lifestance. Campers are encouraged to think for themselves and are not required to hold any particular view,” the ad says.
Gee, do Christians object to handing our flyers promoting non-Christian events? Funny, you weren’t concerned about how handing out flyers for Christian camps might “violate the teachers’ religious beliefs” if those teachers were Jewish, or Buddhist, or Muslim. In fact, when that was the case, all the talk was about how unfair it was for them to refuse to hand out such flyers. Ain’t it funny how the attitude changes when the shoe’s on the other foot? When Christians do it, it’s a brave fight for religious freedom; when non-Christians do the same thing, it’s obviously anti-Christian oppression. Quite convenient, that.
Telephone calls to school officials requesting a comment were not returned. But when WND reported on the “Pagan Christmas,” board chairwoman Sue Friedman told WND such ads are distributed because the school was forced to do so, following a decision by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Maryland.
The ruling concluded if one community group is allowed to use a distribution program at a school, then all groups must be given the same access. The district then made a policy adjustment in order to accommodate that ruling, Friedman said.
“In order to allow the YMCA to tell you about their soccer league, or the Boy Scouts to tell you about their new troop, we have to allow all nonprofits,” she said. “That’s why we’re seeing this.”
And the school is right. Here’s the ruling.
The teachers’ representative told WND several teachers simply didn’t hand out the latest promotion, and of course now fear retaliation if their supervisors find out.
The representative said the teachers were “disgusted” with the latest addition to the pile of information that they call the “backpack express.”…
“They do put a disclaimer there, that the school doesn’t’ support it,” the representative said. “But we are expected to send this stuff home in childrens’ backpacks. It’s still coming from me and my classroom.”
“I took a stand and did not send it home,” the representative said. “Other teachers did the same thing.”
Guess what? You’re breaking the law. If you end up being punished for it, you have no one to blame but yourself. This is the same school where the teachers threw a fit last year when another group sent home a flyer advertising a seminar on the pagan roots of Christmas. The law has been explained to them, but they obviously just don’t care. They think Christians should get (irony alert) “special rights.”