Sunday, April 6, 2014

Eggstravaganza ruffles feathers in Dearborn, Michigan...

Yesterday, I ran across an article about a Muslim father in Dearborn, Michigan who is upset that his kids came home with an invitation to an Easter egg hunt.  The egg hunt was being held at a local Presbyterian church, though no religious activities were planned.  Perhaps because it was intended to be a secular event, the powers that be at the school approved the flyer to be distributed among the students.

Majed Moughni, a 43 year old father of two, claims that his kids, aged 7 and 9, complained about the flyer and feeling uncomfortable about being "pressured" to go to church.  He decided to complain, claiming that it's inappropriate for public school teachers to pass out flyers for events sponsored by a church because of the "separation of church and state" public institutions are supposed to espouse in the United States.  I seriously doubt this went down the way Mr. Moughni claims it did.  I think what probably happened is that one of his kids came home with the flyer and was excited about the Easter egg hunt and wanted to attend.  Dad was probably uncomfortable with the prospect of his kids interacting with Christians at a church, although obviously they do interact with them if they go to public school.  

For the record, I don't think Mr. Moughni's complaint is entirely invalid.  I can see why schools shouldn't be seen as promoting one belief system over another.  I'm actually surprised that the flyer was allowed to be distributed in this day and age of political correctness, especially given that this happened in Dearborn, Michigan, where there is a huge Muslim population.  If Mr. Moughni lived in Jackson, Mississippi, his complaint about the egg hunt would have been totally laughed out the door.  At the same time, given what kids can be exposed to in a public school, I think an Easter egg hunt is relatively small potatoes.

I posted about this on Facebook and a lively discussion ensued.  It included a couple of conservative Christians, a militant atheist or two, and a couple of people like me, who aren't all that religious but not quite atheist.  One woman came out and said she would be uncomfortable if her daughter came home with such a flyer, even though she does celebrate Easter.  She flat out said, "It's inappropriate."

I thought about that for a moment and related the story of how when I was in high school, my world history teacher took my class on a field trip to Washington, DC.  We visited the Franciscan Monastery (a very cool place, by the way) and the Mosque.  Of all the field trips we took in school, that one remains one of my favorites because it was so interesting.  I didn't come away from that field trip wanting to be Catholic or Muslim, but I did know more about those belief systems.  It broadened my perspectives and made me a better person.  I'm glad my parents let me go.

My friend said, "But that's not the same thing as an Easter egg hunt.  That would fall under historical context and education."

My response was, "Yes, but that is YOUR OPINION.  My point is, some people would see that field trip as just like the Easter egg hunt.  They would not want their kids to go because they wouldn't want them to exposed to a belief system at odds with their religious beliefs.  Some people are very afraid to let their kids be around others who aren't just like them."

It seems like over the past twenty years, people have become really polarized about religion.  Back when I was in school, most every kid belonged to a church and those who were atheists or agnostics weren't really all that open about it.  Though I went to school in a rural Virginia county, there were a few Muslims at my school.  We had some Catholics and Mormons, too… though they were way outnumbered by the Protestants.  I think if we were to poll my class, there would be a lot of Baptists and Methodists along with a smattering of Presbyterians.  I met my first Jews when I went to college.  We also had a lot of people who attended the Assembly of God church.

I remember the kids who attended that church were very demonstrative about their faith.  They all hung around together and wore t-shirts with Bible verses or religious slogans on them.  I remember one girl used to wear a t-shirt that had a picture of Jesus on the cross with a crown of thorns on his head.  She had another t-shirt that had a picture of a cross on it with the slogan "This blood's for you."  This was allowed in school back in my day.  I don't know if it still is.  It probably shouldn't be allowed, but it depends a lot on the local mores.  In a place where there's heavy Christianity, those shirts would be totally okay, while a Muslim wearing religious garb would probably be harassed.  In places where there's more diversity, I'm sure those types of t-shirts are as verboten as t-shirts with profanity or nudity on them.    

One of my classmates was a girl who went to the Assembly of God church.  She sat by me in chemistry class.  Every day, she'd ask me if I wanted to go to church with her.  I hated church of all kinds and had no interest whatsoever.  The church I attended was boring as hell.  I knew her church was not like mine…  it was charismatic and there was speaking in tongues and modern music.  While it probably wasn't as boring as my run of the mill Presbyterian church was, I think it would have freaked me out.  I probably could have complained about her constant invitations, but she was actually a nice enough person.  I never went to her church and we eventually graduated and went on with our lives.

Later, I went to a public college in Virginia, where there were quite a few Christian sponsored groups on campus.  I don't remember any that were for Muslims or Jews, though I do know that there were people of those faiths attending.  Our choir performed a lot of religious music, the bulk of which was Christian, Protestant in particular.  We did do some Leonard Bernstein music that had elements of Judaism in it, but I don't remember singing anything that came from less mainstream religions in the United States.  I imagine that some people might take issue with that, given that the school is supported by public funds.  In my high school and college, there were chapters of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  I wonder why those were okay, given the whole controversy about the separation of church and state.  We also had Young Life at my school.  I did not attend, but had a lot of friends who did.  It was a religious group.  Maybe it shouldn't have been allowed, though.  

I think Mr. Moughni is perfectly fine in not letting his kids attend the Easter egg hunt.  I even think he raises a valid point about the perception that the school is endorsing a specific religion.  But I also think that in the grand scheme of things, his outrage at his kids being invited to an Eggstavaganza is a bit ridiculous.  When it comes down to it, there are much more harmful ways they can be indoctrinated by things they run into in the world.  I think Mr. Moughni's time would be better served teaching his kids how to separate the shit from the Shinola rather than going off about Easter egg hunts.  But that's just like my opinion, man.
        

10 comments:

  1. I see both sides of the issue, but I side against the complaining parent in this case. My previous community of residence was relatively affluent. Sometimes the churches would join forces in some sort of outreach for the benefit of neighboring communities. The schools were often contact points. There were typically no complaints when the purpose was to hand out holiday food or winter clothing. When the purposes was something more like an Easter egg hunt, some parents would complain that it was religious proselytizing. My mom said her contacts indicated that there wasn't as much as a prayer at any event in which the invitations were distributed through the schools.

    If the schools were carting the kids to the event, the parents would have a legitimate complaint. If the issue is that a parent doesn't want his child or children participating, he or she should not take the child or children to the event or otherwise allow them to attend. I, as do you, suspect that it wasn't so much that the children were uncomfortable or felt coerced, but rather that they WANTED to attend. If the parent has problems with the idea that his children may be invited to an event that is not in keeping with his values, it would behoove him to learn to tell his children "no."

    This is only the beginning. It will only get harder. Kids get invited to all sorts of unsavory events, including unchaperoned parties where booze and drugs abound. Those events of a religious nature are, or should be, the very least of his concerns. No one else is going to do his job for him.

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    1. Yes, I agree. You should have seen the Facebook discussion that was going this morning. I have friends of every stripe. Some are conservative Christians and some are militant atheists. It was a very interesting discussion.

      I think it would have been much worse had a church wanted to use school property for an event. In this case, it was just an invitation. No one was forcing anyone to attend. Moreover, had this happened in the country of that family's heritage, I highly doubt there would have been civil consideration about whether or not religious stuff is appropriate in school.

      Anyway, I have a couple of very liberal friends who think they need to school me on what's "appropriate". I totally see where they are coming from; I just don't necessarily agree wholeheartedly. Besides, all of this ultimately comes down to opinions. Everyone's got one, and no one's opinion is necessarily more correct than another person's is.

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  2. It does boil down to a matter of opinion, although if it were to go far enough, it would boil down to the court's opinion, and in such case, the majority opinion of the final court hearing the case would be the only opinion that truly mattered.

    My mom said the ACLU got involved about a decade ago in my former community over the outreach events being promoted through the schools but backed down after the initial court challenge because it wasn't even close to going the way of the dissenters, and also presumably because the ACLU had bigger fish to fry elsewhere.

    Even though the father in the case you originally cited had every right to call the situation to public attention, I still question his motives.

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    1. I was referring to my friends on Facebook and their opinions… LOL. But you're right. It probably does come down to a court's opinion. It just seems like there are much bigger issues they could be dealing with other than this.

      The dad had a right to complain, but when it comes down to it, his kids are going to be pressured about their religion. Maybe they shouldn't be pressured about that in school, but it's going to happen regardless. Right or wrong, Muslims are not a particularly popular group in the USA.

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  3. Hmmm... my kids brought home fliers this week for an egg hunt at the Walgreens next week. I guess I need to find the part in the constitution that separates pharmaceutical distributors and state. Now off to find the FB controversy.

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  4. I didn't take it that you were criticizing me for expressing an opinion. I tend to express my opinion without expressly stating that it's MY opinion because that is sort of a "duh" thing, as in "of course it's my opinion" and was frowned on in any writing classes I've taken since sixth grade. You were probably taught the same thing. Clearly state your opinion and support it.with facts and other evidence, but don't weaken your statement by blathering all over the place that it's just an opinion. It's hard for me in some forums where you're supposed to identify everything as an opinion.

    I can imagine the field day the FB people would have over an issue such as this. it would be funny to read.

    I still think that an invitation to an Easter egg hunt is very small potatoes in the grand scheme of religious pressure, especially since the practice has absolutely no connection to any religion (other than paganism or druidism, perhaps) except for the insertion of the word "Easter." If his kids attend public or mainstream (as in not exclusively Muslim) private school, they will face all sorts of pressure in areas contrary to their religion. Muslims aren't even supposed to drink alcohol, and alcohol is the very least of what kids face in school today. What are his kids going to say the first time they're asked -- maybe even pressured -- to attend a "Good and Plenty" party, where it probably goes without saying that the "candies" offered there are not pink and white candy-coated licorice capsules?

    As far as the stupid Easter egg hunt is concerned, all he has to do is to offer something equally fun in place of the stupid Easter egg hunt and his kids will be pacified. It's going to get a lot harder when his kids aren't even telling him about half of the invitations they've received to exciting events. It may not be "the school" officially handing out the invitations, but it will happen at school, and that won't change the outcome. He needs to focus upon himself and his children and imparting his beliefs to them while he still has the chance, and he should consider the particular situation a teaching moment, and be grateful for it.

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    1. You are totally right, Alexis. If his kids keep going to public school, this kind of thing will be the least of their issues. Like I said, the US is getting weirder than ever about religion, with more and more people picking a pole rather than taking a moderate view.

      BTW… have you been reading RfM? I didn't catch any of the GC festivities this weekend, but apparently there was all kinds of hell raised about the Internet and how dangerous it is. I figure Mr. Moughi may have similar problems as his kids get older.

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    2. My brother came home and we all watched with our foam dart guns for awhile. One lady yesterday said that the only thing important when your kids are young is that you have family prayer and family home evening. She said it's OK if your house is a complete pig sty and your kids are running around in their pajamas all day. I suppose it's also OK if they're covered with impetigo and head lice, though she didn't specify it. She also said that if you're tempted to masturbate or look at porn, you should sing a primary song.

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