The inner controversialist in me craves an argument. I'm bored by the everyday monotony, living for the time that something big happens that I can get caught up in the momentum of.
But I never asked for this to happen.
By this, of course, I mean the Christian newspaper at Council Rock South, The Rock. Yes, you read that right. My high school's Bible Club has begun putting out its own monthly newspaper named for the school. Though, according to them, it's name is "more than the name of the school; it's a name to describe the One True God. He is our Rock..." Deceptive, no? Though there is a disclaimer at the bottom, stating that " these opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Council Rock School District", you can't help but think that they knew how tricky the name was.
According to South's head principal, Mr. Michael Holland, the papers first appeared on a Thursday in December, in a box in the school library. Appalled, Mr. Holland took them down, sure they were a violation of the seperation of church and state. He was then contacted by Council Rock's superintendent, Mr. Mark Klein (who is also a certified lawyer). Mr. Klein told him they had been approved by the school board and could stay. The newspapers were made available the next day to any student who cared to pick one up from the library or cafeteria entrances. There are literally one hundred flyers and posters hanging up in various hallways, each advertisting "The Rock: The News From A Different Point Of View - pick up your copy in the library or cafeteria".
Now, when I walked into the library that Friday morning, I saw a shoebox decorated with the words "The Rock Newspaper", so I took one. I shoved it into my backpack, not bothering a second look at it until homeroom (arguably the most boring 15 minutes of my and everyone else's day). Imagine my suprise when I opened what I thought was the schoolnewsletter and found articles with titles like "A Christian's Point of View", "Giving Thanks to Who?", and "Christianity Is Fun", scattered alongside hand-written Bible quotes, sketches of crosses, and bad fart jokes. Yes, that's right, bad fart jokes. In a newspaper trying to be taken seriously. There's also a book review for In Pursuit of the Ideal, a novel about a girl with an eating disorder, and a music review for Reliant K, who the (uncredited) reviewer praises for luring in audiences with non-religious songs, then "you can hear how they shout God's praise". The second issue also included a maze.
The articles themselves, once I calmed down enough to read them all, were rather offensive to me as a practicing Jew. But that's not what I want to get into - the school wouldn't ban anything just because I found it offensive, they would ban it because they could get into trouble for it. So, like with all my other dilemnas, I turned to the law books. There are two clauses in the First Amendment that guarantee freedom of religion. The more applicable of the two at this time, the establishment clause, prohibits the government from passing legislation preferring one religion over another or establishing an "official religion" for the country, thus enforcing the commonly known "separation of church and state". In 1962, the Supreme Court ruled against prayer in schools, which was the precedent case for extending the establishment clause to public schools. The organized distribution of religious teachings during the school day is unconstitutional, even if teachers aren't handing them out, and even if they're not used as a part of the school's educational program. Thus, the school building or grounds' being used to spread a religious doctrine at a time when students are required to be there is considered imposing on a student's civil liberties.
I'm sorry if I'm boring you to tears with the legal end of it, but this all needs to be said.
A lot of the response to the newspaper is, "It's fine, they're expressing their freedom of speech." What I don't think a lot of kids in high school realize is the school does not have to grant us the freedom of speech. There was another Supreme Court Case (Hazelwood v. Kuhlmeier) which ruled that if a student publication is either published by the school or published by a school-sponsored club, the district has the right to censor it. The Court gave many examples of censorable material, including material that is "ungrammatical, poorly written, inadequately researched, biased or prejudiced, vulgar or profane, or unsuitable for immature audiences". Also, the Court ruled that school officials can censor material that would "associate the school with anything other than neutrality on matters of political controversy."
Those against the newspaper (which, if you couldn't tell, includes myself) are speaking up. There are club meetings and discussions about what we can do to show dissent. Every now and then, you'll hear a lunch table arguing about the issue. I know of at least one petition being circulated around the school, with a good 200+ signatures on it. One student was suspended for graffiting the boxes by writing "Fuck the Rock" in small print on the back. It's nice to see kids finally standing up for what we think is right - or, in this case, what we think is wrong. They feel that the publication, advertisement, and open distribution of the Rock newspaper violates these civil liberties. Certain quotes, such as "he is the One True God" and by stories about people who are not practicing Christians being evil or wrong-doers, imposes religion upon the students at the school. I jumped at the chance to write an article about it, then decided to wait until the chaos died down and see what happened. After the 2nd edition came out, it was time to do something. Just Friday the 3rd edition came out, this time in color. It's gone too far.
Also protesting the Rock are the local religious leaders. Rabbis Elliot Perlstein and Elliot Strom (of Ohev Shalom Richboro and Shir Ami Newtown, respectively) met with their fellow clergy - both Jewish, Christian, and Catholic - then with the school board and superintendent, and have discussed it with their religious students. South students have expressed interest in their being more than one religious group with a newspaper; for example, a Jewish pamphlet and a Muslim paper and even an "Athiest Times". I'd like to think that, were this a Jewish paper, I would be equally offended; a lot of the people I know who are upset by the Rock are practicing Christians. They're just smart enough to realize that, no matter what you believe, religion flat-out doesn't have a place in schools. Unlike these evangelicals, whose grammar is worse than mine was in elementary school. Sort of ironic, isn't it, that the columnists aren't intelligent enough to know that you capitalize the title of a song, but think they're intelligent enough to tell you how to run your life? Repeat after me: four legs good, two legs bad.