WEAVERVILLE, N.C. – A pagan mother's challenge to the distribution of donated Bibles at a local school has prompted the Buncombe County Board of Education to reevaluate its policies regarding religious texts.
Ginger Strivelli, who practices Witchcraft, a form of Paganism, said she was upset when her 12-year-old son [who did not wish to be photographed for this article] came home from North Windy Ridge intermediate school with a Bible.
The Gideons International had delivered several boxes of the sacred books to the school office. The staff allowed interested students to stop by and pick them up.
"Schools should not be giving out one religion's materials and not others," Strivelli said.
According to Strivelli, the principal assured her the school would make available religious texts donated by any group. But when Strivelli showed up at the school with pagan spell books, she was turned away.
"Buncombe County School officials are currently reviewing relevant policies and practices with school board attorneys," the district announced in a written statement. "During this review period, no school in the system will be accepting donations of materials that could be viewed as advocating a particular religion or belief."
The school board is expected to address the issue at its next meeting Feb. 2. According to legal experts, the First Amendment gives public schools two clear choices when it comes to the distribution of religious texts.
"You can either open your public school up to all religious material, or you can say no religious material," Michael Broyde, a professor and senior fellow at Emory University's Center for the Study of Law and Religion said. "You can't say, 'You can distribute religious material, but only from the good mainstream faiths.'"
Preventing government from favoring or restricting any one religion may have helped the U.S. avoid the bloodshed experienced in some other Western nations, such as Germany and Ireland, according to Broyde.
"America runs a grand, noble experiment in religious diversity without violence," he said. "There's no killing of the Jews. There's no Catholic-Protestant violence. We are very successful in this grand experiment."
Traditionally, that "grand experiment" has involved Judaism and a handful of Christian denominations. But as non-traditional faiths spread into new communities, longstanding customs such as prayer, Christmas plays and Bibles that once went unquestioned in public schools are finding themselves under increased scrutiny.
"Our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles, not on Wiccan principles," Bobby Honeycutt, who attended public schools in Weaverville during the 1970s, said.
"Our children have access to more non-Christian print material in the libraries and online than they really do Christian stuff," he said.
While many Weaverville Christians see recent events as a threat to tradition, others see a purpose in enforcing church-state separation in public schools, because even the nation's traditional faiths have divisions.
"Many Christians have stood up and said they agree with me too," Strivelli said. "Because, as much as they may like the Bible, they don't want Jehovah's Witnesses coming in with Watch Tower (magazines) or Catholics coming in and having them pray the Rosary."
it was a good read
. i enjoyed reading it
I know so many pagans who have no problem indoctrinating children with their particular religion. It's the same thing. They proselytize and think it's OK because their religion is a self-proclaimed "good" religion, meanwhile start cursing the minute they find out someone is Christian.
I do like that she called their bluff. I live in NC and it was all over the news and there were a lot of upset xtians.
I think she's right. I would add, demanding equality for all religions, equality needs to be demanded for "no-religion". This could be a step in that direction. If the school was to return to passing out bibles, bult also had to pass out info on wiccan, hindu, zoroastrianism, judism, satanism, flyingspagettimonsterism, and islam, then the kids would get a broad based, but biased-by-all, view on religion. It might even be a step into promoting critical thinking. Or not.
She showed up with spell books. I wish I could have been there. That is good stuff.
I think the other (bad) religions should put together an advocacy group to address these issues. They could travel around and bring all their icons and regalia and manuscripts into the schools and start handing junk out. That would most likely stop all of it.
It should be televised, but not PPV.
I think atheists also have good news and we should OCCUPY the spaces that religions try to monopolize: we should try to have pamphlets in hotel rooms that advocate the virtues of a non-theist philosophy, which are many.
I mean, there is NO reason why the counter-story to the Bible should not be there, or wherever Bibles are given away ... I've heard that even Mormons have pushed to have their Book of Mormon in many hotel room drawers, and Hare Krishnas have sold or given Bhagavad Gitas to hotels so people may read them. It's unfair to give kids Bibles (or Qurans, for that matter) in school and not give them the counter-argument to the Bible or Quran. That's not only unconstitutional but not fair and balanced.
And we should be conscious consumers. One thing that may happen is, even if these motels/hotels disallow atheist pamphlets, they may end up removing both the Bibles and the atheist pamphlet in order to avoid controversy, which would be a success story. And so I think we should push for the same type of visibility that religious people have in our shared spaces, and occupy them (as they have).
I'm just thinking out loud, but the truth of the matter is that many people are religious because of the visibility of it, it enjoys a consensus-driven hypnosis. Even if one hypnosis totally contradicts the other (Islam, Christian, Hindu are totally mutually exclusive), they still enjoy this consensus hypnosis and people who are susceptible to this, need to encounter alternative mainstream views in order to overcome the consensus mind and question things. This is why I strongly favor atheist bus ads, books and commercials and all forms of visibility.
We must donate to a fund to print The Wholely Holey Holy Book of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. We can distribute them to any school district that gives away bibles.