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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Jewish Family Forced to Move from Their Delaware Hometown

This is crazy stuff. A family in Delaware did not appreciate what they considered proselytizing on the part of their children's public schools. The ACLU filed a complaint, exposing the family to appalling treatment from their community. A full account of the events can be found here, and this is just an excerpt:
A large Delaware school district promoted Christianity so aggressively that a Jewish family felt it necessary to move to Wilmington, two hours away, because they feared retaliation for filing a lawsuit. The religion (if any) of a second family in the lawsuit is not known, because they're suing as Jane and John Doe; they also fear retaliation. Both families are asking relief from "state-sponsored religion."

The behavior of the Indian River School District board's behavior suggests the families' fears are hardly groundless.

The district spreads over a considerable portion of southeast Delaware. The families' complaint, filed in federal court in February 2005, alleges that the district had created an "environment of religious exclusion" and unconstitutional state-sponsored religion.

Among numerous specific examples in the complaint was what happened at plaintiff Samantha Dobrich's graduation in 2004 from the district's high school. She was the only Jewish student in her graduating class. The complaint relates that local pastor, Jerry Fike, in his invocation, followed requests for "our heavenly Father's" guidance for the graduates with:

I also pray for one specific student, that You be with her and guide her in the path that You have for her. And we ask all these things in Jesus' name.
The topic was brought up by the Dobriches at a board meeting, and the board considered its policy.
The district board announced the formation of a committee to develop a religion policy. And the local talk radio station inflamed the issue.

On the evening in August 2004 when the board was to announce its new policy, hundreds of people turned out for the meeitng. The Dobrich family and Jane Doe felt intimidated and asked a state trooper to escort them.

The complaint recounts a raucous crowd that applauded the board's opening prayer and then, when sixth-grader Alexander Dobrich stood up to read a statement, yelled at him "take your yarmulke off!" His statement, read by Samantha, confided "I feel bad when kids in my class call me Jew boy."

A state representative spoke in support of prayer and warned board members that "the people" would replace them if they faltered on the issue. Other representatives spoke against separating "god and state."

A former board member suggested that Mona Dobrich might "disappear" like Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the atheist whose Supreme Court case resulted in ending organized school prayer. She disappeared in 1995 and her dismembered body was found six years later.

The crowd booed an ACLU speaker and told her to "go back up north."

In the days after the meeting the community poured venom on the Dobriches. Callers to the local radio station said the family they should convert or leave the area. Someone called them and said the Ku Klux Klan was nearby.

Classmates accused Alex Dobrich of "killing Christ" and he became fearful about wearing his yarmulke, the complaint recounts. He took it off whenever he saw a police officer, fearing that the officer might see it and pull over his mother's car. When the family went grocery shopping, the complaint says, "Alexander would remove the pin holding his yarmulke on his head for fear that someone would grab it and rip out some of his hair."

The Dobriches refinanced their home so that Mona and Alexander could move to Wilmington, away from a situation that had become untenable, while Marco stayed behind because of his job, according to the complaint.

Ultimately, it continues, the expense of two households forced the Dobriches to sell their home. And Samantha was forced to withdraw from the joint program she attended at Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. She is being treated for depression.
Apparently, the home address of the family was published by a pro-prayer group called "Stop The ACLU", who encouraged its readers to "contact the family in question". The type of "contact" the family received was apparently what caused them to flee. When contacted, Stop The ACLU had this to say about the part they played:
I am pleased that we had an effect in this case. We have others we want to put up on the site to shame them but have not gotten around to it.

Full details here and here.


Blogger The Town Crier said...

Sfunny that was the last thing i saw before i left my computer a few hours ago and the first thing on my docket for blogging

10:19 PM  
Blogger The Town Crier said...

(caught it on rawstory, btw. where did you find it? )

10:20 PM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Hmm. Dailykos maybe?

10:24 PM  
Blogger DAG said...

disgusting and 100% Unconstitutional

10:41 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

Why am I not surprised? I suppose when one is a pariah on the fringes, one finds these things out before it catches up with everyone else and entrenches itself deeper into a society which allows it to because no one cares.

11:00 PM  
Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

Well that's disturbing, if not exactly unexpected - people don't take kindly to outsiders coming in and telling them that they have to change things to accomodate. Particularly when the dissenting minority is a literal handful of people and particulary when the changes involve religion.

Enforced Secularism in the Public schools is really the only practical way to deal with a pluralistic population, and is the only acceptable program under current Establishment Clause jurisprudence. However, a large number of Americans are not secularists, and object strongly to the imposition of secular values on them and their children. School vouchers provide a potential answer to this otherwise relatively intractable and contentious issue. With vouchers, those who object to the secular approach of the public school system could educate their children in accordance with their own values, while the important public policy goal of publicly funded education would still be met.

[/end manifesto]

11:04 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Wow, that's insane.

I'm not usually a fan of the ACLU, but this is a case where they definitely seem to be taking up the causes they were always meant to. A better "StoptheACLU" is this one, which noted: For the record: First, we reject any and all race/religion/ethnicity-based personal attacks on anyone, with special protection due children. Second, we reject physical violence on individuals and incitement of the same. Third, we reject any unwarranted attempt by our ideological opposition to cast an argument in terms of the very things we emphatically reject.

What is also wrong is this Nedd Kareiva's claim that he can't be anti-Semitic because he's Jewish. Many on the left who are anti-Semitic are Jewish, and those on the right are not immune much as those on the left are not.

Enforced Secularism in the Public schools is really the only practical way to deal with a pluralistic population, and is the only acceptable program under current Establishment Clause jurisprudence.

Not true, and disagree anyway.

11:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ahhh yes, the Christians... our allies, our friends. Surely, they will save us.

12:28 AM  
Blogger Somewhat Anonymous said...

Ezzie - If I broaden enforced secularism to include boundless pluralism would that be better? It doesn't change my point anyhow.

Or am I just completely missing the basis of your objection?

1:06 AM  
Blogger YMedad said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:05 AM  
Blogger YMedad said...

I had published this story last Sunday:

2:06 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Missing the point, really. I'm just against enforced secularism, which I think is no different than advocating a religion.

It's basically what France has tried to do for years, with terrible results.

2:22 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der ┼íteg) said...

Look! It's Ann Coulter!

4:06 AM  
Blogger Jack Steiner said...

Keep religion out of public schools. It doesn't belong there, period, end of story. Get over it.

4:25 AM  
Blogger StepIma said...

I went to a public school in the middle of the Bible Belt and I can't even imagine a principal daring to single a student out to be saved in an address like that (yeah, there were a lot more than one of us, but still...). Times really have changed.

That's really frightening

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

About 10-15 years ago, I once gave a science talk at a school in that district. (I was doing some ecological research in the area.) The folks didn't seem so batty-crazy fundamentalist then. I think that over the last 6 years, with the right-wingers controlling all of the national government, they nuts are coming out of the woodwork and expecting their reward.

One positive step that can be made -- avoid taking vacations in Bethany Beach or Fenwick Island, Delaware, which are located in that particular school distruct, and let the local businesses know why you're avoiding the place.

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What wrong with Enforced secularism? You're only in school 6-8 hours a day, 5 days a week, anyway, so if the parents want to indocrinate their kids in religious nonsense, they've got all the rest of the time to do so. Meanwhile, when you're at schoo, having to work together with people of different beliefs, enforced secularism allows this to happen.

As long as the schools make reasonable accomodations i.e excusing kids from class for religious observance, not forcing them to eat treif at the cafeteria. etc., then parents who want to give more religious indoctrination than they can do on evenings and weekends should pay for a private religious school out of their own pockets.

11:45 AM  
Blogger Goy Guy said...

"It's basically what France has tried to do for years, with terrible results."

Yes indeed. Enforced secularism. Where does that stop, exactly?

Elimination of any mention of religion in schools? Pretty hard to do since almost the entire history of western civilization is shaped by religion. Are we to just gloss over the religious purpose of the crusades? Pretend it was about something else? Money. Oil. Camels?

How about the Holocaust? Hitler didn't pick out people from various religious groups to murder? We'll just call them political opponents, right?

And forget about the lesson plan for a minute. Let's talk about the learning environment. We certainly can't expect students to study properly when other students are disrupting the school with their religious attire, can we? Off with that yarmulke, kid. It's bothering little Patrick over there. Not as much as the fact that he can't wear that cross on a chain around his neck, but he'll get over it. No head scarves either. No sneaking out a Bible during lunch break. They'll need to be confiscated like the cell phones. Very offensive and disruptive.

Or perhaps we can just look at these things on a case by case basis, like this case right here. Clearly the folks in this area need a lesson in the American way of life. Let me rephrase that. ARE THEY NUTS? Well of course they are. This country is full of nuts. While there are many good arguments for and against general, generic school prayer, make no mistake about it, the behavior of the people who singled out these kids for ridicule and to be 'saved' and whatever else is just terrible.

While I guess the general public has the right to be as bigoted as they choose, the elected and paid officials involved in these kinds of actions should be set straight in no uncertain terms.

There is a big difference between allowing religious expression and enforcing religious participation.

11:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is a big difference between allowing religious expression and enforcing religious participation.

Unfortunately, that's not true in the case of certain evangelical/fundamentalist Christian denominations.

10:30 AM  
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11:44 AM  

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