USA's Biblical Heritage

A Gift for Teacher

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A Christmas tale by Eric Buehrer

Copyright by Gateways to Better Education - Do not reprint without permission

‘Twas the night before Christmas and the kids were all in bed. Mom, a teacher at the local elementary school, went downstairs to finish wrapping gifts under the big pine tree the family got from Mr. Cheever’s Christmas tree lot. Just as she finished putting the last red bow on the last red box, she heard the scrape, scrape, scraping of something in the chimney. No sooner had she turned around when down the chimney came Santa with a bound.

“Oh,” he said with surprise. “I’m usually pretty good at not being seen.” Then he laughed a big, round laugh and put down his bag.

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“Let’s see,” he muttered to himself as he pulled out a list of what to place under the tree. “Oh, yes.” He cleared his throat. “You’ve all been very good this year. Especially you...even with Tommy Wigglebottom in your class. You’ve been a wonderful teacher!”

“Thank you,” she said as he pulled brightly colored presents from his bag.

Quick as a flash, he was done with his deed. He looked at his list for one last read. Then he made a “har-umph” sound to himself and got a puzzled look on his face. “There is one more thing...”

“Yes?” said the teacher.

“Why haven’t I heard any singing at school?” Santa asked with a sorrowful look.

“Singing? Why, we’ve been singing. Haven’t you heard the children’s rendition of Frosty the Snowman and Jingle Bells? I know it’s a long way to the North Pole but I would think you have some way of tuning this sort of thing in.”

“I mean Christmas carols,” said Santa. “Where are the carols?”

“Oh, I loved to sing carols when I was a child in school. But, we can’t sing those now,” she said as she shook her head. “I teach in a public school.” She was surprised that Santa didn’t already know this since he knew about Tommy Wigglebottom.

“Of course you are in the public schools. But Christmas is Christmas no matter where you are. And if you’re concerned about the law, well, have no fear. Don’t you know about the Federal Appeals Court ruling in Florey v. Sioux Falls School District? It ruled that the school district's policy is fine and students may sing religious Christmas carols!”

The teacher had never heard this before and was quite surprised. “What about the separation of church and state?”

“It doesn’t apply,” said Santa. “The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that singing Christmas carols does not violate the Constitution if the purpose is the ‘advancement of the student’s knowledge of society’s cultural and religious heritage.’ I just wish I could hear them singing real Christmas songs.

“And while I’m thinking about it, why haven’t you told the children the real Christmas story?” he asked.

“You mean about the baby Jesus?” the teacher asked in disbelief.

“Is there another Christmas story that I’m not aware of?” Santa said with an impatient twitch of his mustache.

“But, we can’t promote religion in the public school,” she retorted.

“Who’s promoting?” said Santa. “You’re teaching about your culture. May I remind you of the Florey case in which the Court ruled that as long as education about the religious holiday is ‘presented in a prudent and objective manner and as a traditional part of the cultural and religious heritage,’ it is permitted.”

By now the teacher was quite confused. She had never heard this before. She always assumed that recognizing the religious aspects of Christmas at school was off limits.

“We can’t even call Christmas by its name. We have to call it ‘Winter Break,’” she said with regret in her voice.

“A tragedy of modern times,” Santa said with a sigh. “And it’s not even consistent with other public practices. The Supreme Court acknowledged in Lynch v. Donnellythat ‘Executive Orders and other official announcements of Presidents and of the Congress have proclaimed both Christmas and Thanksgiving National Holidays in religious terms. And, by Acts of Congress, it has long been the practice that federal employees are released from duties on these National Holidays, while being paid from the same public revenues that provide the compensation of the Chaplain of the Senate and the House and military services. Thus, it is clear that Government has long recognized—indeed it has subsidized— holidays with religious significance.’ ”

Santa added, “The Lynch case dealt with the public display of a nativity scene, which the Court said didn't violate the Constitution. And, in its ruling the justices actually assumed public school children are singing traditional Christmas carols. The Court wrote, “To forbid the use of this one passive symbol while hymns and carols are sung and played in public places including schools, and while Congress and state legislatures open public sessions with prayers, would be an overreaction contrary to this Nation's history and this Court's holdings.” (emphasis added)

“How is it that you know so much about United States law?” asked the astonished teacher.

“I’ve been around a long time,” he replied. “And I’m saddened to see so many children think that Christmas is just about getting video games and toys. For that matter, it’s not just about ‘Love’ either. It’s about the baby Jesus as a gift from God. When I give gifts it is only to remind people of The Gift from God to all of us. I guess I just want kids to turn off the TV and look up from their smart phones long enough to realize that there are deeper things in life—things that we carry with us from generation to generation. We have a culture with deep roots and I want to give children a little depth...then they can go back to the TV if they must.” Santa scooped up his bag, and then added, “I guess I’ve given you the best gift I possibly could. I’ve given you freedom.”

“What do you mean?” the teacher asked.

“For years you’ve lived under the burden of self-imposed censorship about Christmas. You placed a gag order over your own mouth. Now you can be free from that! You can give to your students what you had as a child in school.” He turned and started up the chimney. With a jolly chuckle, he said as he went, “Like the baby Jesus said when he grew up, ‘You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.’”

A Gift for Teacher holiday card can be purchased for $4

Christmas Resource Page

President’s Thanksgiving Proclamation Misses the Mark

President Obama has issued his Thanksgiving Proclamation for 2015. If his proclamation was our only instruction about Thanksgiving, we would think it is just about “generosity and partnership” rooted in the cooperation between the Pilgrims and Native Americans. He does make a brief mention of George Washington’s reference to God in his proclamation, and he reminds us that Lincoln called on Americans to "'commend to [God’s] tender care' those most affected by the violence of the time – widows and orphans…" Unfortunately, he refocuses Thanksgiving to be a time of “lifting one another up, enjoying time with those around us, and appreciating all that we have” – including “cheering on our favorite sports teams.” He confuses what people do on the holiday with why we, as a nation, have the holiday.

To be reminded of what Thanksgiving is about, we can look to Thanksgiving proclamations from previous presidents. This isn't about political sides. Both Democrats and Republicans have historically maintained a proper focus for Thanksgiving. 

In his 1977 proclamation Jimmy Carter reminded the nation:

“Upon learning of the American victory at Saratoga in 1777, Samuel Adams composed the first National Thanksgiving proclamation, and the Continental Congress called upon the governors of every state to designate a day when all Americans could join together and express their gratitude for God’s providence ‘with united hearts.’ By their actions they extended a revered regional custom into a national tradition.”

And Carter called on “all Americans to gather on that day with their families and neighbors in their homes and in their houses of worship to give thanks for the blessings Almighty God has bestowed upon us.”

In contrast, President Obama has asked Americans to “express our gratitude by welcoming others to our celebrations and recognize those who volunteer today to ensure a dinner is possible for those who might have gone without.” To be fair, he did ask us to “give thanks for all we have received this past year” but was careful not to offend anyone by suggesting to whom we should direct that thanks.

In his 1996 proclamation, Bill Clinton did not mince words when he reminded Americans what the Day is for and to whom we should direct our thankfulness:

“Let us now, this Thanksgiving Day, reawaken ourselves and our neighbors and our communities to the genius of our founders in daring to build the world's first constitutional democracy on the foundation of trust and thanks to God. Out of our right and proper rejoicing on Thanksgiving Day, let us give our own thanks to God and reaffirm our love of family, neighbor, and community.”

However, when it comes to the most inspiring Thanksgiving proclamation, my personal favorite is Ronald Reagan’s 1985 proclamation in which he reminded Americans:

“…this treasured custom derives from our Judeo-Christian heritage. ‘Unto Thee, O God, do we give thanks,’ the Psalmist sang, praising God not only for the ‘wondrous works’ of His creation, but for loving guidance and deliverance from dangers....Let us thank God for our families, friends, and neighbors, and for the joy of this very festival we celebrate in His name.”

All I can say to that is, “Amen.”

Resources:

2015 Thanksgiving Proclamation

Excerpts from Past President’s Thanksgiving Proclamations

All Thanksgiving Proclamations from 1778 to 2012

AP History Under Fire

national_association_of_scholarsIn early April 2015, an informal group of academic historians met to discuss concerns about the College Board’s recent overhaul of its Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) standards. That group decided to draft a public letter opposing the new standards: "The teaching of American history in our schools faces a grave new risk, from an unexpected source. Half a million students each year take the Advanced Placement (AP) exam in U.S. History. The framework for that exam has been dramatically changed, in ways certain to have negative consequences." 

To read the rest of the letter click on the link: http://www.nas.org/images/documents/Historians_Statement.pdf

God, State Constitutions, and Your Kids

BP - God & State Constitutions By John Stonestreet

God, natural rights, religious freedom -- all great topics, but NOT for public school classrooms, right? Wrong. You can talk about these things in public schools.

Here’s a thought: nearly everyone in America lives in a state that officially acknowledges God.

If it’s been awhile since you’ve taken a look at your own state’s constitution, you’re probably in one of the 45 of our 50 states that officially recognize that (1) there is a God, and (2) that they are thankful to Him for their freedom.

READ MORE...

Atheists Demand School Remove Painting -- and School Officials Stand their Ground

A painting on display in an Oklahoma middle school's main office has caught the ire of atheist activists who are demanding that officials immediately remove it, reports Billy Hallowell at The Blaze. Hallowell reports:

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist activist group, sent a letter to district officials on August 25 complaining over the image, which features children praying in front of an American flag.

The poster, based on a painting titled "Faith in America" by artist Donald Zolan, has been hanging in Kenneth Cooper Middle School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for nearly two decades. But the Freedom From Religion Foundation claims it violates the U.S. Constitution.

The district, though, doesn't appear to be budging.

Hurrah for the school officials! But of course, the atheists won't go away quietly. Their attorney is claiming that merely having the painting in the school office means that students are "forced into regular contact" with it and "coercion is virtually assumed." Coercion to do what?

Under the picture of the children praying against a background of the American flag, are the words, "Faith in America." The atheists should be grateful that school officials haven't acted on Oklahoma Law 70-24-106.1 and substituted "Faith in America" with the words of the national motto, "IN GOD WE TRUST."

School officials would be acting in accordance with Oklahoma Law which states:

"Principals and teachers in each public elementary and secondary school of each school district in this state may display in each classroom, school auditorium, and school cafeteria under their supervision the following motto of the United States of America:  'E PLURIBUS UNUM (Out of Many One)' and 'IN GOD WE TRUST'."

In fact, the folks at the Freedom From Religion Foundation should be grateful that school officials haven't acted on that law and placed the national motto in every classroom in every school in every school district in the state. (But, maybe people across Oklahoma will blog to their school officials and recommend it!)

Other Ways to Look at the Message of the Painting

Reflecting Oklahoma's Constitution These atheist activists choose to look at the painting as some kind of constitutional violation. However, it could also be viewed as an artistic representation of Oklahoma law. For instance, maybe the children in the painting are simply portraying the first six words of the Preamble to the Oklahoma Constitution, and are "invoking the guidance of Almighty God." Maybe school officials should post those words under the painting and attribute them to their state constitution.

Expressing a Civics Lesson Maybe the painting is a visual civics lesson on the liberties of students protected by Oklahoma Law 70-11-101.1 which requires:

"The board of education of each school district shall permit those students and teachers who wish to do so to participate in voluntary prayer."

Depicting an Academic Standard Maybe the painting is depicting the children complying with the Oklahoma academic standard for first graders regarding Citizenship Literacy that expects children to sing My Country 'Tis of Thee which includes the lyrics:

"Our father's God to, Thee, Author of liberty, To Thee we sing. Long may our land be bright, With freedom's holy light; Protect us by Thy might, Great God, our King!"

Portraying Oklahoma's "Moment of Silence" Law Maybe the painting is simply a portrait of school children complying with Oklahoma Law 70-11-101.2 which requires that:

"The board of education of each school district shall ensure that the public schools within the district observe approximately one minute of silence each day for the purpose of allowing each student, in the exercise of his or her individual choice, to reflect, meditate, pray, or engage in any other silent activity that does not interfere with, distract, or impede other students in the exercise of their individual choices."

While atheists assert that the painting endorses religion, others can look at the painting as depicting school children acting in accordance with Oklahoma state laws and academic standards.

The offended atheists should thank their lucky stars (or whatever they offer thanks to) that most Oklahoma educators aren't familiar with just how much they CAN legally do to make their schools faith-friendly places.

As educators learn all the things they can do in their classrooms, they will move from fear of atheist threats to academic and religious freedom. And in the process they will create a better future for their students. 

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Gateways to Better Education's mission is to create a better future for our children by keeping God in our schools. We help public schools become places where students feel the freedom to express their faith and where they gain an academic appreciation for the Bible and Christianity across the whole curriculum as it relates to history, culture, and values. We show educators how to do this legally and appropriately within existing constitutional boundaries and in keeping with current laws and state standards. 

RESOURCES:

To find out if your state has similar laws, visit www.gtbe.org/report.

If you'd like to clear up the confusion and misinformation about the "separation of church and state" in your school district, visit www.gtbe.org.

UPCOMING GATEWAYS EVENTS:

CLICK HERE to see the cities where we are conducting our seminars this fall.

To bring our seminar "Faith, Freedom & Public Schools" to your community, CLICK HERE.