Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Another Steve Story... and he didn't do anything wrong for once!

Separation of Church and State?... or 4th grade indoctrination?

I’m feeling a need to rant. I’m hoping that I don’t offend anyone here, but my goodness. My 4th grader came home from school with a letter from his teacher (whom we adore, btw). Here’s the first paragraph of the letter, verbatim:

Dear Parents,
We need your help and support. As we enter this season of giving, our class has overwhelmingly voted to get involved and support a very worthwhile and special cause to help children. The program is called Operation Christmas Child, and is a project of Samaritan’s Purse. Mrs. XXXX, one of our kindergarten teachers visited our class upon my invitation and explained the program to the children. This project reinforces our class motto, “Treat others the way you want to be treated”, and the class theme, “I Believe, I Can Achieve, and I Will Succeed.” The children decided to help other children succeed who have very little. For more information please see the attached brochure.

The brochure is for Operation Christmas Child, and features an obviously Muslim little girl on the front clutching a gaily wrapped Christmas present. Inside, is a letter from the organization's president, Billy Graham’s son, explaining how all the needy children who receive Christmas presents from this organization will be taught "about God’s greatest gift, His son Jesus Christ. "

I went to their website, and a portion of the mission statement of this organization reads:
“Since 1970, Samaritan's Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God's love through His Son, Jesus Christ.
The organization serves the Church worldwide to promote the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ."

Pardon me, but isn’t that altruistic? Let’s help them so we can promote Jesus. How about helping them because they need help? Oops, wrong rant. This is a public school/religion rant.

And I should mention that I really don't have a problem with the organization per se, because it appears that they are out there helping the needy. My issue is with the promotion of the organization at my son's public school.

Is it me, or am I wrong in having a problem with the public schools asking my Jewish son to participate in Billy Graham’s organization? People file law suits over stuff like this. Don’t get me wrong, we have absolutely no intention of filing a law suit. We did however, write a very restrained letter explaining why our son would not be participating in an Evangelical charity and expressing our disappointment that the school would sanction such a classroom activity. We also explained that we involve our children in giving to those less fortunate than ourselves every year at the holidays and, actually all year round, and that we have explained to our son why he wouldn't be participating. We also suggested some better choices for next time, such as collecting and wrapping presents for children at our local battered women’s shelter or for the unplaced children in the local foster care system. It was quite professional and restrained, if I do say so myself, when I really wanted to kick and scream about how fricking inappropriate it was.

I’ve often mentioned how I live in the bible belt of my county, but this is taking it a bit too far. The letter from the teacher was cc’d to the principal, and I’m shocked that she didn’t put the kibosh on the project. But I'm often shocked at her behavior. I’m also amazed that I’m the only parent that has a problem with it. But then again, the only other Jewish boy in Steve’s grade is in another class this year.

Am I wrong?

9 People Gabbed:

Jenster said...

Hey Lori -

I saw your comment on Devonna's blog (the one about being with your husband for 22 years - me too) and thought I'd come take a look.

All I can say is "wow". I don't think you're wrong at all.

I was involved with this particular project/organization a couple years ago THROUGH MY CHURCH. I can't imagine a school sanctioning this. And I lived in Arkansas for 18 years until this past June - the buckle in the Bible belt!

Even as a Christian I would be a bit taken back by a public school doing something along these lines.

You're right that it's a good organization and they do a lot of good. But if preaching is part of the deal then it should be sponsored by churches and Christian schools, etc.

Just my $.02 worth.


Lori said...

Thanks Jen - I absolutely support the rights of the organization itself to exist. And I know that there are really good people out there doing really good things through these organizations. But that's my point exactly. It should be done through the churches or through private Christian schools, not the public schools.

Anonymous said...

Lori, don't Christian organizations who are present in poor Muslim countries get into trouble (arrested) by preaching/teaching their beliefs under the guise of being there to help?

I admire Billy Graham individually very much. I'm glad his son wishes to carry on his ministry. Just as I'm sure this particular program will do good. However, I would be flabbergast if my kids brought home that letter.

Of course, I live in SoCal the home of the lefy-lefy liberal. There is no way a letter like this would go out in our school district. For one thing there is such a melting pot of students that it would be certain to offend someone. Secondly, any type of charitable function/participation has to be approved by the school board before any school can send out a letter to parents.

Finally, I had to roll my eyes at the ...our class has overwhelmingly voted to get involved and support a very worthwhile and special cause....

Fourth graders can make an informed decision when the teacher obviously endorses a project, brings another teacher in to tell them about it and says they'll be helping other children? What kid wouldn't vote to help? Shameless manipulation. It suggests that something is wrong with you if you don't want to help.

Anne said...

Nope, I can't say as you're wrong there Lori. But you did the right thing by writing a professional letter and making suggestions for a BETTER way to help people next year. Help those who are close by rather than those so far away... help those in an un-religious way so as not to offend anyone who doesn't celebrate... and also those less fortunate who can't afford to give, be sure to let them know it's okay WITHOUT having to have their parents send a letter or call as to why. That's just RUDE.

You go, Lori!!

Lori said...

Rosie, I'm in SoCal, too, believe it or not. Just not in LAUSD.

And I so agree - Steve first of all had no idea that this was an Evangelical organization (plus, he doesn't even know what that means!), and how can you expect a 9 year old to stand up and say "I'm Jewish, is that right?" No, he's of course going to vote to help other children, and I would really expecxt nothing else.

Jenster said...

I'm sure the teacher's motivations were good, but it seems a bit deceitful to me.


Lori said...

I have no doubt at all that this was motivated by good intentions. If I thought otherwise, you can bet I'd be raising a huge stink instead of writing a nice letter.

I just think that they need to take into account that not everyone is Christian and will view it in the same light as they do. And they needed to be reminded of that. I'll be interested to see what response I get back...

Anonymous said...

Lori, I'm not in LAUSD but with how touchy things are I'm just surprised that anywhere in SoCal a teacher did this.

Keep us posted on what happens. I'll be curious to see the teacher/school's response.

Nikki said...

Lori, You are right!

This is horrible! I partcipate and look forward to Operation Christmas Child every year at my CHURCH!! School is not the place for this, unless it is a religious school.

Your suggestions were really good. I am sure there is also a food pantry near by(that is what our school participates in).