Friday, February 29, 2008

Christian Taliban?

Mona Dobrich, an orthodox Jew, grew up in Sussex County, Delaware——frequently the only Jewish student in a predominantly Christian school district. It was quite common for Mona to quietly endure school programs and meetings that began or ended with Christian prayers, and for the most part she had no trouble with this. Most of her schoolmates at least accepted her, and she fully understood that she was a very small minority in this culture.

But as Mona's daughter, Samantha, grew up in the same school district, Mona became increasingly uncomfortable with a Christian religious atmosphere that was growing mor and more intolerant of other beliefs. And when, at Samantha's high school graduation, a minister's prayer proclaimed that Jesus was the only avenue to truth and salvation, it occurred to Mona that this wasn't exactly proper, and might not even be legal, strictly speaking.

Mona wasn't some kind of strident social agitator. Her response was a quiet and proper request to the local school board that future public events of this type feature a more generic and less exclusionary prayer element. She didn't want to do away with the religious element, just make it more universal.

But news of this quiet request leaked out, and soon the atmosphere of Sussex County, Delaware was full of angry, even hateful language on local talk radio, in the local newspapers, and at school board meetings.

Unbelievably, strident Christians viewed this request by Ms. Dobrich as an infringment on their rights of religious expression.

It was after hundreds of local people showed up at a school board meeting to protest Mona's simple and reasonable request, with shouts and cruel personal attacks, that Mona took the courageous next step and hired a lawyer and filed suit against the schol district. Another family, who has chosen to remain anomymous, also joined the suit.

The jihad began.

Death threats and personal attacks on the Dobrich children made it necessary for the family to move away from Sussex County, although the husband, Marco, stayed behind to work in the same job and protect the family's health insurance.

The family did try to reunite in at one point, but some boys came into the yard, pointed at son Alex, and announced that this was the boy who had "sued Jesus."
The Dobrich's then moved away from Georgetown for good, however the increased cost of living in a larger city eventually required the older daughter, Samantha, to drop out of college.

While discussing this story with friends and neighbors, I have run into a few people who believe that the Dobrich family got exactly what was coming to them. America IS a Christian nation, I've heard, and anybody who can't get on board deserves whatever they get.

To which I always say the following:

If things were ever to change...how would you feel if a high school graduation ceremony required you to kneel on a prayer rug, bow toward Mecca, and praise Allah.

If this would be fine with you, then I suppose it's also fine to praise Jesus at a public school event funded by public tax dollars.

2 comments:

the chaplain said...

I read about this earlier today at Wall of Separation. A number of commenters there believe this is typical of the behavior the USA would see if the Christian Dominionists' wet dream ever came true. Not only may it be typical, it may be just a starting point. Your friends' remarks indicate that that a whole lot of people have reason to oppose any more Religious Right influence in our society. After the atheists, will come the Jews, then the Catholics, then the liberal Christians....

Stacy said...

I too was eerily uncomfortable with the Christian prayers and language during my son's high school graduation. As a Jewish woman in the bible belt I guess I have learned to suffer my outcast feelings silently, for fear of this very type of treatment.