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Wade C. Maroney, Fargo, Published November 22 2012

Letter: Let’s let the public schools put Christmas back in the classroom

I am a substitute teacher for the Fargo Public School District, which is an excellent district.

One day, while subbing at Jefferson Elementary School, I was both stunned and filled with pride as the children in each class recited the Pledge of Allegiance, including the words, “One Nation Under God.” I started thinking about the last time I had heard those words in a public school. I am old enough to remember when my classmates and I recited those words, probably taking them for granted.

Since the Pledge of Allegiance was adopted by Congress in 1942, the fourth change of the wording of the Pledge (adding “Under God”) in 1954, numerous U.S. Supreme Court cases have interpreted religion and the wording of the First Amendment.

I remember many years ago reading about an avowed atheist, Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who sued the Baltimore Public School District to delete the word “God” from the pledge, which the court agreed with. After this came another Supreme Court case (Murray v. Curlet) that would abolish prayer, Bible readings and all religious references from American public schools.

Although James Madison authored the First Amendment, Thomas Jefferson saw this as “separation of church and state.” Or is it?

There are two clauses in this amendment: the first is the establishment clause; the second is the free exercise clause. Little did the authors of the original Bill of Rights envision an America that would become the most diverse country in the world (ethnically and in regard to religious preference.)

I have worked for the West Fargo Public School District, and one class I had included two students who were Muslim, and at one point they were allowed to enter a designated room to pray. I started thinking – I taught in a Muslim country (Bahrain), learned and read the Quran, and the students would pray before school. The faculty and staff would pray after school in two designated areas.

When the imam would call to pray (five times a day), there would be silence in the class until the call was over. I wonder why students in public schools in the U.S. cannot have the option to pray (Christians, Jews, Seventh-day Adventists, etc.), even in silence? We have had a beautiful monument of the Ten Commandments outside of Fargo City Hall since 1961, which has remained, despite groups like the Red River Freethinkers, who filed suit contending that it violated one of the clauses of the First Amendment, but lost the case. (A federal judge ruled it does not violate the First Amendment or the Constitution.)

We have currency that supports this (“In God we Trust”); we have newly elected politicians who take an oath on the Bible; we have presidents who invoke religion to the nation in times of uncertainty.

Should other (non-Christian) religious groups have the same right? I have no problem with this. The Islamic faith could have a monument with the Five Pillars etched in stone.

We have become too “politically correct” – let the public schools allow Christmas back in the classroom; let Muslims celebrate Ramadan, or Jews celebrate Hanukkah.

Give the students those rights that they are entitled to.