Constitution protects religious expression
I read the Dec. 22 BDN article about the Bangor teacher ordered to remove a Christmas tree from her classroom with dismay. It seems once again a government official has completely missed the point of the First Amendment, which states, in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Our Constitution guarantees freedom “of” religion, not freedom “from” religion. It seems to me that Bangor High School Principal Paul Butler is trying to prohibit Catherine Gordon’s free exercise of religion.
As she states, a pink Hello Kitty tree is hardly representative of any religion, but even if she had put up a traditional tree, it should be acceptable for her to do so. Just as it would be acceptable for a Jewish teacher to put up a menorah or a Muslim teacher to wear a hijab. Surely the separation of church and state isn’t threatened by our teachers letting their students see what religion they practice. I’m not talking about trying to teach the tenant of any particular religion in the classroom.
We should be teaching our children that our country accepts all religions and defends everyone’s right to practice their religion, whatever it might be. We should not be teaching them to hide their religion or that it is somehow wrong to let people know their religious affiliation.
Climate change attention
I follow with pleasure and appreciation the recent editorials written by the BDN staff. Just in the past couple of weeks I have read about the effects of climate change directly impacting Maine’s fisheries, the connection between rising temperatures, increasing rates of Lyme disease and extreme weather events leading to much more precipitation that negatively impacts our infrastructure. Bringing attention to the direct impacts is helpful for raising concern and awareness of climate related issues.
The support of the Clean Power Plan is an important first step. Just as the Dec. 5 editorial states, it won’t stop climate change but it’s a start. We can be proud that our Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and Rep. Chellie Pingree voted to uphold the Clean Power Plan, reflecting a clear understanding of how crucial the environment and, therefore, climate change is to Maine and its citizens.
Thanks, BDN, for keeping us abreast of the current discussions around climate change.
Christmas trees don’t belong in classrooms
What’s wrong with a Christmas tree display in a public school classroom? The Bangor High School teacher who put it up said her students really enjoyed it. But did all her students enjoy it?
We are both in our 60s, and we both attended public schools that had lots of religious observance. There were daily Bible reading from the New Testament, prayers in the classroom and a huge Christmas school pageant that lasted from Thanksgiving until Christmas. And, undoubtedly, many students did enjoy it. But we were each one of the few Jewish kids in those classrooms, and we did not enjoy the message: The school was for the Christian majority, not for us.
For good cause, the U.S. Supreme Court put an end to those practices. And for the same good cause, the Bangor School Department has told its teachers to keep Christmas trees out of their classrooms. Even without additional religious symbols, the tree symbolizes Christmas. Children are subject to huge pressure to fit in. The Christmas tree in the classroom sends a message that they don’t fit in, this is not for them and they are left out.
We are a predominately Christian society, and many Christmas displays and prayers are allowed in our civic life. But schools are different because kids are different. Thanks, Bangor School Department, for making all children feel welcome and included, even in December.
Women belong in combat
I take issue with Kathleen Parker’s assertion in her Dec. 15 column that allowing women to fill all military positions for which they qualify will imperil the fighting ability of the units to which they are assigned.
She references a study involving an all volunteer group of Marines, 25 percent of whom were women. Yes, men were better at tasks involving carrying heavy loads but were no better on the artillery cannon course. In addition, many of the men had previous combat experience. The results were mixed, not determinative.
Not all military jobs demand superior physical strength. The point is that women should be allowed to serve our country with the same opportunities as men.