Backpack Fliers

PhillyChief over at You Made Me Say It has noted this story and requested some feedback to the School District. I sent the following email to all the School Board members and the Superintendent.

Gentlemen:

You don’t know me but I’m a lawyer in Pennsylvania who reads. Big deal you say? Well, I read on the internet that the school district, your school district, is planning to send home fliers with the children in their backpacks entitled Plant the Seeds of Faith in Jesus in Your Child at our Sunday school“.

I’m a big fan and defender of the First Amendment, and look suspiciously at any attempt to impede one’s constitutional right to communication with others, so I’m sympathetic with the aims of the Church group behind these fliers. However, as public school officials, I’m sure you are aware that the use of taxpayer funds for the purpose of promoting specific religious beliefs may be strictly scrutinized to see if it violates the constitutional separation of church and state. If it doesn’t pass muster, well, you know the drill.

Since I’m aware of this way over here in Pennsylvania, it’s apparent that you will now be receiving some national attention. This is not the first time this has come up in the national spotlight. Last year, Jerry Falwell’s organization was able to convince a school board in Abermarle County, VA to allow the same sort of backpack communications for religious organizations, then when he found out that the same rule that allowed such fliers also allowed fliers to be sent home by Pagans, atheists and Wiccans, to name a few, he caused an even bigger row trying to deny them the rights he previously advocated. Here’s a small article on it:

http://blog.au.org/2006/12/falwells_flub_j.html

So, if you open that Pandora’s Box, be prepared to have every type of religion, and proponents of no religion, demanding equal time, and further be prepared to give them the equal time they request. It’s only fair. Constitutional too.

On a more personal note, have you really given much thought to the idea of “planting the seeds of faith” in your students? Is that something you think schools should be in the business of? Faith requires that you know something without evidence, that you use no thinking, but accept the words of some divine or supernatural authority for what you know. Is that what you want your students to do? Shouldn’t you be emphasizing, instead, the use of critical thinking, rationality, logic and reason? Don’t you want students to think? Are not the principles enunciated by scientific inquiry (the opposite of faith) what you should be encouraging? Are you not aware that the history of science indicates that we had no real scientific advances until we stopped relying on faith, and instead relied on evidence? Are you aware of the fact that our country is losing ground to other countries who emphasize the sciences more than we do, like Korea, Japan and India?

Seriously, I think you should look a little more closely at what you send home, and determine whether it comports with the mission of public education, rather than blindly passing it on simply because it comes from a church.

Thank you for your time, and…

Good luck to you.

John

Hope that helps.

7 thoughts on “Backpack Fliers

  1. I didn’t realize you were a lawyer nor in PA.

    Hopefully they’ll get flooded with great letters like this and it actually wakes them up.

  2. Harrisburg, actually.

    I already received a response from the same Board member you did. Similar response too.

    Thank you for taking the time to write. The flyers already went home. While I understand your concerns, I also believe that we send a material for many legitimate school and community organizations home in backpacks and trust the families to read or toss as they see fit. The only restriction that we adhere to is that we will not enclose materials that advocate illegal activity. In addition, parents have a right to opt out of the “backpack mail” and are informed of that right when they register their children.

    Sincerely,

  3. Who wanting to disseminate seeds of faith ? In deep disappointed people that have been in failure.Struggling to appreciate the science in place and pushing it as a prominent.Science has so much helped the human beings as of today.The human beings need a perfection to understand the science in midway of human life.Sometimes we feels bored to continue our work devoting the best for the hoping people.Many things can waylay on our course.We have to persist breaking down the blocker getting the Highway.How slow it is ! Something retarded the developing but it must go on.What for we do ? We live on the old earth that has a complain of so many problems from mankind.We have to compete one another openly.Proceed and don’t go back.

  4. Their response simply means they will continue to use public funds to promote their version of christianity.

    Way off subject.

    During my early years I spent many nights in the
    Penn-Harris hotel in Harrisburg. Good memories.

  5. Ralph

    They tore it down, lo, many years ago. Put a big office building there. In the process of dynamiting it, they also inadvertently blew up a future mayor’s clothing haberdashery next door.

    Good clean fun, in those days.

  6. “I also believe that we send a material for many legitimate school and community organizations home in backpacks and trust the families to read or toss as they see fit.” Non-sequitur!

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