Two days ago, I posted “CA Schoolboard Finds Teacher’s Pro-America Posters Offensive” — on the case of the Poway School District in San Diego asking a Math teacher in a high school to take down posters he had put up in his classroom. The posters included such offensive phrases as “One Nation Under God” and “In God We Trust.” Here’s the YouTube video:
Several members of Fellowship of the Minds called or wrote the Poway school board members. Fellowship member Tom in NC sent an e-mail in protest to Poway School District board member Jeff Mangum. This is the letter that Tom received in response:
Thank you for your input. However, the information you have received regarding the actions and motives of the Poway Unified School District is not accurate.
First of all, PUSD did not find the posters offensive or ban references to God or patriotic banners. Indeed, the district purchased posters of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and U.S. currency (with the religious phrases in context) and offered them to the teacher involved. He refused them, presumably because his intention was not to honor our country but rather to share his religious views with his students.
Second, while I am not troubled by the phrases the teacher displayed on his walls, I am deeply troubled by opening the door to allow any teacher to put up any message on his or her classroom wall. If the door is open for one teacher to share his Christian views with his students, it is open for any teacher to impose any other views on his or her students – however distasteful those views may be to the students, their parents or the community. The district cannot discriminate by content, allowing messages it (or the community) with which it agrees and disallowing messages with which it (or the community) disagrees. If the door is open, it is open for all messages and points of view.
You may be interested to know that Poway is a very conservative community and that I am politically conservative, religious and anything but politically correct. I voted to appeal the court’s ruling because it was badly decided (I am an attorney) and would cause serious problems for the district. Because the judge ruled that classroom walls are a limited public forum, a teacher could put anything up – messages that overtly proselytize beyond what Mr. Johnson did (e.g., “There is no God but Allah”), messages that are overtly hostile to religion (e.g., “God is dead.”), overtly political messages whether liberal or conservative (e.g., posters supporting or opposing gay marriage) or other controversial messages.
The classrooms of PUSD are not the place for those kinds of political and religious debates. Our students are legally required to attend classes. They are a captive audience. They should not be subjected to a teacher’s efforts to indoctrinate them on any topic, whether religious, political, social or otherwise.
Mr. Mangum’s e-mail is most curious. His contention that the Math teacher’s posters were taken down because they constituted overtly political/religous messages of a proselytizing nature. Mangum specifically wrote that “The classrooms of PUSD are not the place for…political and religious debates.” If that is so, why did the school member not find objectionable the posters that other teachers put up — of Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, and dead Beatle John Lennon’s “Imagine there’s no Heaven.”
This point is made in Fellowship co-founder Joan’s e-mail to the Poway Unified School District:
To The Poway Unified School DistrictMay 25, 2010Please construe this communication as a formal complaint with regard to your recent ruling requiring the removal of images and/or posters and/or writings that set out verbiage, such as “One Nation Under God” and “In God We Trust,” which verbiage is contained within the Declaration of Independence and/or other national documents regarding the founding of our nation, its principles, laws and standards, at or upon and/or or near schools within your district. You have required these said images and/or posters to be removed from school(s) because they are offensive. Nevertheless, you allow untouched displays, including but not limited to a 35 to 40 foot string of Tibetan prayer flags with images of Buddha, a poster with the lyrics from John Lennon’s anti-religion song, “Imagine,” which begins, “Imagine there’s no Heaven,” a poster with Hindu leader, Mahatma Gandhi’s “7 Social Sins,” a poster of Muslim leader, Malcxolm X, and a poster of Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, who claims he is a god, to remain in or about school(s) in your district. Yet, remarkably you do not allow the verbiage, “In God We Trust,” “One Nation Under God,” and other such verbiage to be set out in posters or other imagery. As educators, you must now educate yourself as it is obvious that you are not aware of the numerous religious imagery and communications found within our nation’s Capital and surrounding national buildings, notwithstanding the clear fact that this Nation, the United States of America, was found under God, and through Christian heritage and beliefs. It is imperative that you read the book written by Eugene E. Hemrick, “One Nation Under God,” – “Religious Symbols, Quotes, and Images In Our Nation’s Capital.” The author’s Final Comment, page 120, states in pertinent part as follows: “…I must admit that the research I conducted on the religious artwork around and on Capitol Hill has truly amazed me. Never did I think when I started writing this book that I would find as many references to God as are found within a twelve-thousand-yard radius of the U.S. Capitol. Nor did I realize the depths to which it would carry us. We are truly blessed to live in a country that not only respects God, but has chiseled that respect in stone, inscribed it on walls, pieced it together in mosaics, and painted it on canvases so that American generations will never forget their religious heritage. May it remain forever and continue to be the glory of our country.” I’ll give you just a few examples of religous imagery, to-wit: “Within the U.S. Capitol, tourists will find the statues of Father Damien of Molokai (1840-1889) and Mother Joseph (1823-1902), builder of numerable hospitals in the Northwest; visitors will also see medallions of St. Louis (1226-1270), king, crusader, a patron saint of France, and the namesake of the city of St. Louis; Pope Innocent III (circa 1160-1216); and Pope Gregory IX (circa 1147-1241)-great lawmakers of their eras.” (See page 29.) And, “Especially striking in the Library (of Congress) are its decorative lunettes, which frame renowned quotations. For example, the Book of Proverbs counsels: “Wisdom is the principal thing. Therefore get wisdom and with all thy getting get understanding.” (See page 30.) At the District Court Building, corner of Constitution and Pennsylvania Avenues, across fromt he National Gallery of Art’s East Building, stands the Trylon of Freedom, “in which early pilgrims praying before a cross represent freedom of religion.” (See page 36.) And, “A statue that leaves us with profound thoughts of God and prayer is the Illinois statue of Frances Willard in the U.S. Capitol. On the pedestal upon which Miss Willard rests her hand is inscribed: “For God and Home and Every Land.” (See pages 42 and 43.) And, “Moses, more than any other single person, is pictured everywhere on Capitol Hill. He is found on a frieze and on a medallion atop the Supreme Court Building; he is portrayed in a bronze statue in the Library of Congress, where his name is also inscribed in a mosaic on its ceiling; and he is also sculptured on a medallion in the House of Representatives.” (See pages 49 and 50.) And, “In the Main Reading Room of the Library of Congress where Moses stands, another great Hebrew is lauded in a bronze statue: St. Paul. Like Moses, he is pictured as a self-assured man. However, behind that self-confidence is a man whose early career was dedicated to pursuing and persecuting Christians. He, like Moses, who murdered an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew, had the blood of Christians on his hands. And yet, this did not deter God from making him a messanger of the Tradition.” (See page 51.) And, “In 1887, the State Assembly at Madison, Wisconsin, authorized the placing of the statue of (Father Jacques) Marquette in the Hall of Fame in the U.S. Capitol.” (See pages 61 and 62.) Father Eusebio Kino, who was a Jesuit priest and explorer and ministered in lower Arizona, Mexico and California) is in the U.S. Capitol, Hall of Columns, Second Floor. (See pages 65 and 66.) And, a statue of Franciscan priest and missionary, Father Junipero Serra, is found in the U. S. Capitol, Statuary Hall, South of the Rotunda. (See pages 69 and 70.) This brilliant theologian and explorer of California is depicted in this statue holding a cross high with his right hand, right arm uplifted. And, a statue of Mother Joseph, architest of the Pacific Northwest, can be found in the U.S. Capitol, Hall of Columns, South Entrance, House of Representatives Side. (See page 72.) She is on her knees in prayer. And, I could go on and on with more examples. Read the book and become the educators that you should be!Your narcissistic elitism is despicable, and your discrimination againt Christianity, against God and religious freedom is despicable. Wake up! You are supposed to be educators and you are behaving as cowards, wanting to be popular in the current mainstream of secularism, which has become a disease in and of itself. Your actions are unconscionable, illegal, subversive to freedom and reprehensible. I look forward to you putting back the posters with “One Nation Under God,” “In God We Trust” and the other verbiage used, back where they were so that the students can be reminded of them day in and day out. Otherwise, I can assume that your intellectual narcissism rises above the wisdom and judgment of our Founding Fathers, especially remembering the numerous religious Christian imagery all about the United States Capitol and surrounding national buildings.Sincerely,“Joan”Citizen of the United States of America
UPDATE (May 26, 2010):
My dear Mr. Mangum:Thank you for sending me this form letter, the same letter that you sent to Tom in N.C. Nevertheless, notice that I have lodged a “Formal Complaint” against your School District. In your District and/or personnel manual, what procedures must you use to handle such a matter? Please actually read this communication and respond accurately and truthfully to it, notwithstanding the fact that I am requesting from you a copy of your procedures to handle Formal Complaints.In any event, I am glad that you are an attorney. I have been in the legal profession for 36 years. I am a retired Appeals Tribunal/Appeals Referee, which is defined as a Judge pursuant to Canon 5 of the Nevada Supreme Court Rules. I served in this capacity for 12 years and I am now retired. I also previously served in other capacities in the legal profession. I find your communication “interesting.” Let me enlighten you.Mr. Brad Johnson, a teacher at Crestview High School in San Diego, was asked to take down the verbiage and/or phrases which come from American History, that were set out upon his classroom wall(s), which phrases are as follows, to-wit: “In God We Trust; One Nation Under God; God Bless America; God Shed His Grace On Thee; All Men Are Created Equal; They Are Endowed By Their Creator.” Pictures do not lie. Please see the video on citizenlink.com, which I am sure you must have seen by now.Apparently, litigation began with regard to the propriety of this matter, because United States District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez, set out in his Order and/or as is mentioned in the transcript or other documents, “Ironically, while teachers in the Poway Unified School District encourage students to celebrate diversity and value thinking for one’s self, defendants apparently fear their students are incapable of dealing with diverse viewpoints that include God’s place in American history and culture.” Your School District lost this litigation, because you voted to appeal this Order to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. I would like to have a file-stamped copy of that Court Order from the federal Court.I am also aware that one of your School District members said, “If this is allowed, what else can go up on the wall?” Mr. Mangum, this is history, and history is history — it cannot be altered — it is, as it is! Furthermore, if you carefully read my Formal Complaint to you, I am well aware that your School District does indeed allow posters of historical and/or religious leaders upon school walls, such as a 35 to 40 foot string of Tibetan prayer flags with images of Buddha, a poster with the lyrics from John Lennon’s anti-religion song, “Imagine” which begins, “Imagine there’s no Heaven,” a poster with Hindu leader, Mahatma Gandhi’s “7 Social Sins,” a poster of American black Muslim leader, Malcolm X, and a poster of Buddhist leader, the Dalai Lama, who claims he is a god in his own right, to remain in or about school(s) in your School District. Therefore, you are inconsistent, unfair and discriminatory and I notice you have not addressed this said inconsistency.Once again, read my previous commnication to you and do not send me a form letter that lacks substance. Did the lower Court allow the verbiage in question upon the walls to remain in the classroom and has your School District followed the Court Order? At what stage are you in the appellate process?Again, read the book I told you about in my previous communication to you. Using your spurious and absolutely stupid “logic,” all of the Judaeo-Christian art work, architecture, pictures and sculptures in and about the United States Capitol and other national buildings would have to be removed, which of course, will never happen as this belongs to the people of the United States of America. Since these images are allowed in our Nation’s capitol, how do you justify your actions in the matter at hand?Finally, you identify yourself as a conservative and religious person, not concerned about being politically correct. Then be true to yourself and your beliefs. We have freedom of religion in this country, not freedom from religion. Listen to what Judge Benitez said to you as set out above. Trust your students and their free will, including studying and understanding “God’s place in American history and culture.” The great Catholic saint, Thomas More, stated just before he was beheaded for his Catholic Faith, “I am the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” Clearly, this message is really very appropriate for you at this time. Think about it. I look forward to your response.Sincerely,“Joan”Citizen of the United States of America