“Go live in Israel”


Last week, the Alliance Defense Fund — a Christian legal group founded by conservative minister James Dobson — posted on its Web site a letter and news release warning the Jackson County, Ga., schools to lay off Christmas.
The group said it had learned that the 6,000-student district northeast of Atlanta prohibited teachers from wearing angel pins, banned references to a “Christmas” party, removed some Christmas songs from a concert, took the word “God” out of another song, prohibited classroom Bibles and art with angels or Nativity scenes, and banned the greeting “Merry Christmas.”
… Within 24 hours, Superintendent Andy Byars had digested the faxed letter — along with a small flood of incensed e-mail from around the Internet denouncing, sometimes in offensive terms, his schools.
“You are either bigoted Jews who hate Christians or mindless secularists,” noted one anonymous e-mail. “Go live in Israel.”
Byars’ head was spinning because, he said, almost none of the claims represented district policy.

It has occurred to me that the way to understand what the Right is saying is to understand what their target audience is hearing. Once again, it’s the Jews.

What did the school district really do?

Byars, the superintendent, says it’s a place where a couple of decades ago, almost everyone was Christian. Now, he estimates, 10 percent of students are Jewish, Muslim or Southeast Asian Buddhists.
In mid-November, Byars met with administrators at the district’s 11 schools, cautioning them to be “sensitive” to the variety of religions at Christmas. He remembers being asked if a teacher could wear a sweatshirt saying “Jesus is the reason for the season.” He said that as agents of the state and authority figures, teachers couldn’t endorse Christianity so openly.
Later, he says, the district heard “rumblings” that its Christmas policies were the subject of rumors and discussion in an Internet chat room. Apparently, some of those rumblings came to the attention of Alliance Defense Fund.
Cortman says he assembled his complaint after talking with several parents, teachers and students. He also was given a copy of an e-mail from one elementary school principal to her staff saying teachers couldn’t wear clothing or pins with any “religious connotation” and no Bibles could be “displayed” in classrooms.
Told of the e-mail by Newsday, the district checked and said the principal, in her first year on the job, had received staff complaints about it before Alliance stepped in and had already been told to ease up — little cross or angel pins were fine.
Bibles, the district says, can be used in Christmas lessons — they just can’t be put on permanent, decorative “display.”

Seeing the Forest encountered the Alliance Defense Fund before, in 2004, when they falsely charged that the Cupertino, California schools were “banning the Declaration of Independence.” More here, and another Alliance Defense Fund lie here. (FYI, the “Declaration Banned” story led to my meeting eRiposte, now writing at The Left Coaster, who lives in that school district. He extensively covered that story.)
Media Matters has more info on this hateful organization. Also SourceWatch, Media Transparency, Southern Poverty Law Center, and People For the American Way.