…And just like that, we are down the rabbit hole, through the looking glass, and into an alternate dimension.
Last week, I published a roughly, 6,500 word piece on NOMA, and the myth of religious education. It probably alienated what few religious friends I had left. They probably shook their heads in a combination of disgust and pity over how bitter and misguided I have become in my post-Christian life. They might have thought I took a vaguely interesting point, and stretched it out of all realistic proportions. Then, along comes a story like this that makes me realize I didn’t go far enough, not by a long shot.
The following link is from the department of, I can’t make the stuff up:
There are a few things you need to know about this story that are not clear from the source link. I have done quite a bit more research for more information. To begin with, this is a very old story. The events took place back in the year 2000, if not a bit earlier. The girl’s family sued the school, and lost. The religious implications were sanitized from the court proceedings. The girl was branded a troublemaker who routinely threatened students with spells and hexes. It was her threatening behavior that was the problem, not some mysterious illness suffered by a teacher.
The teacher in question, was not even the one who brought the charges. He had to leave school, suddenly, during what might have been a bout of appendicitis. I am unclear on who brought the charge against her. It was said that she had a pentacle on her hand at the time. She was working on a story about witchcraft, and had gained the reputation of being a which, and practicing member of the Wicca religion. She denied these accusations. Before her parents could get involved, she was harshly interrogated, said to have confessed to, something, and summarily expelled.
What does not seem to be in dispute was that the school accused her of making the teacher sick via some magical practice of the dark arts. She was labeled a witch by her peers, and became the victim of a modern-day witch hunt. This simply could not have happened without people believing in magic. These people are considered reasonable, responsible, and fit to oversee the education of the nation’s children. This is the public practice of private beliefs. This is what happens when religious nut jobs are placed in positions of responsibility, especially in positions of education.
Joann Bell, executive director of the ACLU’s Oklahoma chapter was quoted as saying, “I, for one, would like to see the so-called evidence this school has that a 15-year-old girl made a grown man sick by casting a magic spell.” The girl’s father stated, “It’s hard for me to believe that in the year 2000 I am walking into court to defend my daughter against charges of witchcraft brought by her own school.”
These things did happen, and very likely, continue to happen. In places that are heavily influenced by conservative religion, such things are almost inevitable. I found this description of the area:
The social and cultural tone in Broken Arrow, including its school district, is set by three hugely powerful fundamentalist Christian organisations: the Rhema Bible Training Center, whose founder Kenneth ”Dad” Hagin (http://www.clothdiapernation.com/vbforums/../h00.html#haginken) believes the Bible is a more effective healer than modern medicine and that wealth is a sign of God’s blessing upon the faithful; the Victory Christian Church; and, in nearby Tulsa, Oral Roberts University (http://www.clothdiapernation.com/vbforums/../o00.html#oru), best known for a notorious fund-raising appeal by its eponymous founder, who said God would kill him if he did not receive $4m from his supporters. (Miraculously, he survived.) According to the ACLU, the fundamentalists have consistently sought to erode the separation of church and state in Oklahoman schools, piping prayers through the intercom system and having school marching bands play evangelical hymns at sports events. At the same time, non-evangelical Christians and members of other religions are looked down upon and sanctioned whenever they display symbols of their own religious beliefs.
Catholics are regularly belittled by fundamentalists as idolators and told they will rot in Hell; occasionally, such views are expressed by teachers. Anyone sporting a pentacle – the proper term for the Wicca symbol – can expect to be accused of Satan-worship and membership of a criminal gang, as occasional ACLU lawsuits attest.
”We see a lot of problems with violations of individual religious liberty within public school systems in Oklahoma as the result of actions by over-zealous Christian fundamentalists who are often in charge,” said Michael Canfield, who works at the ACLU office in Oklahoma City.
(Regrettably, I was unable to locate the original source for the article.)
This happened here, right under our noses, and we were not paying attention. I like to think that we were not paying attention, because the alternative is that we were, and that we approved of what was going on. Never mind the implications of religious freedom, or separation of church and state. For the moment, those are side issues. The real horror is that there were enough people in powerful places who sincerely believed that the universe operates on the basis of ad hoc magic, wheedled by whomever seizes power at any given moment. It is also telling that these fundamental Christians believed that their omnipotent god could not protect one man from the magical incantations of a 15 yo girl. I am quite certain that this ironic, little fact has never crossed the laughably small minds of any of the religious nut jobs involved.