Something scary happened to me at school last week. I went to the office to check my mailbox like I always do before classes start and what did I find? I found a stack of what appeared to be science magazines. At first I was happy that I could give my students some reading material. Maybe I could work an article or two into a future lesson plan.
The magazine was called Discover. But then the tiny subtitle caught my eye. It was printed in a cursive-like font that was a little tough to read, but I did pick out the words “scripture” and “kids.”
I opened it up and saw an article on the Great Flood and how so-called experts were finding more and more evidence in support of it. On the next page, there were bible verses. Near the back was a bible quiz about the flood.
I couldn’t believe that this right-wing propaganda actually made it into my school mailbox. If I hadn’t paid attention to the contents, I might well have distributed it to my classes. I began to wonder how many other schools in the district, and all over, had received a similar present, and how many might actually be distributing it to their kids.
I reported it to my assistant principal. She told me I should never have gotten them and that they should be thrown away immediately. She took them from me and said she would dispose of them.
Later in the day, I went back to check my mail again and saw a larger stack of the same magazines in a community mailbox, so that all teachers could take whatever they needed. I removed them all and immediately called one of the investigative reporters at a local TV station so that he could use his resources to find out if our school was the only one to receive this overtly-religious propaganda.
All across the country, public schools are targets, both from private religious organizations like the one that published this magazine, or from elected officials, like George W. Bush, or the governor of Texas. He recently signed a law that would require every school in that state to provide a few minutes every day so that students could lead themselves in prayer, or in sermonizing.
If you are a Methodist, a Presbyterian, a Lutheran, a Catholic, a Jew, or a Muslim, or if you are agnostic or atheist you probably do not want your kids exposed to religious fundamentalism in a public school where all religions are supposed to be equal. But that’s what is happening all over the place.
Some fundamentalists say that God is losing ground in America and that is the cause of all our problems. Well, let’s take a look at another country for a second and see if they may be correct.
The Global Peace Index ranks Norway as the most peaceful country in the world. Every year for half a decade, Norway has ranked number one in standard of living, life expectancy, literacy, and education. The unemployment rate is half that of America, its crime rate is low, and it has the second highest gross domestic product.
Norway is a model country. Yet more than 70 percent of its population claim to be either atheist or agnostic. Only 26 percent of Norway’s population believe in God.
Norway had Christian roots, even more so than the United States whose Founding Fathers purposely left religion out of the Constitution. But Norway has shed its religious upbringing and has become one of the safest, most progressive, and most peaceful countries in the world.
In the United States, fundamentalists are trying to do just the opposite to our country. They are sneaking their intolerant religious messages into public schools through every means necessary. The biggest threat to this country, from both inside and outside its borders, is from religious extremists.
And not all of them carry bombs. What I found in my school mailbox last week is just as dangerous to our freedom.