The Lady Liberty League Education Task Force watches closely
as Policy 652 "Religion in Schools" is carefully considered
by the Buncombe County School Board
Asheville, NC - February 3, 2012 - During its regular publicly-held Board Meeting on February 2, the Buncombe County School System of North Carolina directly addressed policy issues regarding the presence of Bibles in the North Windy Ridge Intermediate School. At the standing-room only meeting, the local community was allowed to speak for or against Policy 652, as its be labeled. Out of the 25 speakers, 20 were not in favor of the policy change.
Byron Ballard, a local Pagan Priestess coordinating the coalition and working with the Lady Liberty Task Force, notes that most of these "comments [were] overwhelmingly [in] support [of] the status quo- -a particularly insidious favoritism of evangelical Christianity -- which gives an idea as to the deeply entrenched presence of favoritism that is both illegal and inappropriate." She adds, "However, we are grateful to the Board for the strong first step being made by considering and, we hope, passing and implementing Policy 652. Every child deserves to feel safe in a public school setting -- something that can be a challenge for children whose families practice a minority religion."
Although a vote was not taken that night, the local Pagan community and other supporters of Policy 652 were, as expressed by Ballard, "gratified to see the Buncombe County School system addressing issues of spiritual pluralism." This was the first policy of its kind to be brought before and considered by the Buncombe County School Board. Recognizing this fact, Ginger Strivelli, the Pagan mother who called into question the legality of the Bibles, is thankful "to everyone who has been giving [them the] support" that has enabled the case to proceed to this point.
Going forward, the Lady Liberty League Education Task Force will continue to monitor the situation. It was in late January that the League became involved when Strivelli requested help in dealing with the intensifying public debate and national media coverage. Within a few hours, an educational task force was formed calling upon help from a number of Pagan representatives, both local and national. Lady Arsinoe and Miraselena, out of Georgia, are two of the members who have been tracking both the media coverage and public commentaries on the case.
Miraselena comments that, "The presence of the Bibles within a school does more than just threaten Religious liberty. It cracks the foundation of the beloved American Family structure. When an adult tells a child that his mother's teachings, religious or not, are wrong, it immediately undermines that mother's authority. The young child will, then, begin call into question all of his parents' statements and choices. I don't care whether we are talking about religious beliefs or political views or medical choices. Undermining parental authority, in any instance, tears holes in the very fabric of these so-called traditional family values - something that is so very central to Christian discourse. If the U.S. Constitution isn't enough an argument to keep religion out of public schools, perhaps the preservation and support of a healthy family unit will be."
The issues facing the Buncombe County school system are, unfortunately, not unique that school system or to the state of North Carolina. Selena Fox of Lady Liberty League reminds us that, "Having liberty and justice for all in this country may be in the Pledge of Allegiance, but it is not an automatic reality. The large volume and intensity of sectarian religious rhetoric in the February 2nd meeting proves the necessity to have a religiously neutral public school policy, It also demonstrates that, all of us, need to be vigilant and willing to work together to make this happen wherever discrimination occurs. And, we have been very pleased to see that Pagans and those of other beliefs have been collaborating, networking, and speaking out in favor of the separation of church and state in this Buncombe County public school situation."
The Buncombe County School Board plans to consider and vote on the implementation of Policy 652 at its next meeting on March 1. Therefore, the Lady Liberty Education Task Force asks that that you continue to send support to Ginger, Byron, and others who are on the front lines of this quest. The situation has not yet seen its final chapter. And, all updates will be posted on the Strivelli Family Support and Lady Liberty League Facebook pages.