December 03, 2018
There aren't just wise men on top of Newaygo's elementary school, there are wise people inside it! And in the small Michigan town of 2,000, that's a big relief this Christmas. When secularists pushed her to take down the display, Superintendent Peg Thelen Mathis pushed right back.
"Public schools are institutions of knowledge -- not temples of religious ideology," the Michigan Association of Civil Rights Activists (MACRA) complained. "'Three Wise Men' following a 'star' is clearly designed to convey the Christian nativity story, while the 'Star of David' is the preeminent symbol of Judaism." Mitch Kahle, a member of the group says they've asked the school to remove the scene, because, he claims, it's public property."
"We understand that these situations sometimes will make people upset, but just like in Grand Haven where their nativity scene had been up for 70 years, that's now been gone for five years. The city council voted to remove it, and no complaints about it now." If you don't remember the Grand Haven story, atheists actually complained that the nativity was "bad for the environment." In the end, the only environment that was threatened was Christians'!
Now, the Grinches are back at it, demanding that a scene without Jesus, Mary, or Joseph come off the school in a guilt-by-association church-state witch hunt. To her credit, Superintendent Mathis isn't backing down. Although she promises to "navigate the complaints fairly and legally," she half-joked that she's not aware of a law against the depiction of "three non-Christian middle eastern men on camels who are seeking wisdom." On Facebook, she took the argument to the other side, explaining:
"Newaygo Public Schools has a legitimate secular purpose for the display. We are both upholding the community's tradition of celebrating a public holiday and attempting to point towards the importance of wisdom, knowledge, and open-mindedness. They've been described as the scientists of their time. The "wise men" are found in secular and other religious traditions outside of Christianity. Finally, there is no evidence that they were Jewish or Christian before their travels and there is nothing noted in the Christian Bible to indicate anything about any religion they practiced after their travels."
Not surprisingly, the town is solidly in Mathis's corner. "Leave it alone," seemed to be the rallying cry of most people reporters have interviewed. Let's hope MACRA's listening. As far as the community is concerned, it'll take a lot more than these atheists to crush this crèche.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.