First ammendment follies
Thread originally posted on the Aeclectic Tarot Forum on 16 Feb 2003, and now archived in the Forum Library.
||16 Feb 2003 |
|this news article from the state of tennesee, u.s.a. was sent to me by my pagan homeschool group; |
Subject: Union schools hit with religion-related lawsuit
Union schools hit with religion-related lawsuit
Action claims student was beaten, harassed for being different
By JENNIFER LAWSON, email@example.com
February 14, 2003
India Tracy came to expect being sent to the principal's office even
though she was a well-behaved, straight-A student.
But the Union County youngster knew she'd probably be the only
student with "no" written on the permission slip to attend a tent
revival during school hours. When she declined to portray Mary in a
Christmas play, she also was sent to the principal's office.
India and her parents, Greg and Sarajane Tracy, allege other
students taunted her, beat her and ridiculed her religion for years.
Fed up with the treatment, her parents filed a federal lawsuit on
her behalf Thursday.
The lawsuit claims the Union County school system violated India's
civil rights by promoting and endorsing religious activities, denied
her right to freely exercise her religion and failed to protect her
from harassment and physical and verbal abuse.
The first time the Tracys declined to allow their daughter to attend
the two-hour, fundamental Christian services held over three days
was in 1999, when she was in the fourth grade. The family had bought
11 acres in Union County because they thought the area was
"The principal had called me to the office because mine was the only
slip that said no," said India, now 14. "He asked me why I didn't
want to go. He asked my religion. I told him I didn't want to talk
about it and for him to call my parents."
Sarajane Tracy told the principal that she also did not want to
discuss religion because she didn't think it belonged in school, she
said. The family could be anything - Buddhist, Jewish or Islamic -
and it shouldn't matter, she said. The family follows the ancient
religious tradition of Paganism, which embraces kinship with nature,
positive morality and acknowledges both the female and male side of
Deity, according to the Pagan Federation.
India was the only student left in her class during the Area Wide
Crusade in April 1999, so her classmates knew she hadn't gone. The
crusade was begun in 1998 by a Union County Baptist pastor and is
planned for this April as well.
While declining to comment on the lawsuit, school system Director
James Pratt said the ministry rents school buses for transporting
the students and some teachers act as chaperones but they must use a
personal day to do so.
He referred other questions to Nashville attorney Charles Cagle.
Cagle declined comment because he had not seen a copy of the lawsuit
The name-calling and rumor spreading began soon after the 1999
revival, India and her parents said.
Between 1999 and February 2002 when her parents removed her from
Horace Maynard Middle School, the lawsuit alleges:
n That India was repeatedly called "Satan worshipper," "witch" and
other derogatory names. She was accused of eating babies and of
being a lesbian because she wasn't a Christian, the lawsuit said.
n That India was forced to attend regular Bible study classes during
the school day, and urged to lead the school and her class in
n That derogatory names were written on her locker in permanent ink
and the school refused to paint over the graffiti or move her
n That India was repeatedly attacked as she knelt in front of her
bottom-row locker. Her head was bashed at least 10 times, cutting
her lip, above her eyes and bloodying her nose.
n That a teacher told India to "keep quiet because you'll get in
trouble" after she wrote a paper about religious freedom.
n That a bus driver regularly asked India in front of other students
if she had gone to church yet and if she'd like to come to church.
The Tracys' Knoxville attorney, Margaret Held, said the family did
not want to sue. They just wanted their daughter to attend a safe
school without persecution.
"They tried being quiet about it and that didn't work," she said. "I
would hope that the people in Union County who have been killing
their goats and beating up their kid are a minority. If there's one
thing that Christ taught, it was tolerance."
During her years at Sharps Chapel Elementary School and later at the
middle school, India maintained top-notch grades. She also was one
of the few girl players on the football team, played in the band and
belonged to the Beta Club and Chess Club.
Her parents pulled her out of public school nearly a year ago, after
a friend of hers called to say she'd been suggesting suicide. She
was diagnosed with anxiety and has been home-schooled since then.
The suit seeks $300,000 in damages to pay India's tuition to a
private school, legal fees and the cost of psychological counseling.
The suit also seeks a court prohibition against "the school system's
continued religious indoctrination of children."
"Maybe it will be a harsh enough lesson so the next child in Union
County who's different can continue through school and graduate and
feel safe," Sarajane Tracy said.
||16 Feb 2003 |
|That is horrible...IS there anything we can do to help?
||16 Feb 2003 |
|We could send our support through whichever ways we are most comfortable... to assist ALL involved here...I've participated in energy healings sending long distance support...many styles of alternative healing have ways of doing just this...and any joining of forces increases the effectiveness exponientially...|
soul level decisions often require sacrifice and suffering to bring the issues that are out of balance into balance and harmony again...and great tasks are often undertaken for the common good by a courageous few who choose to right injustice through their struggles and bring the underlying issues to light for more awareness...
some do not believe it's ethical to send any energy without permission...but we could make it available if needed or chosen...and ask that it raise consiousness and understanding for all involved...to bring peace and tolerance...send Love...sounds like the larger issues affecting the planet at the human level now...doesn't it...?
||16 Feb 2003 |
|I find the account amazing - and incredibly worrying.|
One of the oddities between the USA and UK is that you have a first amendment guaranteeing religious freedom yet have fundamentalist christians assailing your political system and a President who apparantly believes in making Congress attend prayer breakfasts.
We have an established religion of Church of England (Episcopalian) and have few religious nuts, Christian or otherwise, attempting to force their view on others. Perhaps we have bigger minority communities, but religious observance at school is now more multi-cultural - indeed our religious loonies tend to be imports from the USA. Generally church attendances here are low and though most people probably have a faith, very few believe that they've any right to try and impose their beliefs on others and those that do try are regarded as people to steer clear of.
Now I'm not suggesting all is sweetness and light here, because it isn't - but the sort of religious events for school children you describe just don't happen here - and would not be allowed. A daily act of worship is one thing - especially if it can be in the religion of your choice, or at least a private act - we have that, but some sort of Pastor's crusade - Never, in a state school.
Having said that we do have real issues relating to whether particular relgious groups should have their own schools. Catholic and Church of England schools have a long history, now there are issues relating to whether there should be Muslim or Hindu or other faith schools (an idea that seems to have its roots in the US). I think the large majority people probably would prefer 'no-faith' schools.
||16 Feb 2003 |
|Worrying indeed. Well, at least there is a law-suit going on. That is the best move. But I think if people who are not fundamentalists don't start getting things together, by forming committees and political lobbies, things will just get out of hand. Organisation is the key here. People who are prepared to give their time, money and energy into forming committees to protect the basic freedom of that first amendment.|
Now what happens if the child is Jewish, or Muslim or Buddhist? Do they get the same kind of treatment? Or is it just because of the Pagan background.
I suspect it's the latter. Which means that there is not enough cohesion amongst the Pagans. They need to get together - organise a national convention to discuss this problem. Just complaining and worrying and sending light is definitely not enough. Nor is spell-making.
Otherwise the fundies will win.
Edited to add: here in Switzerland, apart from the very Catholic areas, it's the people who go to church who are considered unusual, rather than the other way round. Unusual doesn't mean excluded, but they are sort of viewed as "quaint". And even in private schools that are funded by churches or whatever, it is quite acceptable if a child is asked to be excused from religious activites. Except perhaps in Jewish schools - where non-Jews are not accepted anyway.
||16 Feb 2003 |
|Unless the underlying consiousness of the ignorant and intolerant in this situation changes what will a lawsuit bring for this family...or this community...think about it...the community has already victimized them...and we do have laws here to prevent this...but until peoples consiousness changes to value diversity and respect others no matter what their differences... courts of law and lawsuits won't really help...|
can you imagine what it will be like living here while this community waits for a court decision...this family will have to move...and suppose they do win this lawsuit...do you think they'll be welcomed back with open arms and open hearts...I'm sure not all of the people treated them so hatefully...but did that really change anything...
this child considered committing suicide because of the way her school and neighbors treated her and her family...it was brutal...and this happens everywhere...not just to Pagans...look at the world...we're on the brink of war here in the US...and war continues around the planet...we desperately need our consiousness raised...myself included...we all have our prejudices, ignorance and intolerance...don't misunderstand...I'm outraged and ashamed by this...something must be done...but how do you change people..
there are valid and practical suggestions from you Europeans...and maybe there is a critical mass within the population of Earth that will bring about peaceful relations with all our neighbors...I do pray for it...I speak out when and where I can and I choose to believe humanity is evolving...not devolving...but then things like this are happening more and more...just look at our politics as a nation since 2000...the way we practice democracy is not about equality...it's about majority rule...and the ruling majority is of questionable sanity...
||18 Feb 2003 |
|A while ago, I had to face this problem, and I came up with a solution... Teach Paganism alongside the other religions, in RE classes. Budhism, Islam, Sikhism, etc get taught to kids in school as part of hte RE curriculum, and these religions get alot les discriminatoin because the kids understand them. If we taught kids aout Paganism as well, they would understand it more, and not discriminate as much. |
I wrote an article on this. I'll post it next time I'm online.
Yesterday I attended a Refresher's Fayre at Uni, where students get to see what societies and clubs they can join if they wish. I am Developments Officer for the Pagan Society, and was running the Pagan Society stall that day. As part of principle, we did not hand out our flyers, but instead waited for people to take htem from the table. We did not go around other stall and dump our flyers on their tables. The Christian Life Church had a different idea however, and made it their solemn duty to see how many of their flyers they could dump on our stall, and how many of us they could annoy. 'We have the PERFECT thing for you.' they said, throwing their flyers in our faces. Then they refused to even look at our leaflets, which explained what Paganism is. IN fact, they ripped some of our leaflets up.
No other stall was 'attacked' in this way by the Christian Life Church, just the Pagan Society. The other religions were okay. :( Ruined my day basically.
Paganism definitely needs to be learned about.
||18 Feb 2003 |
|I'd like to speak on this, because this is near where I live, in a nearby county. Many times people have asked me if I have anything good to say about America, because of comments I make, mostly aimed at the people. This is why. I put up with a lesser form of what India puts up with simply because I've been seen with tarot cards. No one asks if I'm pagan, christian, muslem, they just automatically assume I am communing with satan. They don't try to learn about things here, if you're not a regular church attending 'good christian' you're labled satanist. And that goes for buddhists, taoists, and hindus as well. Muslem and jews are 'ok', because there are sizable muslem and jewish populations. Also she lives in Union county, which is really religeous, moreso than the city of Nashville, although anywhere in Nashville you cannot go a block without seeing a church... I know, my school is surrounded by 5. The 6 o'clock news also said when they tried to call school officials about this they were hung up on. The news article also failed to mention teachers 'losing' India's homework or changing test answers to try to pull down her high grades, which is not an uncommon practice here when a teacher dislikes a student.
The First ammendment follies thread was originally posted on 16 Feb 2003 in the Spirituality board, and is now archived in the Forum Library. Read the active threads in Spirituality, or read more archived threads.