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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