Conservative Internet news site WorldNetDaily posted a story yesterday about some teachers in Albemarle School District in Virginia, who are refusing orders from the administration to pass out adverts for the children’s summer camp called Camp Quest. The camp is the first summer camp that caters to atheists, humanists, and freethinkers.
I remember when I was in school, getting flyers for different community groups like the Boy Scouts, advertising their events or asking you to join or what have you. Of course when I was in grade school, the Gideons came to class and passed out New Testaments to all of us.
Basically what the incident in Virginia tells us is some Christians want special treatment for themselves and not for any non-Christians.
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.”
That encompasses the community-related handouts that are sent home with students, and typically involve “pretty tame” programs such as community events and scouting programs.
“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.”
The school disclaimer says: “The Albemarle County Public Schools neither endorses nor sponsors the organization or activity represented in this material. The distribution or display of this material is provided as a community service and is not printed at taxpayers’ expense.”
The teachers’ representative said it might work for the students to pick up such ads on their way out of the building, but students and parents perceive that information provided in the teacher’s classroom comes from that teacher.
“I think what frightens me the most ? who knows what’s next,” the representative said. “I thought this was pretty offensive and pretty outrageous.”
One key sentence stood out for me in the article:
The court concluded that could not be allowed, but its decision didn’t address the religious rights of employees ordered to distribute material they consider objectionable.
The WorldNetDaily has it all wrong. Teachers don’t have a “right” to decide not to hand out something “they” find objectionable. Teachers, as well as administrators, are considered agents of the state (through compulsory education attendance laws and previous court cases) and any action they take is seen as an act of the state. If a teacher is so offended by what they are asked to do as part of their contracted job and duty as an agent of the state, then maybe they don’t need to work in a public school. There are plenty of sectarian private schools that might make them feel better.
Of course teachers weren’t offended or outraged back 2006 when two students at Hollymead Elementary School, sought permission to distribute fliers about their church’s Vacation Bible School to their peers via “backpack mail.”
Their request was turned down because the district had a rule against distributing material that was for partisan, sectarian, religious or political purposes.
Well the parents of the students got the Liberty Counsel involved. It is a religious right legal group supported at the time by Rev. Jerry Fawell. After that group got involved the district changed their policy and allowed the Bible school flyer.
That led to a flyer for a Holiday event put on by a Unitarian congregation that promoted a look at the Pagan roots of holidays. The UU church wanted equal time and thanks to the Liberty Counsel, they got it.
The WorldNetDaily article on the Pagan flyer (there is a link to that article in the article about the Camp Quest flyer) fails to mention that the flyer was sent home with students because Fawell and his Liberty Counsel opened the door to get their Bible school flyer sent home.
*Note* Thanks to a tip I was able to include the information on this issue from the American’s United blog that makes clear that WorldNetDaily and the so-called rebellious teachers are misleading people about this issue.