Saturday, December 1, 2012
A girl wrote a poem about her relations for Veteran's Day. The poem honored her two grandfathers who served during the Vietnam War. Because she stated in the poem "He prayed to God for peace," and she wrote of one of them, "He prayed to God for strength”, her poem was censored due to a person who called the school district and whined and complained. President and Chief Executive Officer Ken Paulson of the First Amendment Center has responded to the article written in that local paper (that originally printed the article about the poem being censored) to which I had written to him about. Here is what he wrote to me: "Thanks for sharing your view, but we agree that the school should not have censored the child. A newspaper in North Carolina published an inaccurate story, which others have picked up. Here's what the First Amendment Center published: http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/poetry-and-emotion-when-a-6-year-old-is-censored Ken Paulson First Amendment Center" Mr. Paulson also sent a follow-up: "Thanks for your note. FYI, the paper has promised to correct the record and run my column on Tuesday" The newspaper printed the following statement, claiming it was apparently a quote from Mr. Paulson, which MISLED the public on The First Amendment Center's position on the matter: "The reason for these restrictions is to prevent the government from endorsing a specific faith or religion". "She had every right to mention God, (but) that dynamic changed when they asked her to read it at an assembly.” The newspaper went on to claim, "Paulson said that because the students were a captive audience - they were at a mandatory assembly with no place else to go if they didn't want to attend - administrators had the right to remove the word "God." My initial statement about the article is as follows: Persons of reason beg to differ!! And, clearly, censoring being appropriate was NOT the actual position of Mr. Paulson, nor The First Amendment Center. Think about it. Since when is the government a school? Or a school the government? Just because the district may get funds from the government, does not make them The Government. Nor do they represent the government. Removing the word God from the poem is ridiculous. She, in her poem, was simply stating 'someone' prayed to God. That is certainly NOT endorsing a SPECIFIC faith or religion. There are MANY faiths and religions that use the term God. Not to mention, our own government clearly has 'In God We Trust' on it's currency, and in the Pledge of Allegiance it states, 'One Nation Under God'- there is NO specific faith or religion mentioned in either. No one takes offense at using the currency because the word God is on it;Yes, even atheists use the currency. Not to mention, children and adults have sworn their allegiance for a many, many years in classrooms which required the Pledge to be said by all students. For many,many years, public schools opened their day with a prayer. And I'm sure there are many poems with the word God in them that were read in public assemblies, and in school assemblies. Those who chose not to hold the same beliefs were (and are) free to do so- no one stopped them. Whoever the persons (the veterans) were who 'prayed to God' were NOT attempting to make the government, nor anyone else, endorse a specific faith or religion; it was simply a statement made by the writer of what the veterans were doing; the veterans, nor the writer of the poem, was trying to convince anyone of any specific faith or religion. It wouldn't be any different if a Muslim wrote a poem about their warriors praying to Allah- no one would take that statement as an endorsement of Islam. They would take it that the warrior was simply praying to whatever God that warrior thought appropriate. A sentence that says a person prays is not pushing any government to endorse praying, or pushing a belief held by individuals onto those who chose not to have such a belief. People who have open minds do not take offense at those who hold differing opinions and beliefs. It is only the small-minded person who takes offense at such nonsense. People are going way too far in claiming censoring was O.K. and/or appropriate, and those that insist on doing so are NOT protecting anyone's 1st Amendment rights by denying the use of the word God in a poem that clearly states the veteran was the one praying to his/her believed deity. It is Not being specific on any faith, nor any religion. Those forced to attend an assembly are not forced to listen, or make to gross interpretations. Whoever made the complaint clearly does NOT comprehend free speech. Since the article did not specify who (what 'parent') made the complaint, it makes one question whether it was actually someone from the school district. How would a parent even know about what poem was to be read in the assembly? Only those responsible for the assembly would have known the content of the presentation beforehand. The word God does NOT force anyone to have a belief in God. Someone writing about someone else praying to God is NOT forcing anyone to pray to God. If the complainer does not wish to believe in God, that is their prerogative. However, their choice of lack, or absence, of faith, or a difference in faith, is NOT liberty to stop anyone else in expressing themselves. Writing about anyone else's activities that may express the fact that that person may have a belief in a higher entity is in no way endorsing a specific faith nor religion. Those who are so offended by the word God need to find a different currency to use as long they are in the U.S. Those who are so small-minded are the same type who would promote book-burning for the same lame reasons, and jeopardize great works of art due to hate-crime-thinking attitudes. And please bear in mind that - whoever you are- your complaining about the word God is not likely to affect the greater majority of people all over the world who happen to believe in a God; they aren't likely to change their belief, nor their toleration of you just because you take offense at a three letter word. Get over it- you are not going to change the world for all your whining and screaming. People taking offense at the word God are free to do so, but not at the expense of others' rights to express themselves freely. If the girl was asked to read the poem at an assembly honoring our Veteran's, be big enough to take it for what it's true intent was- an honor to our veterans. Just because some precious child of a small-minded parent happened to be made to attend the assembly does not mean that that child had to LISTEN to the poem, Nor does it mean the child of said parent needs to take offense at the word God just because the parent isn't big enough to accept that there are many others in the world who think and believe differently. No doubt, parents who are big enough minded to accept other people's beliefs, or lack of them, are praying for the whiners to grow up!
Posted by O.P. at 9:08 AM