An atheist group that seems to spend most of its ultimately pointless existence trying to bully schools around the country is running into a fight in the Sooner State.
For almost two decades, the Kenneth Cooper Middle School in Oklahoma has displayed a picture of artist Donald Zolan called “Faith in America.”
Depicting young children with their hands folded in front of an American flag, it’s patriotic, it’s life-affirming, and it would melt the heart of a wolf.
So naturally, the Freedom From Religion Foundation hates it.
Claiming to have received a complaint from a “concerned family” in the Putnam City School District, the FFR wrote the school district in August with all the class of the Gestapo, peremptorily demanding the picture’s removal on the grounds it violates the First Amendment ban on establishing a religion.
“The image features two children with their hands clasped in prayer, with an American Flag in the background,” the letter notes disbelievingly. “The meaning could not be more clear, real American children pray.”
That’s followed by numerous legal citations, then the clincher: “Please remove this poster from Kenneth Cooper Middle School and inform us in writing when this issue has been addressed.”
Somehow, the Putnam County School District resisted the urge to tear down the offending poster immediately and send the ragged pieces – along with a note of abject apology — to the Wisconsin-based bullies.
Instead, the district’s attorney responded Sept. 29 in lawyerly language, pointing out the picture “has hung in the school office for eighteen (18) years without a complaint, prior to your letter. To date, the District has not received any complaint from any resident, student or patron of the District who believes that the image conveys an improper religious message.”
That’s followed by some arguments, then this closer: “At this time, we do not believe that the image violates the Establishment Clause and the District will not remove the image from its office.” (That might be how Oklahoma lawyers say “buzz off.”)
The friendly folks at FFR weren’t amused.
In an Oct. 3 email, it responded with yet more case law and a final demand couched in the most reasonable of terms.
“I am convinced we can resolve this amicably,” attorney Andrew Seidel wrote. “We reiterate our request that Kenneth Cooper Middle School remove this poster and inform us in writing afterward.”
The school district has yet to publicly respond to the godless heathens, but everyone who believes in the Constitution should hope it holds firm.
The picture’s title is “Faith in America,” not “God in America,” not “Baptists in America,” or even “Faith in God.” If a viewer chooses to look at the children as praying to a Supreme Being, that’s entirely up to the individual. (The fact that both the school district and their atheist antagonists choose to do so is beside the point.)
It might also be viewed as a child’s faith in the country where his family made their home, a country that provides public schools – for free and by law – to any child, legal or illegal, who lives in it. The kind of country that not only puts up with, but sometimes celebrates, godless shysters who sit in Wisconsin dreaming up ways to make life difficult for people who’ve done them no harm.
And either way, who truly gave a damn anyway?
It would be interesting to know if there’s really even a “concerned family” in the Putnam City Schools that complained to the FFR in the first place. Normal grown-ups – religious or otherwise – tend to try to solve “concerns” by talking to the people who concern them, not running off to some out-of-state First Amendment version of ambulance chaser to get a sternly worded letter bossing their local middle school principal around.
Even if there is such a family of self-righteous cowards, the pretended motive is still pathetic.
The First Amendment distills the finest governing principles in the history of the world (meaning no disrespect to the Second, either.) Whether the authors of the FFR letter to the Putnam City Schools understand it or not — more importantly whether the donors who support them understand it or not — spurious fights like this end up weakening the foundation of the country they’re pretending to serve.
The entire Bill of Rights — heck, the whole idea of what the United States is about — is contained in the First Amendment’s 45 words, words so clear and concise that even a child can understand them.
A child who has faith in America, anyway.
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