Education

January

Medford, NJ – The parents of Zachary Hood, now eight, filed an appealafter a federal court upheld a teacher’s decision to bar their son from reading aBible story in his public school class. Two years earlier, when he was six, Zachary’sfirst grade class had been instructed by their teacher to bring one of their favoritestories to school to read to the class. Deciding that the Dr. Seuss book he had firstchosen was too long, Zachary settled on a 21 line Old Testament story from TheBeginner’s Bible: Timeless Children’s Stories. The teacher made Zachary readit to her privately, then told him it would not be appropriate to read to the class. Afederal judge unfortunately upheld the teacher’s decision—despite the fact thatPresident Clinton’s directive on religion in schools clearly states that”students may express their beliefs about religion in the form of homework, artwork,and other written and oral assignments free of discrimination based on the religiouscontent of their submissions.”

January 20

Lee County, FL – While permitting Lee County public schools to teach theOld Testament segment of their Bible history course, a U.S. District Court judge continuedan injunction blocking implementation of the course’s New Testament curriculum. JudgeElizabeth Kovachevich questioned whether New Testament teachings on miracles and theResurrection of Jesus could be presented as secular history. She did not say why the OldTestament, which also describes miracles, should be allowed.

March 13

Allentown, PA – After the league protested an anti-Catholic display in theschool chapel, Muhlenberg College President Arthur Taylor made matters far worse with hisbigoted response. The league had objected to an icon of Mary accompanied by a statementchastising Catholics for not recognizing her Jewish origins, and indicting Pope Pius XIIfor alleged “silence” during the Holocaust. Dr. Taylor accused the league ofviolating the college’s freedom by trying “to force your point of view onus.” This, he said, “brings the Catholic Church to a position which it heldcenturies ago.” He then declared himself unwilling to engage in any further dialogueon the matter.

March 25-26

University Park, PA – Gregory Nagurney, writing a column in the DailyCollegian of Penn State University, ridiculed his Catholic upbringing, caricaturingChurch teachings and suggesting that CCD stands for “Creating Catholics ThroughDictatorship.”

April 14

Newark, NJ – According to a letter-to-the-editor published in the HomeNews Tribune, The Gay Student Association at Rutgers University School of Law inNewark, “with faculty members in supportive attendance, has used (its) publicfacility to erect posters setting forth vulgar condemnations of the Catholic Church.”

May

Santa Fe, NM – Public school officials sought to ban students from wearingT-shirts with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. School officials were concerned becausesome gang members had incorporated their gang insignia on the religious symbol. ArchbishopMichael Sheehan met with school officials, and a distinction was drawn between legitimateuse of religious symbols, which was henceforth permitted, and what Bishop Sheehan termed”singling out a religious symbol in a negative way,” which was prohibited.

May 9

Madison, WI – The Freedom From Religion Foundation found itself beyond theextremes of even the American Civil Liberties Union when it denounced permission for aMass to be held in a public high school during non-school hours. Angela Pienkos, principalof Kettle Moraine High School in Waukesha County, agreed to permit a Mass in theschool’s orchestra room, so that Catholic students would not have to choose betweenattending prom events or traveling to Church for Mass. Although the Mass was not sponsoredby the school, foundation president Anne Gaylor was aghast. “Somehow the idea of Massbefore prom sounds like something a nun would dream up,” she said derisively. Thefact that Pienkos, a Catholic, gave a reading at the Mass, was “an unconstitutionalendorsement of religion,” according to the foundation. This was too much even forACLU Wisconsin spokesman Peter Koneazny, who recognized the principal’s “rightto express her religious beliefs. I don’t think she would have to put her religiousbeliefs aside” when she is not acting in an official capacity, he noted.

June

Cincinnati, OH – The public school calendar for Sycamore Community Schoolsavoided mentioning the religious significance of their Christmas and Easter holidays,listing them instead as part of “Winter Break” and “Spring Break.” Incontrast, the Jewish holy days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur were specifically identifiedas such.

June 11

Madison, WI – John Benson, state superintendent of the WisconsinDepartment of Public Instruction, reacted to the Wisconsin Supreme Court’s ruling infavor of school choice by asking, “Will Timothy McVeigh start the next church inMilwaukee and see this as a profit-making venture and solicit enrollment and succeed?That’s going to happen.” After the league protested this vicious stereotype ofparochial school parents as fanatics and religious schools as primarily motivated byprofit, Mr. Benson wrote a letter of apology.

June 19-20

Washington, DC – Among the winners in an annual essay contest sponsored bythe New York-based Alliance for Young Artists and Writers was an anti-Catholic essay. Theauthor, a high school senior, received the Silver Award in the annual Scholastic andWriting Awards contest for a piece about a child-molesting Catholic priest.

July

Rochester, VT – Rocketimes, the student newspaper, reprinted an article bya sophomore at Rochester High School ridiculing her father’s faith and the devotionalpractices of Irish Catholics. The essay had won an Honorable Mention in the KingdomAwards. Following protests by the league, as well as the local Catholic pastor and others,the paper printed an apology from the editor-in-chief, a member of the school faculty.

July 6

Allentown, PA – Muhlenberg College Chaplain Rev. Donald King, respondingto a letter from a league member, insisted that the college’s chapel display had notsingled out Catholics as denying the Virgin Mary’s Jewishness. Rev. King failed toaddress, however, the display’s clear singling out of Pope Pius XII as being largelyresponsible for “Christian indifference” to the Holocaust; nor did the chaplainaddress the offensive comments directed toward the Catholic Church by the school’spresident, Arthur Taylor, when the league contacted him to register its concerns about thedisplay.

July 21

Louisville, KY – Nina Bedford, assistant principal at Atherton HighSchool, filed suit against the Jefferson County Board of Education, alleging that she wasrefused consideration for promotion to principal of the school because of her involvementin an endowment fund for Catholic education.

Mrs. Bedford noted that in February of 1997, after she accepted an appointment fromLouisville Archbishop Thomas Kelly to the board of the Catholic Educational EndowmentFoundation, Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Stephen Daeschnerinstructed her principal to ascertain whether this created a conflict of interest with herpublic school post. She also found herself being excluded from public school committeesand task forces on which she would have normally been expected to serve.

When her principal retired in April of 1998, Mrs. Bedford asked that her name besubmitted for consideration. This was not done, even though she had been the school’sassistant principal for nine years, and had received numerous awards and citations ofachievement.

An African American, Mrs. Bedford was being supported by the Kentucky Alliance AgainstRacism and the Rainbow Coalition—not because they alleged any racial bias, butbecause they agreed that Mrs. Bedford was being unfairly penalized for her activities onbehalf of Catholic schools.

August

Eagle Nest, NM – The parents of a third grade girl filed a civil rightssuit after their daughter’s teacher allegedly told her class that Catholics cannot go toheaven. According to the suit filed in U.S. District Court by Wayne and Debra Anderson,teacher Devonna Todd, after telling their daughter Jenny’s class that “Christians goto heaven,” ridiculed non-Christian religions, saying that non-Christians would notgo to heaven. She pointedly included Catholics in the non-Christian group, and declaredthat Catholics would not go to heaven. The teacher allegedly told the students not to telltheir parents about any of this, and the Andersons claim that their daughter was twiceadmonished by the teacher for telling her parents. To top it all off, the parents claimthat when they brought their complaint to the principal, he suggested that they either tryhome schooling or switch to another district.

August

Washington, DC – “NEA Now,” the newsletter of the NationalEducation Association, published a cartoon suggesting that the purpose of religiousschools is to destroy public education. The cartoon showed a church sitting atop therubble of crumbled public schools. Above the door of the church was the inscription,”Public funding of religious schools,” and the caption read “Upon This RockI Will Build My Church…” That reference to Christ’s words to Peter made clear thatCatholics were a particular target of the cartoon. After being contacted by the league,the NEA’s president responded with an apology, and a pledge not to run the offensivecartoon again.

August

Kingston, NY – The public school calendar for the Kingston ConsolidatedSchool District, while specifically identifying days off for the Jewish holy days of RoshHashana and Yom Kippur, secularized the Christmas and Easter holidays as Winter and Springbreaks.

September

New York, NY – Time/The Princeton Review carried an article advisingstudents to consider taking some time off from school between high school and college.Author Ronald Lieber cited as one example a student who had “graduated from Catholicschool in Chicago,” and “felt beaten down by the repressive atmosphere.”

September

Peekskill, NY – The Peekskill public school district included in itscalendar days off for the Jewish holy days of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Christmas andGood Friday, however, were not identified as religious holy days.

October

Andover, MA – Phillips Academy lent its prestige to the effort toappropriate Jesus as an advocate for homosexuality. The school displayed, as part of anart exhibition, a painting by a student showing Jesus “locked in a passionate kisswith another man.” The student artist made clear that he hoped the painting wouldhelp persuade Christians to rethink their ideas about homosexuality.

October

Syracuse, NY – Gay activists disrupted a talk at Syracuse University byCatholic political commentator and former presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan. A Biblewas burned outside the chapel during Buchanan’s talk, while inside the chapel someprotesters staged a lesbian “kiss-in,” while others screamed insults and triedto shout Mr. Buchanan down.

October

New Canaan, CT – The New Canaan Board of Education issued its calendar forthe 1999-2000 public school year. While the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur was properlyidentified, time off during the Christmas season was identified as “Wintervacation.”

October 29

Staten Island, NY – The Halloween issue of the Banner, newspaper ofthe College of Staten Island, included among its off-color listings of “Things ThatScare Us,” “Cardinal O’Connor porn star” and “any priest withgenital Herpes.”

November

Hanover, IN – Hanover College staged a production of Clive Barker’splay, “Crazyface,” and a Catholic student who reviewed the play for the studentnewspaper found that it “insulted me by insulting my religion.” She described aplay which featured a Catholic priest “depicted as an imbecilic oaf”; Cardinalsportrayed as “effeminate, homosexual men”; and a Pope who is discovered to be awoman.

November 24

New York, NY – Envoy, the student newspaper of Hunter College, ran on itsart page a graphic and shocking illustration of Jesus crucified to the cross, with anerection and wearing a condom. Above that were two drawings of a man putting a condom onhis penis. Above the graphics were the words, “Condom Use Made Easy: Let Jesus ShowYou How.” It continued, “Begin Copulation With A Fresh Latex Virgin MaryImmaculate Conception Condom.” The inscriptions on the Jesus graphic read”Jesus” at the top and “The King of Kings” at the bottom.

Dr. David Caputo, president of Hunter—which is part of the City University of NewYork—apologized, as did the paper’s editor and the student responsible for this”art.”Envoy’s production manager, however, defended the publicationof this work. Speaking with the league, he acknowledged that the paper has a policyagainst printing anything that is “racist, denigrating to women or homosexuals.”There was no such policy, however, when it came to offending Catholics.

December

Ledyard, CT – Ledyard High School moved the performance of the HallelujahChorus, which used to be the finale of its winter concert, to the middle of the concert,in order to place “less emphasis on a classical selection with Christianinfluences.”

December

Hillsborough, NJ – The school board decided to change the name of theChristmas holiday to the “December season” in order to avoid “religiousovertones.” Classroom gift-giving was also banned as a religious activity. The sameschool board had previously changed its designation of February 14 from Valentine’sDay to “Special Person Day,” because too many students were referring to it as”Saint Valentine’s Day.”

December

Shillington, PA – A school administrator issued a directive banning anyreligious songs, religious teachings or religious decorations from school holidaycelebrations.

December

Lawrence, KA – School officials told room mothers at the local elementaryschool that they could not bring in any Christmas cookies or Christmas decorations for theholiday party.

December

Darien, WI – Administrators of a state school for the deaf told employeesthat they must remove any holiday decorations that contain the word “Christmas.”


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Written by Bill