Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Vets portrayed as "Christian soldiers" at Tigard High

Bruce Adams, president of the local chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, sent members and supporters (count me in!) this modern parable.

He writes:

Recently, a controversy arose over two videos that were shown for a Veterans Day Assembly at Tigard High School on November 5. One of the videos was of a speech by Oliver North to the National Rifle Association in 2009. Approximately a third of North's speech is about how religious the troops are.

The real controversy, however, is about the other video — a series of powerful photos of soldiers. There are pictures of death and mourning. It is accompanied by the song “Heaven Was Needing a Hero.”

As the song, about death and resurrection, ends, the screen turns black. Then a final picture appears and is frozen in silence. It is of a gauzy Jesus embracing a transparent soldier in the clouds.

After Willamette Week and then The Oregonian ran short articles, local Americans United members contacted Bruce, who, in turn called the Tigard District spokesperson and the high school principal. Both assured him they "understood the problem" (in Bruce's words) and said there was no intent to violate the principle of separation of church and state.

The principal explained that student leaders run the assembly and he did not know they were planning to show the videos. The presentation was "simply an oversight" (again, those are Bruce's words).

In Bruce's letter to members and supporters, he wrote that when he investigates such violations, he is often told, 'It is no big deal. Besides, no one complained about it.'

But some Tigard High School teachers did complain to the principal. And an anonymous person filed a complaint with the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission.

If you too are moved to complain, Tigard High School's principal is Mark Neffendorf and his e-mail address is mneffendorf@ttsd.k12.or.us.

After seeing the videos, I'll add that, beyond the question of the religious references, I am troubled at the dramatic glorification of war and fighting. Whatever happened to "Love your enemy"? Didn't that guy in the clouds have something to say about that?

Let's call these videos what they are: thinly disguised recruitment ads shown to their prime (and vulnerable) target audiences.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention that this is this isn't the first time Mark Neffendorf has had issues with the Establishment Clause. Below is a link to a story published in the Bend Bulletin about a "teddy bears for Jesus" incident.


12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look, I'm a teacher at Tigard and I was at that assembly. This isn't really something coming from Neffendorf. Basically what you have are some students putting together an assembly and picking this video. The kids either intentionally wanted the Jesus image and/or they were clueless that this was a first amendment violation. What they really needed was the teacher who was supervising their work to screen the video and explain to them how it violated the first amendment. That didn't happen. Why? She either had no clue herself about the law or she never screened the video.

8:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sorry you are so offended when students have beliefs and show them publicly at an assembly.

I bet you cant wait until we live in a grey society where we cannot stand for anything because it will offend someone. In one breath you call for tolerance and acceptance and in another you condemn those unlike you.

The only reason this really offends anyone is because they themselves are not comfortable with what they believe and feel threatened. People are not threatened by images of Buddha or ying yangs. Ever find that interesting?

When you die...which you will, you can tell God how you feel about him. I hope that you find grace before then and we can laugh about this.

Have a good week

8:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First good reason I can think of sending my kids to Tigard. 1st Amendement violation....really? Funny how the only religion we're allowed to mock is Christianity. If it's an invented ethos, why so worried?

By the way, these kids aren't believers because they think they are perfect. They are, because they know they aren't.

9:16 PM  

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