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Author Topic: Public School/Religion Question
Christine
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I want to throw this out there because I'm not sure what to think about it.

My son goes to a public pre-school. Yesterday, in his backpack, he had a flier for a fall festival being put on by a local Baptist Church.

When I first glanced at it I was in the middle of a dozen things and didn't give it much thought, but as the day wore on I kept thinking about it and wondering at the appropriateness of a public school promoting an event hosted by a church.

I asked my husband yesterday evening, and he was also unsure what to think about it. It's not like the flier was for a religious service, it's for a free fall festival open to the public, but it is held at and by a church that is frankly known for proselytizing.

Both of our gut feelings was that it wasn't right.

What do you think? Should a public school be sending home materials promoting events at local churches?

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Armoth
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Nope. I find that extremely bothersome as well.
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mr_porteiro_head
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I don't have any problem with it.
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Mucus
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As long as the location is clearly marked, I think it is ok, as long as they don't bar fliers for events that promote different religions or a lack of religion.

(If on the other hand, they do have a policy against materials that are religious across-the-board, I would find that (as in sending that kind of flier) irritating)

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ambyr
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I would be very bothered by it.
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King of Men
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I wouldn't worry about it. The resistance has infiltrated that church and is actually using the fliers to send coded messages to our agents in the area. "Fall Festival" is... well, nothing you need worry about, at any rate.
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Christine
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LOL @ KoM

As for the rest of you: you're about 50/50. That's no help!

Sigh...I think the thing that bothers me is that I live in Kansas and I'm already worried that despite the fact that I'm sending my kids to public school, there will be a heavy Christian influence there. I won't always know what my kids' teachers are saying to them and I don't entirely trust them, not because I think they'd intentionally hurt anyone but because I think people around here assume everyone is Christian and don't even blink twice about asserting their world view as truth when it is only opinion. I know too many people who don't know the difference.

Of course, the other kids will be saying all kinds of things but they're not authority figures and my kids will just have to learn to think for themselves in those situations. Eventually, they're going to have to think for themselves and question what teachers tell them too, but that's not going to happen for a while.

In the meantime, I think I want to see a clear line drawn in the sand if for no better reason than it reinforces in a teacher's mind what is and is not appropriate.

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DaisyMae
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I'm trying to figure out why this would be bothersome.

I really can't.

It's a flier.
Throw it away if you're not interested.

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kmbboots
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Did the school or a teacher pass them out or were they just "available" - like on a table with other fliers for community events? Or did some other kid pass them out? How does the school handle requests from other groups?

My reaction would depend somewhat on the answers to these questions. I might well be bothered.

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Christine
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
Did the school or a teacher pass them out or were they just "available" - like on a table with other fliers for community events? Or did some other kid pass them out? How does the school handle requests from other groups?

I don't know. My son rides the bus so these things just come home in his backpack. I have no idea if they are mentioned at school or what. If I picked him up instead of having him ride the bus, I don't know if they would have just been in a publicly available grab spot. And I have no idea how they would handle a request from another group.
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King of Men
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What, your son refuses to answer questions? It's a bad sign when they go quiet. If the brainwashing has not progressed too far, the resistance has... ways... of making the pod people talk. With recent advances there is even a good probability of getting back an un-brainwashed child in practically undamaged condition. You would never notice the difference.
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Noemon
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I grew up in NE Kansas (the Lawrence area), and never felt the kind of pressure that you're concerned about when I was in public school (and I was brought up in an atheist/agnostic household, so it's something that I'd have been likely to notice). I'm not sure what part of Kansas you're living in, though.

I think that I would probably feel a little concerned about the flier, but it would depend quite a bit on those things that kmboots outlined. If I were in your position, I'd probably give the teacher a call and ask about it.

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Christine
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quote:
Originally posted by Noemon:
I grew up in NE Kansas (the Lawrence area), and never felt the kind of pressure that you're concerned about when I was in public school (and I was brought up in an atheist/agnostic household, so it's something that I'd have been likely to notice). I'm not sure what part of Kansas you're living in, though.

I live about 30 minutes from Lawrence, actually, but you have to understand that Lawrence is an oddity in this state. It is a liberal town surrounded by conservative and religious areas. It's even been gerrymandered so that it doesn't even get a real say in politics.
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Raymond Arnold
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The thing with cases like these (and on a similar note, people working a store wearing "God Bless America" pins and the like) is that any individual case really isn't a big deal. However, it's something that easily could become a big deal if everyone started doing it. Imagine if you sent your kid to a school where he/she was constantly bombarded with flyers from ("Insert religion that creeps you out for whatever reason").

While I don't think this one instance is really an issue, I wouldn't do it again.

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MattP
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As long as their flier policy allows all organizations to send fliers home I don't have a problem with it.

There was a case in the last few years where a school decided to only allow school-related fliers to go home with the kids. (a change in policy) A local church complained and the policy was changed, allowing their vacation bible school flyers to go home with the kids. The next winter a pagan church sent a Solstice Celebration invitation home with the kids. The Bible School church freaking out. I think they are back to school-related flyers only again.

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TomDavidson
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Christine, I think you clearly need to hold an Atheist Harvest Festival for which you can deliver fliers to the school for distribution.
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dkw
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If the flier itself is not proselytizing, and the event is not a religious service and the school would handle a promotional flier for a community event from any other group the same way, then I don't think there's anything wrong with it.

If the school hands out fliers promoting community activities then they shouldn't not hand out this one because it's a church sponsoring the event.

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Noemon
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quote:
Originally posted by Christine:
I live about 30 minutes from Lawrence, actually

Oh, interesting. I grew up in Clinton (about two blocks from the Clinton Store, and the second house east of the township hall if you're familiar with the place), which is also about a half hour from Lawrence. I went through Lawrence schools, though.

quote:
but you have to understand that Lawrence is an oddity in this state.
:: laugh :: Yeah, I'm aware of that; I think it'd be difficult to be from the area and not be. That was why I added my qualifier, explaining what part of the state I was from. My experience probably wouldn't have been the same if I'd grown up in most other parts of the state.
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rivka
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I agree entirely with dkw.
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Christine
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
Christine, I think you clearly need to hold an Atheist Harvest Festival for which you can deliver fliers to the school for distribution.

Maybe for Christmas -- a Winter Solstace celebration, perhaps?
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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
Originally posted by dkw:
If the flier itself is not proselytizing, and the event is not a religious service and the school would handle a promotional flier for a community event from any other group the same way, then I don't think there's anything wrong with it.

If the school hands out fliers promoting community activities then they shouldn't not hand out this one because it's a church sponsoring the event.

Well put.
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theresa51282
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I don't think it would bother me too much. The flyer itself doesn't promote any religion per se. Nothing in recieving the flyer would make kids feel pressure towards any religion or even spark religious discussion.

Sometimes I feel like we go too far in worrying about talking about religion instead of worrying about promoting religion. When I taught preschool, I hated when the holidays rolled around because all the kids wanted to talk about were their holiday traditions (the class was about 1/2 jewish 1/2 christmas celebrating). Parents got offended over ridiculous things in my opinion such as decorating pine cones with glitter and snow balls because they "could" have been used as christmas tree decorations. It really put a damper on the kids fun. I would have loved to have let everyone make something that said winter to them. Whether that was some dreidls, some christmas trees or snowflakes. Instead we avoided anything winter related because all of it was deemed too controversial. I guess this is a round about way of saying be careful about worrying too much about things because after a while, everything that could ever possibly be construed as controversial is gone and the kids are the ones who really suffer.

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ambyr
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Perhaps part of why it would bother me is that I can't remember ever receiving any flier for a community (as opposed to school organized/hosted) event while in school. Is this common in some districts? It feels very weird to me.
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Christine
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quote:
Originally posted by ambyr:
Perhaps part of why it would bother me is that I can't remember ever receiving any flier for a community (as opposed to school organized/hosted) event while in school. Is this common in some districts? It feels very weird to me.

Not only did I never receive such a thing in school, but my son has been in school for almost a year now (he started in November last year) and this is the first we've received. I don't know...after reading the comments here I'm beginning to think it would actually bother me *less* if he had received other such fliers for other similar events.
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BlackBlade
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dkw summed up my position on the matter perfectly.
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The Rabbit
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One more vote for dkw here, but with a bit of reservation.

My concern arises from living in Utah where there is a majority religion and having seen how this kind of thing can be part of a larger picture where people who aren't part of the majority religions are excluded. If the overwhelming majority of people in this community attend this particular baptist church, I would worry more.

The flyer issue is a bit weird. Like ambyr, I don't remember ever having the school send home flyers for community events that weren't somehow linked to the school. I wonder how it happened, my best guess is that it was something distributed by the PTA but I'm not sure why.

I have a friend who lived in a neighborhood in the southern part of the Salt Lake Valley that was 90+% Mormon. In her school district, the PTA unofficially operated through the local church. They made announcements in church, send home PTA flyers at church and so on. Because my friend wasn't Mormon, she never got any of the PTA flyers and announcements. I'm sure it was something that just happened thoughtlessly. The PTA leaders in the school likely figured that church was a place where they could get stuff to most parents directly rather than having to send stuff home with the kids. They very likely didn't even think about how this would exclude the few neighbors who didn't come to church. But the effect was the same as if it had been intentional.

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Belle
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As a public school teacher, I will tell you that according to what I have learned both from my administration and from classes and professional development on religion in schools and the law - dkw's take is exactly right.

If the school hands out flyers from the Baptist church but refuses to hand out flyers from the Jewish Community Center or Islamic center, or a secular group, then there would be a problem. But, so long as the event is free, open to all including those who are not reglious, and they offer the same opportunity to other faiths and secular community groups it's perfectly okay.

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neo-dragon
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I'm also a public school teacher and I don't see what the problem is either. It's just an event hosted by an organization in the community. Why is there something not right about it because it involves a church? If some church happens to sponsor a food drive to help the less fortunate are you going to feel scandalized if they send home a flier for that too? It's not like it's a pamphlet for bible camp.

I say teach your kids about religion, tell them what you believe/don't believe, explain that other people believe different things and let them learn and decide for themselves rather than worrying about every subtle influence they may be exposed to.

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Raymond Arnold
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Rabbit covered pretty explicitly the sort of thing that COULD be wrong about it. In this particular case it's probably not a big deal. But in communities where one particular church is dominant, giving that church additional presence and influence in a supposedly public setting can be intimidating for minority religions, which is something that deserves consideration whenever a "minor" issue is going on.
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Shanna
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I also worry about the "majority" slant.

Yes, it would be nice that a school could feel free to promote community activities regardless of affiliation with various religious groups. And its key that discrimination isn't part of the consideration process.

But its more challenging in areas where there is a strong and vocal majority. I can easily envision a scene in which a principal and school board member stands up and proudly announces that they support community involvement from ALL religious organizations, even though only one or two are ever represented.

I've never lived in religiously diverse communities. There was the occasional in-fighting between various Christian denominations but there were not vocal non-Christian, or non-religious organizations in my town. As an atheist growing up in East Texas I was very thankful that our school district was VERY careful about separating religion from the public school system.

Plus, prior to the event, how much can the schools guarantee that its not an event to recruit new members? On more than one occasions I've attended festivals "hosted" by local churches were attendees were being approached my recruiters. The fliers often said that there would be games for the kids, free music and food. Just because it doesn't say that there's a religious agenda, doesn't mean there isn't one.

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neo-dragon
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quote:
Originally posted by Shanna:


Plus, prior to the event, how much can the schools guarantee that its not an event to recruit new members? On more than one occasions I've attended festivals "hosted" by local churches were attendees were being approached my recruiters. The fliers often said that there would be games for the kids, free music and food. Just because it doesn't say that there's a religious agenda, doesn't mean there isn't one.

Then don't go to it. I still don't see the harm in a flier.
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Javert
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Maybe this would cause more trouble than it's worth, but I would make up some fliers promoting a Wiccan event. (Or something to that affect.) And give that to the school to distribute.

If they allow it, regardless of any complaints they may or may not receive, then the Baptist flier doesn't bother me.

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mr_porteiro_head
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That would be inherently dishonest.
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Javert
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
That would be inherently dishonest.

Only if there was no Wiccan event. I didn't say make up some fliers for a fake one. Sorry. Rereading, it does sound like I'm implying that.
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by neo-dragon:
quote:
Originally posted by Shanna:
... The fliers often said that there would be games for the kids, free music and food. Just because it doesn't say that there's a religious agenda, doesn't mean there isn't one.

Then don't go to it. I still don't see the harm in a flier.
Ummm, I think the idea is that the fliers were false advertising. The flier might say that everything is free, but there is a cost, being proselytized at.
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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
Originally posted by Javert:
quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
That would be inherently dishonest.

Only if there was no Wiccan event. I didn't say make up some fliers for a fake one. Sorry. Rereading, it does sound like I'm implying that.
Ah.

In that case, it's really bad form to "advertise" someone else's activity without their permission to further your own agenda.

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ambyr
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I just really don't think schools should be advertising non-school events to children, at all, regardless of the type of event or who's hosting it. Kids get bombarded with enough advertising out in the "real world"--I'd like school to be an advertising-free zone. That applies whether it's advertising for a canned food drive or advertising for a local flea market.

This has nothing to do with whether I think it's legal for them to do so; I just wish they wouldn't.

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neo-dragon
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quote:
Originally posted by Mucus:
quote:
Originally posted by neo-dragon:
quote:
Originally posted by Shanna:
... The fliers often said that there would be games for the kids, free music and food. Just because it doesn't say that there's a religious agenda, doesn't mean there isn't one.

Then don't go to it. I still don't see the harm in a flier.
Ummm, I think the idea is that the fliers were false advertising. The flier might say that everything is free, but there is a cost, being proselytized at.
Yes, but I figure that the people who are likely to be offended by such a "trap" (for lack of a better term) will be wary of attending anyway, and perhaps rightfully so. Simply being informed that a church-hosted event is occuring just doesn't seem like a big deal to me. I'm just not seeing the harm here. [Dont Know]
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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
I just really don't think schools should be advertising non-school events to children, at all... Kids get bombarded with enough advertising out in the "real world"--I'd like school to be an advertising-free zone.
I got the impression that the flyer was for the parents, not for the children.
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Mucus
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neo-dragon: Well, it roughly depends on which affirmative camp you belong in, if you're in the "all fliers should be allowed camp, regardless" then there is no harm. However, if you're in the "fliers should be allowed, except when for a religious service or when proselytizing" then there very well could be harm.
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ambyr
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
quote:
I just really don't think schools should be advertising non-school events to children, at all... Kids get bombarded with enough advertising out in the "real world"--I'd like school to be an advertising-free zone.
I got the impression that the flyer was for the parents, not for the children.
Err. So, to me, that's even worse--the kid is being forced to be the advertisER. The organization is using the kid (captive audience) as a channel to his parents. Ick.

I really do want to know if this is common in American schools. Like I said, I can't recall it happening a single time in all my pre-college years.

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
I can't recall it happening a single time in all my pre-college years.
Me neither.

quote:
I really do want to know if this is common in American schools.
I think it's pretty common, yeah. Our kids come home with tons of crap.
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theamazeeaz
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My (Catholic) church used to hold an Octoberfest when I was younger. The whole event was a fundraiser for the church, but the event itself was secular and included food, an auction, a yard sale, games with prizes, pony rides, a jail. A carnival type company brought the portable spinny rides and rip-off midway games which drew an even larger crowds. Being a cool thing to do, everyone in town showed up, not just parishioners. About the most church-centric event was a dunk tank in which the two priests took a turn (there was one everyone hated and he drew quite the group of parishioners). The event died because carnival people and their rides were sketchy, and they were not asked back (then no one came) and the new priest wasn't much into that event so it didn't happen anymore. It's a shame, because I miss the Octoberfest now looking back on it.

If the event that the church is putting on is like that one, then I think I don't have too much of a problem with advertising in school beyond the typical corporate sponsor objections.

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Farmgirl
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quote:
Originally posted by Christine:
Sigh...I think the thing that bothers me is that I live in Kansas and I'm already worried that despite the fact that I'm sending my kids to public school, there will be a heavy Christian influence there. I won't always know what my kids' teachers are saying to them and I don't entirely trust them, not because I think they'd intentionally hurt anyone

I'm sorry, but I had to LOL at that, Christine. Just because so often I hear the exact opposite in the exact same wording -- Christian parents worried about sending their kids to public school because of the heavy secular/anti-Christian influence there.

It is just amazing to read it the other way around.

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Traceria
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Also throwing myself in with the dkw lot.
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MattP
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quote:
I'm sorry, but I had to LOL at that, Christine. Just because so often I hear the exact opposite in the exact same wording -- Christian parents worried about sending their kids to public school because of the heavy secular/anti-Christian influence there.
Secular <> anti-Christian. It's not even an "influence" per se, it's a position of neutrality. There's nothing anti-Christian about not leading a prayer in the classroom or not posting the Ten Commandments in the hallway.
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rivka
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Try reading the "/" as "and/or", which is what I think the intent was.
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MattP
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I think my comment about secularism not being an influence is relevant in either case. We don't worry about the secular "influence" of the doctor's office, the public library, or our favorite fast food restaurant or grocery store. I'm not sure why having school be similarly devoid of religious ideology, of any sort, represents an "influence". Is this just shorthand for "lack of Christian influence"?

I guess I'm being a little pedantic, but I don't like the compromise position of religious neutrality being treated as a position of hostility toward the dominant religion. It's an unfair framing of the debate so I'm compelled to poke at it when I see it.

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rivka
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We have reached the limits of my ability/willingness to speak for Farmgirl, and she doesn't post here very often. *shrug*
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DDDaysh
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If we're only talking about one flier, then I wouldn't worry. My son comes home with fliers all the time for a variety of different things. I think some of them have been sponsored by one church or another, but I couldn't tell you for sure. Most of the stuff so far has been PTO, sports related, or Boys&Girls club... stuff like that. However, there have been a couple announcing different activities and I'm sure some of them were church sponsored.

If you're worried, call and ask the school what the policy on "hand outs" is. If they have a policy that they let all non-discriminatory groups hand out "non-offensive" public service fliers (as in, no cuss words, etc), then they really couldn't have stopped the church from sending them out. They also couldn't stop any other organization (Pagan, UU, or even Nazi's) from sending out fliers as long as they didn't include a "hate message".

I would be much more worried if your child came home with a pamphlet of the 10 Commandments.

On the other hand, I don't think it's unreasonable to watch your child's teacher carefully. I get annoyed with people who don't let kids have Halloween Parties and Christmas Programs because I honestly don't see those as religiously related. However, when I was going through public school, I had more than one teacher totally cross the line. I was even raised in a Catholic household (the majority here) and still felt funny about it. One time, in 7th grade, we were given an assignment to write about what we were giving up for lent and why! At other times, things were more subtle, but still uncomfortable.

I'm having some of the same struggles with my son now. I'd made the decision to raise him here to be close to family, but since he's started Kinder this year, I've begun to question that decision. It seems that in order to allow him to have a decent life here, I'm going to have to compromise rather heavily on some of my core beliefs, and I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that any longer. Being a minority in a small town is tough!

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