It’s true as I heard last night — the Greene County School Board in Paragould has caved to the religious tyrants and an insubordinate elementary counselor, Kay Williams, who’s continued to put Nativity scene displays in her classroom despite repeat instructions not to do so. A newspaper report on the directive this year set the local church people on fire. The religious zealots won’t stand for observance of the First Amendment in Paragould. It’s a Christian city, by damn. And they do mean damn.
As one critic told me yesterday, if I don’t like the public school proselytizing for the Christian faith, I’m free to stand on the street with a protest sign, though he warned ominously that this wouldn’t be too warmly received in the Bible Belt.
Superintendent Jerry Noble, who first enforced the district lawyer’s opinion that the Nativity Scene should be taken down, reversed course in the face of community outrage.
“I think it’s due to the fact that most of us are Christians, and this is a Christian community,” Noble told the Paragould Daily Press. “We just decided if we are going to offend someone, we would rather not offend those who have Christian beliefs. The majority of people wanted us to take a stand, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Williams told the newspaper: “We do live in the Bible Belt. One thing that really disturbed most of [the supporters] was we hear about things like this all the time in other parts of the country. But this is kind of a first for the Bible Belt, here in Arkansas. I think the people realized [this issue] is here, and we better take a stand.”
Next year: REQUIRED Nativity scenes in all classrooms? Prayers to Jesus at all sporting events? Chapel? By the zealots’ interpretation of the Constitution, prohibiting these practices would infringe their rights. Little Menachem and Muhammad, should they have the misfortune to wash up in a Greene County public school, may just put their heads down for the duration. Or, better still, convert.
You have here a textbook example of religious coercion, the sort of thing the founders intended to guard against in the Bill of Rights.